On the first weekend of this month, I had the wonderful opportunity of visiting the east coast for the first time!
I had signed up for an international Super Smash Bros tournament (and if you’ve been following for a while, this isn’t new haha) in New Jersey, but having flown into Newark I also took advantage of exploring New York for my first time as well. In this post, I’ll be writing up about the tournament, as well as the places I checked out within a mere three days.
What makes New York so special? The “Big Apple” brings in so many people from across world… why? From Broadway to Wall Street to the Metropolitan, there’s so many things to do, places to see, cultures to explore, for anyone and everyone. Everything is within walking distance, and the energy within New York City is so alive!
Empire State Building
Since I accdentally ended up at the New York Penn Station, I decided to check out the closest tourist spot to there, about a 5-minute walk. Easily the biggest tourist trap ever. $32 nets you a quick view along the top floor, and… that’s pretty much it. But in addition, in my particular case, it was snowing rather lightly that day and winds that day made observing from that floor not so enjoyable, apparently at least 20 miles per hour at that elevation. As great as the views were, I definitely could have skipped this spot, but at least I can mark this off my bucket list.
This little park is such a nice place to relax and people-watch. It was snowing when I got here, so the light snow on top of everything just made everything look so beautiful. Bryant Park even has an ice skating rink which paired extraordinarily well with the given environment. On top of that, a reading room, a carousel, and a cafe gives us everything we could ever want in such a tiny park. It’s a nice place to stop by along the way to Times Square or Rockefeller Center.
Times Square and the Heart of Hearts
Afterwards, I decide to walk over to Times Square and take in the glory of one of the most famous tourist spots in the world. From its electronic billboards to its hundreds of thousands of pedestrian traffic and street performers, Times Square was definitely unique in its own right. The main attraction there during my visit was this art piece called Heart of Hearts at Father Duffy Square. This piece consisted of multiple golden, mirrored hearts, perhaps about a dozen at about a dozen feet tall, somewhat closing in on couples who walk in. It’s a rather interesting piece that in a way acted as a kissing booth with its design structured to be somewhat private, but with the mirrors and the location – one of the busiest places in the world – making it public.
Hershey’s Chocolate World / M&M World
I also checked out the Hershey’s store and M&M World immediately after, which was fun and unique in its own right. Worth a quick visit. Definitely a great variety of chocolates to gift to friends back home, and just being in there (M&M World more so) just makes me feel like a kid again. As if just being out in the world of exploration wasn’t enough!
Next stop turned out to be the Rockefeller Center, about a 5-10 minute walk. I went up to the observatory deck on here as well (another $32!!), but the views this time were much more worthwhile, despite not being as high up. Skies were clear, and the views were more focused on Times Square and Central Park, versus the Empire State Building’s view of just tall buildings albeit at an amazing height. Worth checking out once, but I probably wouldn’t go up again if I had a choice.
The rest of the center is rather nice to simply window shop, seeing the huge variety of stores they had out there, from a nifty book store including almost every book I read last year on the front table, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art Gift Shop and its cultures, to the child wonderland of Lego.
Nintendo New York
Right in the Rockefeller Plaza, I spent quite a while living in the nostalgic world of Nintendo. This was definitely more than just a store. I think I had spent a good hour just wandering around in this little store.
Producer Shigeru Miyamoto’s writings and thoughts on developing parts of Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo were on display; as a creative, it’s quite a sight to see a glimpse of how one of the greatest side-scrolling games in history was created. On the side, a timeline of all the Nintendo systems were presented in a circular display, almost as if the timeline of Nintendo were endless.
Nintendo New York also acted as a social gathering with its open video game stations for people to jump on. From Super Mario Maker to Mario Kart 8 to even Splatoon, plenty of kids and young adults gathered just to have fun.
Don’t forget about the store itself. Nintendo products among pretty much every series were available. Amiibos. T-shirts. Posters. Even tumblers. Looking around for something to bring home has never been more exciting, especially with your favorite video game music playing in the background.
This park is so huge! I was just strolling along in this park, maybe about an hour total, taking in the natural beauty of everything. Statues and bridges are all about, with little buildings providing a large array of interests for everyone, from Chess to Swedish cottages. The radical contrast between relaxing in this park and going back to world and exploration in the city makes this park so attractive as well. Since the point of vacation travel is to explore, Central Park simply has to be on your list if you have not checked it out. Give nature a shot, and it won’t disappoint. (Also, being a San Diego resident, I prefer Balboa Park and its luxurious Renaissance buildings, haha)
Smithsonian Design Museum
Cooper Hewitt’s Design Museum was a nice, small design museum that I just felt obligated to check out after stumbling upon in exploring Central Park. Their main attraction was their Pixar exhibition, which gave me memories of the lessons I’ve read in Creativity, Inc, emphasizing their importance of the tiniest details and going out in the world to research ideas and making their virtual world feel real. The rest of the museum focused on the fundamentals of design, such as line, texture, form, and color, throughout all kinds of design even outside of graphic design and animation.
