I am intrigued by parks. From grounds, greens, commons, and fields, to gardens, playgrounds, boardwalks, and riverwalks, to urban parks, national parks (and even theme parks). The idea that connecting with nature is somehow integral to our humanity and that urban sprawl has steam-rolled enough of it that it should be necessary to set land aside for recreational, athletic, inspirational, and community use is somehow fascinating to me. Unnecessary 200 years ago when we all lived on farms, parks are a modern invention—an acknowledgment that we all need access to the outdoors in someway.
Of all parks, Central Park is arguably the most famous urban park in the world and the centerpiece to the most famous city in the world. Recognizable in movies, TV, art, and other avenues of culture, it was important for Cindy and I to visit the park on our recent winter-time trip to New York City.
There isn't much to say as we trek through this beautiful park in a winter-time setting so for this blog, I'm going to shut up and let the photos do most of the talking.
A New York City blog wouldn't start off right without a proper New York City breakfast. We searched the inter-webs for a well reviewed bagel shop and were pleased to find one raved about, just around the corner! I'm an onion bagel fan, myself, and the mound of cream cheese, sliced and slapped on like a cut of fresh clay, was a perfect and rich balance. Seriously, you should be jealous.
The good news was our hotel was a mere 8 city blocks from Central Park. The bad news was we left super-early in the morning and it was a certain-kind of cold I have never felt before. The breeze hurling between the buildings penetrated all layers and we walked forth bundled up like pathetic Californian mummies. We knew we reached the south-east corner of the park when we arrived at New York's famous glass Apple Store. We had no need for electronics, so onward, into the park...
For those who know Cindy, you likely know that Alice in Wonderland has always had a special place in her heart and her life. As exciting as the Peter Pan statue was in London's Hyde Park, when we found out that Central Park had a massive Alice in Wonderland statue we immediately knew it was one of the most important stops in New York—and on her birthday, no less!
For some reason, I was really excited by the Balto statue.
We were now on the middle-west-side of the park and right across from the American Museum of Natural History. This is of course a famous and noteworthy establishment but is now inseparable from the Night at the Museum film series which, to my trivial disappointment, doesn't actually look like the real museum. Additionally, the museum is home to the Hayden Planetarium, the professional home of modern science-celebrity Neil Degrasse Tyson. For this reason, and for the great things I've heard about the planetarium, I wanted to check it out.
The Hayden Planetarium is a beautiful and contrastingly modern side-structure to the natural history museum. It is, as best as can be described, a massive glass cube with a large metallic sphere suspended in the middle of it. Many of the wing's exhibits are within or involved around the beautiful globe.
We began by entering the base of the sphere, where we surrounded a large circular screen hugging the bottom of the bowl-shaped room. Here, Liam Neeson eloquently explains the origin of the universe (he should know, he's a Jedi). After the film, you exit on the opposite side and travel down a winding pathway outlining the timeline of the universe and finishing with a strand of hair representative of "The History of Human Art and Creativity", approximately 30,000 years.
From here, you can continue down to the floor-level which is full of planetary exhibits or take the escalator up to the the planetarium space show, as we did. You enter the show in the center of the sphere and sit in reclining chairs facing the curved ceiling above. The current presentation was called Dark Universe, about dark matter and dark energy. It did a fantastic job of not simply explaining what we know and don't know, but how we know it (i.e. these are the people, the places, and the techniques we used to arrive on these conclusions). It did a great job of presenting genuinely complicated information in a captivating and visually breathtaking way.
Upon exiting the planetarium show, you can take the escalator down to the gift shop (it wouldn't be a proper tourist attraction if it were any other way) and then take a pathway along the square perimeter of the building. Here is an extremely well done scale model of the universe which uses the sphere in the center of the room as the contrasting measurement. For example, 'If the Planetarium sphere was the sun, this would be the size of the planets', and continuing in one direction to the size of the universe and in the other direction to particles that make up atoms. I ate it up.
After the planetarium, we attempted to check out the rest of the natural history museum but at this point in the day, school groups were starting to run rampant and Cindy wasn't feeling the best. To be honest, natural history museums aren't quite my thing anyway; The broad scope of the content feels disjointed and, let's face it, the taxidermy is just creepy. So we decided to leave.
Across the street on the backside of the building was a Shake Shack, where we grabbed a burger. As a self-proclaimed cheeseburger enthusiast, I absolutely enjoyed every bite of it. Then we hopped onto the subway to catch a ride back to the hotel.
Cindy and I had a great, self-paced, exploration-styled morning, something that is rare when I'm behind the wheel on a trip. Even better, we were back to the hotel to take a nap and prepare for a Broadway show that evening. But more on that will come in later blogs!
For more photos from this trek through Central Park and of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, check out the gallery below!: