Continuing the adventures in New York City! On Black Friday, we didn’t do much by the way of shopping until late. First up was one of two things that had been on my Must-Do list: Visit the Museum of Natural History and the Hayden Planetarium. This was indulging the Little Kid Space Nerd in me, I fully admit! And imagine what flitted through my heart when we walked in and saw the Hayden Sphere looming above:
Such a fascinating place — all the displays about things that I’ve been interested in for almost literally as long as I can remember.
Fascinatingly, those planet models are to scale: If the Hayden Sphere is the size of the sun, then that’s how big the planets are. There’s another series of walking displays around the lower perimeter, showing the size of increasingly tiny things: If the Hayden Sphere is the size of a single raindrop, then this is how big a common cold virus is — that sort of thing. This whole place was amazing.
The upper portion of the sphere itself is the Planetarium, where we saw a show about dark energy, narrated by Neil DeGrasse Tyson himself. I could sit through a dozen planetarium shows in one day, to be quite honest. It was our great luck that the Planetarium had just reopened after several months downtime for refitting: the dome was rebuilt to make the seams between the sections almost invisible, and the seats and projection systems were upgraded. To my surprise, there was no Big Bug-Eyed Projector sitting in the middle of the planetarium, which is a traditional fixture of such places (this kind of thing, if you’re wondering what I’m talking about). Projection seems to be handled from a series of projectors along the boundaries of the planetarium. The show was amazing and very well-done. There’s another theater in the lower half of the Sphere, but we didn’t attend that one. Instead we moved on to the rest of the museum.
Much of the museum is dedicated to the kinds of taxidermy-based diorama displays that I’m sure we all remember from our youths. This museum’s dioramas are some of the best I’ve ever seen, but in all honesty, a little of that kind of thing tends to go a long way with me. There were still some cool things to see, though.
We spent some time in the Hall of Gems and Minerals, because rocks are cool, dammit.
That last is pretty fascinating: it’s a piece of a much larger meteorite, about the size of a small car — and it weighs 34 tons. That blew my mind. The signage illustrates the engineering problems they faced just displaying the thing in the Museum: it sits on support posts that extend down through the basement floor all the way to bedrock.
After the museum, it was time for another touristy stop: Rockefeller Center.
And that place is every bit as gorgeous as it looks on teevee and in the pictures.
Watching people skate at Rockefeller Center is one of the most unexpectedly wonderful things that we saw on this trip. It was just…sheer, beautiful happiness, from the family that was skating together…
…to the young woman in the wonderful scarf who couldn’t let go of the rail.
After Rockefeller Center, it was off to find dinner. We wound up at a burger joint called 5 Napkin, where we had a terrific meal in a dining room made up to look like an old meat market:
And then, where else to go on a Friday Night in New York City than…TIMES SQUARE!!!
The coolest thing was that everywhere we went that day, nobody was pushy, nobody was in a bad mood. It was as if the thousands of people in our company were all just…happy. Even in Times Square, there was no shoving, no rancor…everybody was relaxed and having a good time. Everybody was. I’ve no idea if it’s always that way or if was just a function of the season (and the presence of cops everywhere), but this entire trip was almost entirely free of anxiety.
So ended our third night in New York City. Two nights remained….