November 17, 2023

A Day in New York City

Katie and Gene Hamilton

Bring Binocular News

Compelling places to visit in Manhattan’s Big Apple

As many times as we’ve been to New York City we’ve always found something to do and places to explore. On earlier visits we pack in as many stops as we could. The result: too much time running around and not enough quality time at an exhibit or place we wanted to experience. Since then we’ve developed a more civilized approach by focusing on four venues with of time to explore them.  On our recent day trip to NYC we went to the Hayden Planetarium, American Museum of Natural History, the 9/11 Memorial and the Circle Line Harbor Tour of the Hudson River.

The Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History 

You could easily spend a day or two in this amazing place, but on this visit we began at the Hayden Planetarium, one of five exhibit spaces in the Rose Center for Earth and Space. The 7-story structure combines the study of astrophysics as a research facility and educational center.

The Hayden Sphere appears to float in space with cosmic objects surrounding it. The Hayden Planetarium is located at the top of the sphere and seems to float in the cosmos in one of the most powerful virtual reality simulators. With some 400 theater seats for visitors, there’s an efficient system for those departing and arriving to go on an amazing journey through the galaxies. We thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the “World Beyond Earth” in the Big Bang Theater which were overwhelming and jaw-dropping at the same time. The journey is so much more than a space show and a tribute to the team of scientists, writers, artists and composers who translate the evolution of the universe into this mind-bending presentation.

We took the Cosmic Pathway as it rolls down a spiraling path of the history of the universe with billion year markers as you descended down the ramp. At the time Gene was reading Jaime Green’s book, The Possibility of Life as we walked through the exhibits and reflected just how immense the Universe is and how small our planet is. As we walked the halls of the Rose Center for Earth and Space we found the Planet Earth Hall and large rocks containing specimens and clues to our early planet. In the Hall of Meteorites we saw examples of fragments from Mars and Moon rocks collected by astronauts and asteroids that have landed on earth. Clearly you could spend much more time perusing the exhibits.

Tickets Adults $25, Kids (3-12) $14

Going way, way back

Nothing stops you in your tracks faster than the sky high exhibit at the entrance to the American Museum of Natural History on Central Park West in Manhattan. You stand in awe of gigantic dinosaurs, a confrontation between an attacking Allosaurus and a Barosaurus protecting its young.

You can roam through extensive exhibits of mammals, fossils, birds, reptiles and amphibians. If your interest leans toward ocean life, biodiversity and forestry you’ll find displays and information, more than you can imagine. We spent time in the Human Origins and World Cultures Hall depicting many regional displays like the Northwest Coast Indians and their extensive collections of artifacts. The elaborate embroidery and materials of the Eastern Woodland and Plains Indians illustrated their amazing skills with beadwork, shells and motifs.

Tickets Adults $28, Kids (3-12) $16)

The 9/11 Memorial & Museum

We cabbed it down to the 9/11 Memorial for a more sober and somber walk through the open grounds of the memorial. At Ground Zero the memorial occupies half of the World Trade Center site in the middle of the busy city. The entrance is flanked by six large stone monoliths providing a pathway to two reflecting pools at the footprint of the twin towers with an obvious void where the skyscrapers once stood. As you walk through the grounds of the Memorial cascading water of pools are surrounded by low walls or rims inscribed with the names of those first responders and recovery workers who died. The names are identified by the fire company and rescue squads, all who came from near and far to help in this tragedy. So many were exposed to toxins in the air resulting in chronic illness and death. It was unimaginable to learn there were nearly two million tons of debris.

Going to Ground Zero

A volunteer was helpful answering questions and suggested we visit the museum below ground with a wide ramp leading down to the original concrete wall still in place. At the end of the ramp you arrive at the main exhibition and education level as you follow the Survivors’ Stairs. Back outside we’re reminded of all the images of homemade MISSING person signs posted with the name and picture of loved ones. It’s an emotional and draining journey through the aftermath of the trauma. The exhibits were a reminder of the hours as a nation we spent watching the events unfold at New York City, the Pentagon in D. C. and Shanksville, PA on that fateful day. It was a memorable day that all of us will not forget exactly where we were when it happened.  

Tickets $21-33

Our firsthand experience using binoculars when traveling: 8×25 compact binoculars are a good choice for traveling because they’re lightweight and easy to tuck into a backpack or purse. The first number”8” is its magnification which makes an image 8 times closer than what you see with your eyes; it’s good for a wider field of view. The “25” is the size of the objective lens measured in millimeters that defines how much light the binocs can gather. A larger objective lens has more light gathering power so the image resolution will be higher and brighter.                      

The Circle Line Harbor Tour

Boarding a boat was a pleasant reprieve from the sadness of the 9/11 Memorial and a nice way to end the day. We stepped aboard a Circle Line sightseeing cruise of the Hudson River and pulled out of the dock at Pier 83 on the West Side Drive and headed south toward the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

The river traffic was brisk with a steady flow of orange Staten Island ferries and yellow water taxis, other river cruise tour boats and sturdy tugs pushing barges. As we approached Lady Liberty most of us were poised on the railing with binoculars and cameras ready to get a good glimpse of her.

Once around the Battery with its panoramic view of skyscrapers in all their different shapes and sizes we turned upriver. Throughout the tour a local guide kept us interested with intriguing stories of the colorful history of this unique city. We passed by the United Nations building and under the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges before heading back to Pier 83. 

While we had cruised the Hudson River in our boat on several adventures I found  being a passenger without the responsibility of navigating the crowded waters was a relaxing experience to just look and see all the harbor has to offer. 

Tickets: $43-49

In just one day we had soared to the unknown universe surrounding us, to the depth of Ground Zero below, and finished the day with a relaxing ride on the water with time to reflect about then and now, and what the future holds.   For more information about visiting New York City go to

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Gene and Katie Hamilton travel the U.S. extensively in search of a favorite place. They are members of the Outdoor Writers Association of America.

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