We are currently writing a new chapter in the great book of epic world history. In recent living memory, the terror attacks of September 11 embody the best and worst of extreme adversity and human endurance. It’s listening to the distraught phone messages left by people trapped in the twin towers of the stricken World Trade Center that really wrenched at my heart. Loving, frantic and frightened in tone, the fatalistic phone calls are a sobering encounter, when visiting the 9/11 Memorial Museum, in New York City. I gazed over the Survivors’ Stairs used by hundreds to flee the inferno, a mangled firetruck, scorched steel beams, the shoe of a badly injured photojournalist, and photos of those who jumped to their deaths, are all part of the comprehensive exhibition, liberally furnished with help-yourself tissue boxes.
Even the stiffest of upper lips must struggle to steer down the tissues. Museum guides quietly circulate among the crowds, sensitively checking people are coping with the emotional rigour of this rightfully raw exposition. The scale of this disaster can’t be and thankfully hasn’t been Disney-fied. The museum’s great statement is inscribed on a massive wall of blue squares, symbolising the dazzling cobalt sky that greeted New Yorkers on that fateful day. “No Day Shall Erase You from the Memory of Time.” It was a searing New York experience on my last visit to the city that never sleeps – until now.
Like much of the rest of the world, the bright lights and big sights of the Big Apple are off-limits to travellers, but it doesn’t mean you have to kill-off your wanderlust. Fingers crossed, Air New Zealand’s grand plans for a direct service to New York from Auckland will still commence towards year’s end, but in the meantime, here’s some amazing attractions you can take a virtual tour of. The 9/11 Museum is no exception, with a riveting virtual tour on their website in video format. While you can’t interact with exhibits, you can take a walk-through inside the museum and its layout as the slow-moving cameras glide down halls.
Select exhibits are also available in the 9/11 Google Expeditions app, which is excellent for viewing the art and photographs on the walls of the museum, including the “In Memoriam” exhibit which has wall-to-wall photos of the victims. For something more uplifting, the Guggenheim is one of America’s finest art museums. Google’s Street View can transport you to the Guggenheim’s famous spiral staircase with the chance to view everything from the Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary eras. If that’s not enough to keep you busy, the online collection also has 1,700 artworks by more than 625 artists, as well as works from Venice and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.
Masterpieces from Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, Jeff Koons, and Franz Marc are just some of the artists whose work are a part of the Guggenheim’s Collection Online. The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) has a library of photos from its permanent collections, featuring works by Vincent van Gogh and other contemporary artists. One of my favourite van Gogh masterpieces, “The Starry Night,” is housed here. In partnership with Google Arts & Culture, the MoMA offers one free virtual “walk-through” exhibit, plus select photos of its permanent artwork collections. Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a series of videos set to calming music showing stunning views of its buildings. Anyone who appreciates architecture will really enjoy The Met’s series of YouTube videos that show its most famous buildings and exhibit spaces in a 360-degree format.
As a bonus, the videos also feature relaxing instrumental music soundtracks, to calm your Covid-19 fears. When the time is right to return to New York in the flesh, I still think the best way to survey Manhattan’s architectural majesty, is to hop on board a New York Harbour cruise. Circle Line Cruises, not only serves up ravishing skyline vistas, but zips you across to Lady Liberty and Ellis Island. To accentuate the experience, commune with Lady Liberty, with a tour right up to the statue’s lofty top. Back on land, head down 12th Avenue’s Hudson River waterfront to delight in a treasure trove of big boys toys at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
Home to the legendary Intrepid aircraft carrier, that survived multiple kamikaze attacks in World War II, the museum boasts over 30 restored aircraft, a wealth of interactive, high-tech, multi-sensory exhibits. I loved exploring Growler, the only American guided missile submarine open to the public. Other stand-outs include the British Airways Concorde and the Space Shuttle Enterprise, the prototype NASA orbiter that paved the way for the entire programme. If these monumental attractions are on your Big Apple tick-list, you can save yourself some serious coin by purchasing a New York CityPASS, saving 42% off the cost of purchasing the included tickets separately. Valid for 9 consecutive days, you’ll have a heap of time to immerse yourself in the Big Apple’s top sights, without having to rush. I purchased a New York CityPASS Mobile Ticket which made the admission process super-fast. www.citypass.com
If you’re planning your first ever visit to the metropolis, Big Bus New York serves up the Big Apple in perfect slices, on its uptown and downtown hop-on, hop-off tours. Whether you want to capture panoramic views of icons like the Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge, or dive into the city’s famous neighbourhoods, it’s stress-free way to hop about. www.bigbustours.com
Where to stay? At the crossroads of the world in Times Square, citizenM Hotel gives you a ringside seat on the city that never sleeps. With triple-glazing and sound-proof walls, my comfortable cocoon sported all of the creature treats you want, at affordable rates. I booked through Hotels.com who operate an excellent loyalty programme. Book and stay 10 nights at more than 500,000 eligible properties and you’ll get 1 reward night to redeem at another. Just sign up with a valid email address to start collecting. Secret Prices are also available to Hotels.com app users, Hotels.com Rewards members. www.hotels.com
Air New Zealand is still planning to launch direct services from Auckland to New York non-stop, when long-haul travel resumes. The audacious new route will be serviced by Air New Zealand’s 787-9 Dreamliners, in a premium-focused configuration. There’s something to look forward to, when we’ve kicked Covid-19 into touch. www.airnewzealand.co.nz
For more inspiration on tripping to the USA, head to www.visittheusa.com.au