A New Yorker Bought a CityPASS, Rekindling Her Love for the City
When I moved to New York City, I figured I’d try it out for a year or so. I spent that initial year cramming in all the sights I could, living like a glorified tourist who might be leaving soon. That was 15 years ago.
I’ve since built a life and a home in Brooklyn. During the stay-at-home orders in 2020, though, I found myself with a peculiar variety of homesickness. I longed for New York City, even though I was living here. As a sort of homecoming to this city I never left, I decided to play tourist with a New York CityPASS. My aim was to revisit both classic attractions I hadn’t visited in years and places I’d never been to before, having assumed they were just for tourists.
The New York CityPASS is good for nine days, from the date of the first excursion taken, and includes a choice of six attractions bundled together at a discounted rate. So, it served as a seamless springboard for my adventure. Ever the planner, I wanted to get the most out of my New York CityPASS. I made an itinerary, recruited a travel buddy, and booked reservations, which are required at some places and recommended at others. Then, over the course of two back-to-back weekends, I set out to see the city like a bright-eyed newcomer.
To kick things off, I headed to the heart of the city to the art deco splendor of Top of the Rock. My partner, Brian, joined me on a warm, breezy Saturday night. From our perch on the observation decks on the 70th floor, the lights of the city below twinkled like stars. We gazed at the spires of skyscrapers, glittering panes of glass, and tiny yellow taxi cabs darting on the streets. Then, an eruption of applause turned our heads back to the world of the observation deck. A couple had gotten engaged, sending a ripple of good cheer through the crowd of bystanders. Just before closing time at 10 pm, we headed down to street level and back home to rest up for a second day of sightseeing. “I feel like we’re on vacation,” Brian told me. And we were — just without the expense and logistics of booking a hotel and cat sitter for our beloved senior cat.
The next morning, Brian and I boarded a Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise at Pier 83. The iconic white boats trimmed with apple red and pine green paint have been running tours since 1977. At 10 am sharp, the boat pulled out into the open water under a cloudless gradient of blue sky for the Best of NYC cruise, a 2.5-hour tour that circumnavigates the island of Manhattan. The tour guide came on the loudspeaker at regular intervals to highlight landmarks and points of interest. His quippy, sing-song delivery, peppered with jokes and interesting factoids, reminded me of an old-timey baseball announcer, in the best way. Even after all these years residing in New York City, passing by the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, and postcard-perfect cityscapes, gave me a thrill and had me reaching for my camera.
With lungs revived by river breezes and newly-acquired fun facts in our brains, Brian and I stepped back onto solid ground. A logical next stop on our route would have been the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, whose looming form is only a five-minute walk from Circle Line’s pier. But I was saving this for an outing with a certain boat- and space-loving friend on a different day.
Next stop: the American Museum of Natural History. I was bouncing with excitement to visit the museum’s newly reopened Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals, a place I’ve loved ever since my first visit as an 8-year-old. Filled with gems that sparkle and glow, the visit was every bit as awe-inspiring this time around, a few decades later. In addition to general admission to the permanent collections, the New York CityPASS includes one add-on: either a special exhibition, a giant-screen film, or the planetarium show, called Worlds Beyond Earth. We settled into the Hayden Planetarium Space Theatre for a 25-minute space exploration, narrated by actress Lupita Nyong’o. We then roamed the museum till closing time, paying our respects to the displays of the vast diversity of life on earth and made a point to visit the iconic blue whale.
For the final stop of my staycation, I returned to the Hudson River the following weekend to visit the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum for the first time. My friend Annalise, who is also a long-time New York City resident, and her 2-and-a-half-year-old son, Oliver, joined me. Oliver loves space and boats and has never let a plane or helicopter fly overhead without comment. So, exploring the USS Intrepid, a former aircraft carrier and NASA recovery vessel, was a sure hit. On the open-air deck lined with airplanes and helicopters, we approached a plane with a nose painted like a shark. Oliver, unprompted, burst into song: “Baby shark, doot-doot, doot-doot-doot-doot…” From flag bridge to galley, we explored the nooks and mechanisms of the behemoth ship. In the hands-on, kid-friendly Exploreum, Oliver radiated joy as he turned the knobs and wheels and buttons in interactive submarines and ships, and climbed inside a space shuttle and the cockpit of two helicopters. Seeing the museum through his wondering eyes magnified the feeling of awe and discovery for me, too.
Seeing the city from different perspectives — from the waterways to the aerial view from Top of the Rock — during my New York CityPASS-fueled local getaway filled me with renewed gratitude and wonder. To live in this city that thrums with life and innovation and resilience is a daily gift and source of discovery. Tapping into the wonder of this city belongs to all of us, not only to tourists passing through. No matter how many years pass, New York City is a place that continues to reveal itself to me in new and surprising ways.
Explore all New York City has to offer — including Top of the Rock — by purchasing a CityPass.