I loved the interactivity within this museum as well. They provide you an electronic pen for you to use throughout your visit. Each piece, with their name and description, provides a mark for your pen to read and store, so when you leave the museum you will have your own account of all your favorite pieces to check out later, at no price. Usually when I’m at an art or design museum, I write down in my phone my own list of artists and their work for future reference, so this was definitely a nice feature.
In addition, they had multiple interactive tables to draw on. One table provided you a surface to draw any pattern, and the system in the table would try to find a matching pattern within an art piece in their database. I loved how this showed that practically everything can be and is related to each other. Another table was found in this “Immersion Room,” where drawing one simple pattern can be made beautiful through replication as it is repeated on the public walls.
Felt like a hidden gem. If you’re into design, definitely worthwhile.
I had spoiled myself with even another art museum immediately after the Smithsonian Design Museum. To my pleasant surprise, apparently this museum provides free admission (a $25 value) on Friday nights from 4pm to close at 8pm! The downside of course was just how packed it was, but I was still able to enjoy everything at my own pace.
Lots of pieces in the MoMA had actually quite disappointed me, given its renowned status. They were rather straightforward – many were as literal as they could get – and weren’t thought-provoking, not letting us explore our own curiosity. That’s my number one reason for loving art museums: letting all these otherworldly thoughts run throughout my mind. How did they come up with that? How does this relate to that? How can I incorporate this into my own work? What about my work outside of art? How can I reverse engineer this so even I can make something similar? I felt like I was not able to ask as many questions for the contemporary pieces on the first two of four floors (within the past century), and after leaving the exhibit I often remember telling myself I could have skipped it.
On the top two floors however, they had the masterpieces up for display, within the past half millennium, including Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Monet’s Water Lillies. An entire exhibit was dedicated to Picasso’s development; I loved seeing how he started off with absolutely concrete works and over time he’d make them more abstract through adding and removing arbitrary lines. Now, when you look at a piece, you really can’t understand anything; you can only feel an emotion from it, which is oftentimes an art piece’s purpose. Seeing the reverse-engineering of his work was inspiring, as if anyone could do it. Love it!
World Trade Center / Ground Zero
Simply impactful. The enormity and physical depth of Ground Zero gave me so many running emotions, giving me a reminder of what happened a decade and a half ago. Absolutely must check out.
Oh, and they have a museum as well talking about 9/11, but I unfortunately didn’t have time to check that out. They have a convenient rail station here as well, the PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson), allowing you to get here straight from New Jersey and back.
Statue of Liberty / Battery Park
I completely lost track of time and missed checking out the Statue of Liberty on Ellis and Liberty Island! Statue cruises are available every half hour, but I had just missed the last one, selling out 45 minutes before their last cruise on a Sunday. I was able to see the statue from Battery Park at least, while watching everyone celebrate the statue as if it were a party scene with blasting music everywhere, tourists taking pictures of people dressed up and painted as statues, etc. I was planning on taking the cruise to the islands and getting off at New Jersey, checking out the Empty Sky Memorial after, but I ended up having to take the PATH mentioned above, about a ten-minute walk away.
Despite all the walking, I was only hungry enough for two meals during my two days in New York! I got myself the obligated pizza lunch from Pizza Suprema, getting a mushroom pizza slice and an upside-down pizza. The mushroom pizza was so fresh and crispy, definitely being the best preparation of an ordinary pizza slice ever. I however wasn’t that big of a fan of the upside-down pizza, feeling like a subpar version of Chicago’s deep-dish pizza. I wanted to try more slices, but my healthy mindset on top of my filled up stomach stopped me from doing so.
The Halal Guys is another must-try. I had not heard of them until I saw a food cart right outside the Rockefeller Center, but I had noticed an extended line being formed around there. 7000 Yelp reviews too! Why in the world do they have so many? $7 and 20 minutes in line later, I got myself a falafel bowl over rice, paired with pita and a mini-salad. A creamy ranch-like sauce complemented the meal exceptionally well, and oh gosh it was just so good! The biggest surprise was when I realized I could only finish half of the plate, saving the rest for later (despite eating it completely cold later on, it was oddly still worth saving).
1/3: New Jersey
3/3: Smash (coming soon!)