Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Back to Manhattan: 30 Rock to Hallett Nature Sanctuary

We lucked out in that krusttēvs was able to shuffle his schedule around a bit and join us on one of our daily explorations of New York City. Everyone had a yen to return to Manhattan, and so we once again hopped on the subway and soon found ourselves back at Rockefeller Plaza.

The Latvian flag on Rockefeller Plaza
30 Rockefeller Plaza is an American Art Deco skyscraper that forms the centerpiece of Rockefeller Center.The building, nicknamed "30 Rock," is famous for housing the NBC television network headquarters as well as the Rainbow Room restaurant on the 65th floor, and the famous photograph Lunch atop a Skyscraper was taken during the construction of the 69th floor. The skinny: At 850 feet tall, the 70-story building is the 14th tallest in NYC and only 400 feet shorter than the Empire State Building. The “Top of the Rock” observation deck has the best panoramic city view of NYC, as it includes the Empire State Building (which cannot be seen from its own observation deck). The timed entry system and larger observation deck also result in shorter wait times than Empire State, so this would have been our choice for a birds-eye view of the Manhattan if it hadn’t been slightly overcast.

Instead we ventured into 30 Rock to admire the Art Deco interior, and eventually wandered into Bill’s Bar & Burger, the bustling burger spot known for disco fries & their shakes for lunch. Fortified with energy, we emerged back onto 6th Ave. and continued north past the legendary Art Deco theater, Radio City Music Hall. In 1978 Radio City Music Hall was saved from demolition and placed on The National Register of Historic Places.

Robert Indiana's Love sculpture is an iconic piece of pop art that's instantly recognizable from album covers, film spots, and even postage stamps, and makes for a cool photo-op in Midtown. The skinny: The line for photos often stretches down the block, but don’t wait – just circle around and take your photo on the back-side of the statue, flipping your photo afterwards. The statue is at the corner of 6th Ave and W 55th St, just around the corner from the Museum of Modern Art.

Just a short distance further you’ll emerge to Central Park. (For more on the park in general, see my post Central Park, Mussels and More!This southern end of the 843 acre park has some of the busiest paths in the park and popular destinations such as Central Park Zoo and Heckscher playground. Our explorations at the beginning of the week were cut short when Mikus took a tumble from one of the sections of exposed bedrock, but despite the bump still present on his forehead, he and the other boys immediately continued adventuring where they left off.

The view from the promenade in Hallett Nature Sanctuary

The skinny: If you are looking to get away from the crowds without venturing far into the park, head to the four-acre Hallett Nature Sanctuary in the southeast corner of the park. Partially bordered by the pond, the area was closed to the public and preserved as a bird sanctuary from 1934-2017. It is one of the Park’s three woodlands (along with the Ramble and North Woods), and in 1986 was named in memory of George Hervey Hallett Jr. who was a birdwatcher, naturalist and civic leader.

In 2001 the Central Park Conservancy commenced with the restoration and maintenance of the area, as over the years the ‘wild’ habitat had become choked with invasive plant species. By 2013 the Conservancy was giving private tours, and as of April this secret section of Central Park is once more open to the public. The result of the removal of all the invasive, non-native vines and shrubs, and the re-introduction of native plants, is that the sanctuary today carries an incredible diversity of plants. While the boys liked the views from the high points overlooking the park and the pond, I enjoyed spotting the spring wildflowers blooming on the forest floor. Please check the website for hours before visiting, and be aware that there is a limit on the number of visitors allowed in the Sanctuary at once. Keeping on the trails is enforced.

A cardinal, celandine poppies and purple trillium

While there was plenty blooming in the Sanctuary, the flowers weren’t confined to these 4 acres. Spring flowers and shrubs were blossoming along the paths, in formal gardens and in planted borders. What turned out to be a sunny, blue-sky day together with the light greens of spring buds made for an essentially Central Park kind of day, and as we headed deeper north into the Park I was thankful we still had plenty of time left to explore…

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