Take Two #135: Exploring NYC and DC
By Kyra-lin Hom
This week has been one heck of a whirlwind. From Chicago (where I live now) to New York City to Washington, D.C. and back again. All in just seven days. I've done much crazier – don't get me started on China, but only a few days in each of our nation's arguably most famous cities is like forcing a twin-sized fitted sheet onto a full-sized mattress. There's just no way to cover everything. To make matters worse, I oh-so conveniently injured myself just days before we were scheduled to fly out and so had limited mobility. Perfect, I know.
So how is someone with mobility issues supposed to enjoy these notoriously foot-heavy cities? Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to 'hop-on hop-off' tour busses. Basically, these are tourism company-run bus loops that stop at all the major tourism hot spots. Many of these come with tour guides narrating the journey as well, though expect a wide range of skill levels here. We had everything from the lady who was obsessed with clouds to the anarchist's guide to NYC to the Travel Channel-worthy locals' special. Have a good sense of humor and you'll enjoy the ride.
Having grown up in Seattle, spent undergrad in LA, and now moved to Chicago, I should have realized that reputation rarely matches reality (for better and worse). Yet my first impressions still surprised me.
New York City is massive. Not in size (that's Chicago) but in scale and density. The sky-high buildings are packed so tightly together comic book superheroes really could flit 'safely' from rooftop to rooftop. And people really are on the streets at all hours of the day and night. My only previous experience I can compare to Time Square's assault on all senses is Wangfujing in Beijing, China. For me, NYC was awe-inspiring but also overwhelming.
As a breather from all the crazy, me and mine hopped across the water to Brooklyn. It's a bit like NYC's version of West Seattle, a little home away from home for my uprooted self. Plus it didn't hurt that Brooklyn's waterfront provides one of the best views of the Manhattan skyline. You can even see Staten Island, the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge with its J and Z (yes, just like the performing artist) subway lines all from one place.
Last but not least, I might be jaded for city food forever. Absolutely every place we ate was fantastic. Apparently competition is so high that lasting five years is considered a break away success for NYC restaurants.
Washington, DC on the other hand was quaint – not at all what I had been expecting. The city is significant but small. Whereas in NYC the vibe was to spend, spend, spend! DC felt more about encouraging experiences. Most of the major museums are free, and the ones that aren't (i.e. the specialty and private museums) are very reasonable. Being students, our admission into the International Spy Museum was just $6 a piece.
And of course we had to see the monuments. I for one had no idea how huge the Lincoln Memorial is nor how staggeringly tall the Washington Monument.
One oddity about DC, however, is that outside of downtown it is very easy to wander into the 'wrong' part of town, as in channel surfing easy. The experience was surreal. (I kept looking around for the rifts in space-time, obviously the only logical explanations.)
I wish I had planned more for NYC and had had more time to explore DC, but at least now I've set a baseline for future travels. Whenever I travel, each experience is unique. Each one widens my horizon, opens my mind, and most importantly is a fun time away from work and responsibility. There is no right or wrong way to do it, just make sure you do!