The trip went well and I am very glad that I went. As expected the Hilton Grand Vacations was an extremely hard-sell that had to be resisted. But I am getting ahead of myself.
All of this began while I was still in Texas. Hilton Grand Vacations contacted me because I had stayed at one of their properties on a business trip. At first I had thought that their offer was an inexpensive stay at a newly-built property and they wanted to guests to evaluate it before an official opening. Since I had not been in the Big Apple since I was a teenager, I figured, “Why not?”
I had booked some time off of Avanade last year for this trip. But United Airlines fucked me over and cancelled the entire flight due to “crew availability.” This was just a few hours before my cab arrived to take me to the airport. Needless to say, I was pretty pissed-off about that.
Then came my Avanade resignation and moving back to Canada. More delays. This was a time-limited thing and also featured extra fees for cancellations. So I really wanted to go. I cut it to the wire with only one week remaining before the offer expired.
As it turns out, it was a timeshare program that they were trying to sell. I may do a separate post on that program just to get the word out about it.
My goals were simple. Since I only had two nights and two days, I wanted to visit the Empire State Building and Hayden Planetarium. Anything else would be nice extras. I landed at LaGuardia airport at about 11:00 AM last Monday and caught a cab over to Hilton’s West 57th Street Club.
A word about New York City cabs. Use them! First and foremost, you do not want to face New York City traffic. I am a proud atheist, but the traffic here nearly got me praying again! Treat your cab ride as part of the Big Apple experience, you won’t regret it. Second, they are surprisingly reasonably priced!
Given my experience in Dallas, I expected to pay upwards of $100 to get from LaGuardia to West 57th and 6th Streets. I paid $40 and that included a tip for the driver. To get from West 57th to West 34th to visit the Empire State Building, was only $9 before a tip!
The ESB was my first stop after dropping off my stuff in the room. It was the primary reason for my visit. My family spent a couple of days in NYC when I was 14 or 15; we visited the 86th Observation Deck but did not have the time or money to visit the 102nd Observation Deck. That was going to be rectified on this trip!
In the photo to the right, you can just barely see the Statue Of Liberty (center-right of image) through the mist. The new One World Trade Center spire stabs through the clouds, completely obscured.
One very strong recommendation about the Empire State Building tour; buy the tickets online pay the extra for express service. The tickets are good for a year and the express option is absolutely worth it.
I recommended using the taxi system above. But I also did a lot of walking because that is a great way to see any city. After taking the picture above of the ESB from the corner of West 34th and 5th Avenue, I decided to walk the 23 blocks back to the hotel.
That allowed me to pass by Rockefeller Center, the Central Branch of the New York Public Library (made famous in Ghostbusters), St. Patrick’s Cathedral (I took photos for 3D reference but did not put them on Flickr) and Trump Tower. Once I reached West 57th Street, I kept going north until I was in Central Park. Some of my favourite photos came from Central Park.
Aside from the weather, I only had one other minor disappointment. I ended up getting to the Hayden Planetarium and the American Museum Of Natural History late (after the 2 hours hard-sell timeshare presentation). The complex closes at about 5:45 so I could not attend all of the programs. At least I saw the Neil deGrasse Tyson program Dark Universe.
More walking after the museum closed. I was wandering back to the hotel when I recognized the structures of Times Square several blocks away, so I kept walking. I wasn’t down there for very long, but I took a couple of pictures there.
Checkout time at the hotel was 10am, on Wednesday morning I debated trying to do some more sight-seeing or heading back to the airport. The weather being what it was, I opted for the airport. My original flight was not until 8pm, but I managed to arrange an earlier trip home.
Definitely worth a return visit. Just without the hardcore sales pitch!