Friday, July 08, 2022

New York City Adventure - Day 2

After a quick trip to the local supermarket to pick up bread and mayo, we were on our way to our first day of adventure in NY. We planned to visit two sites today: The American Museum of Natural History and nearby Central Park.

We headed into Manhattan the New York City way, by taking the subway. The kids did great and this turned out to be one of C's highlights of the day. I was impressed to see G reading the Minecraft themed novel we had brought. But it was D who really relished the ride, excited to see a glimpse of the Brooklyn Bridge as we headed into Manhattan.

Having been to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in DC relatively recently, I wasn't quite sure how the New York version would measure up. I need not have given this a second thought, the American Museum of Natural History was outstanding. D loved the birds exhibit, the other kids and Shira loved the gems display and we all loved the dioramas that made up the Mammals Hall. One of my favorite exhibits was the easy to miss Ecosphere located in the Hall of the Universe. At first glance, the Ecosphere appears to be little more than an uninspiring fish tank. However, the story behind it is absolutely fascinating: the sphere contains algae and shrimp and has been sealed off to the outside word since 1999. That's right, there's been no food or air introduced into the sphere since then.

[I]t’s a self-sustaining habitat. No feeding is required, and there’s no overpopulation or pollution! How does it work? Algae make food from sunlight. Shrimp take oxygen from the water and exhale carbon dioxide; algae take in the carbon dioxide and give off oxygen! Microbes feed the shrimp—and in turn, the carbon dioxide-rich shrimp poop helps the algae and microbes!

How amazing is that?

Oh yeah, we also all loved the dino exhibit.

The only negative about the museum is that their cafe doesn't allow outside food. We ended up eating lunch outside on the terrace, so even that worked out well.

We left the museum with our brains bursting, overwhelmed by how much there was to see. As much as we saw, there are a number of exhibits we flat out missed; so yeah, I'd go back for sure.

After the museum we promised the kids playground time in Central Park. However, I explained that before the playground I wanted to take them to a special spot in the park.

When we finally arrived, I asked the kids what we were looking at? They weren't nearly as excited as I was. "Hieroglyphics" the children finally answered. "Now, could we go to the playground?" they asked.

I had dragged the children to Cleopatra's Needle, an obelisk that was crafted nearly 3,400 years ago! When I was looking for stops to visit in Central Park I came across the obelisk's description and read it through twice, carefully. Surely this was a replica of an ancient Egyptian artifact, not the artifact itself. But no, apparently, it's the real deal. This really is a monument created for an ancient Pharaoh, discovered by the Romans and delivered to the park in 1888.

The kids' minds may not have been blown, but mine was. The Needle did not disappoint and was easily one of the most amazing things we saw all day.

I had a number of other sites I wanted to stop at in the park, but I realized I needed to get the kids to a playground or we were going to have a mutiny on our hands. We finally made it to Billy Johnson Playground and the kids could properly let loose.

Unfortunately, the weather for the day finally caught up to us and as the kids played the sky opened up with rain. Even more unfortunate was my decision to leave Shira's umbrella back at the Airbnb because there was no rain in the forecast. Whoops!

We ignored the rain as long as we could, but eventually we found all the kids were huddled under playground equipment and it was obvious that it was time to go.

Before we fled to the playground, I grabbed a few of the kids and we posed with the nearby Balto statue. Balto is a Siberian husky who became a hero in the 1920's.

In January 1925, an outbreak of diphtheria threatened the population of the town of Nome, Alaska. Weather conditions prevented the transport of vaccines from Anchorage by plane. A relay of dog-sled teams and mushers provided the only alternative. Twenty teams carried the vaccine almost 700 miles in blizzard conditions, a trip that took remarkably only five days and seven hours. They braved minus 30-degree Fahrenheit temperatures, ice floes, and 5,000-foot mountain peaks.

As animal lovers, I had to take the kids to see this pup who had helped save the lives of so many children.

We got our pics, got drenched, and made a soggy walk back to the subway. From there, we headed back to our Airbnb and the kids all got into their PJs.

One of our summer trip traditions is that we bring Lego sets for the kids to build and play with for the week. Last year, I questioned if the kids were getting too old for this tradition. I learned then that I couldn't have been more off base. If anything, the kids being older has made their building and playing skills even sharper. Plus, to switch from screen time to an emphasis on social and physical play was something they all seemed to enjoy.

So this year I was especially jazzed when I learned that Lego makes a series of low cost, easy to build, Mechs. Mechs, for the uninitiated, are large robots controlled by one or pilots. I had brought along sets for Wolverine, Iron Man, Black Panther, Thanos and Zane from Ninjago. I was psyched because the sets looks relatively easily to build, had cool looking minifigs and would be easy to play with. J, knowing that we'd probably play Legos this year, also brought along a heap of random pieces.

The kids were excited to see the sets and there was no arguing about who got which character. They quickly set to work building Legos, with the more experienced Lego builders helping those who needed it. For a moment there, like the Ecosphere noted above, we had perfect balance in the house. The kids were playing together, Shira and I were making dinner in peace and all was well with the world.

Today was a great day, but we'd definitely not respected just how massive the museum and Central Park are. We logged over 15,000 steps today and still didn't scratch the surface of what there was to see in Central Park.

We're all looking forward to tomorrow, Shabbat, where we can have a low key day walking to the nearby zoo and just relaxing.

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