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New Experiences in New York

View of New York City at night from a water taxi.
View of New York City at night from a water taxi.

Jun 20, 2017

By Riley McClendon ‘17

Edited for content and length

Day 1: Welcome to New York 

After an early morning plane ride, our group emerged from the LaGuardia Airport and jumped into a big yellow taxi cab. It was completely liberating to feel the cold rush of New York City air. Walking around Central Park with the city around you makes to feel like you are in a bright green safe haven. We checked into the trendy yet comfortable Hudson Hotel, positioned right across the street from the Time Warner building. We didn’t know it yet, but that skyscraper would constantly serve as a point of reference for getting back home among a city of towering structures.

Our group noticed the culture of the city right away. Horns were constantly honking and no one waited for the light to turn green before crossing the street. We rode the subway to dinner and a strange combination of emotions filled me. It was a mixture of both nervousness and excitement. We ate a group dinner at the Smith Restaurant. The eclectic atmosphere of the restaurant perfectly mirrored the city. It was fast paced and upbeat. This restaurant was only the beginning of a week filled with great food. Following dinner, we walked over to Rockefeller Center and rode the elevator 70 stories up to the Top of The Rock. Up there the unbelievable views of the city were enough to take our breaths away. It was a vantage point unlike any I have ever experienced.

Day 2: Chelsea Morning

After riding the Subway along with what felt like the entire population of New York, we made it to the Whitney Museum. The Whitney is a beautiful modern building with views of the city that could very easily rival those from the Top of the Rock. The entire museum is dedicated to American art. The gallery that really captured me was on floor eight titled “Fast Forward: Painting from the 1980s.” These works were bright, graphic, and their creativity made a permanent imprint in my brain.

The view from the Whitney Museum.

After roaming the Whitney gift shop, our little group wandered down the High Line toward the Chelsea Market. The Chelsea Market was a high energy indoor marketplace filled with vendors and unique spots to grab a bite to eat. After lunch at a Thai sandwich shop, we made our way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The MET has to be one of the grandest, most wonderful buildings I have ever seen. While the outside is something special, it’s the inside that is absolutely incredible. The MET houses everything imaginable. There are refurnished American Colonial houses, knights in shining armor and even mummies. The MET has it all. I feel quite certain it would take weeks to see everything inside its walls.

Day 3: Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Pushing the exhaustion out of our heads and ignoring our aching feet, we began our third day in NYC. It was a rainy day but that didn’t stop us. I actually have to admit, walking through central park in the rain is a truly magical experience. I also began to notice our group adapting to the NY culture. We crossed the street confidently and swiped our Metro cards with ease. The first destination of the day was The Museum of the City of New York, located in an old 5th Ave mansion turned museum. This was by far the most innovative museum we visited and it is worth mentioning, the home of the most interesting staircase in NY. We learned the full history of the city through art and were able to see unique exhibits like Activists in New York and Gay Gotham: Art & Underground Culture in New York. My love for Andy Warhol made The Gay Gothamexhibit one of my favorites on the trip.

Next, we trudged through the rain a few blocks over to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, but not before we had our first celebrity sighting. We all witnessed Ralph Lauren emerge from his palatial 5th Avenue building overlooking Central Park; it was very exciting. The Cooper-Hewitt was also inside an old mansion just as beautiful as the last one. This museum focused mainly on showcasing design. It is very interesting to see what was considered new and modern design in the past. After a quaint lunch at a local bakery, it was time to hit the legendary Guggenheim. It was six rotunda levels of the most visionary art of all time. Perusing the exhibits and descending down the circular ramp was an enriching artistic experience.

FSC students on a rooftop in NYC.

After returning to the hotel, taking a quick nap, and grabbing sushi for dinner, it was finally time for Broadway! We saw Chicago at the Ambassador Theatre and it was completely unbelievable. I was surprised by the small interior of the theater but very soon into the show I realized the size of the stage didn’t really matter because the talent was so big. The whole show was captivating; the signing, the dancing, and the acting were amazing. It was hard to believe the show was live and happening right in front of me. Since we were already on Broadway, we made a quick pit stop to Times Square on the way back to the hotel. Being immersed in all the flashing lights and the energy of Times Square gives you a crazy adrenaline rush.

Day 4: No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn

On day four, we ventured out to Brooklyn. It was about a 45 minute subway ride, but totally worth every second. We went to the Brooklyn Museum, which was home to so many awesome feminist art galleries. This was especially cool because we just so happened to visit on International Women’s Day. There were so many cool exhibits but one of my favorites was called The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago. The dinner party is a huge table in which there are 39 place settings set especially for important real and mythological women in history (such as the Goddess of Fertility and Susan B. Anthony). Seeing this was completely breathtaking and something I will never forget.

Next, my little group and I ventured out to Little Italy where the pasta was good but the wine was even better. The next museum of the day was the International Center of Photography where I was first introduced to virtual art. This type of art is displayed on screens in the form of photographs or videos. The ICP was different and interesting because every work of art was a political piece. I was specifically interested in the gallery full of work on environmental issues; it was amazing. After the museum, we walked straight to SoHo and did something I am very good at... shopping. The vibes and fashion in the SoHo area are first-rate and the stores are flat out unbeatable.

Day 5: New York, New York

Early Thursday morning, we walked over to Phillips Auction House, a world-wide auctioneer of fine art. The gallery was pristine and we all got an awesome educational look into the inner workings of the art selling industry. After lunching on Greek food in the Grand Central Dining Concourse, our next destination was the MoMA. The Museum of Modern Art houses all the classic works we know and love. I got the chance to see Van Gogh, Dali, Picasso and Andy Warhol. On the walls of the MoMA hang the most inspirational and recognizable works ever; the kind you hear about time and time again. The highlight of the visit was seeing Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh in the flesh. The MoMA was all around epic.

When the sun finally set, we headed toward the water and hopped on an NYC water taxi. The views from the boat were stunning. We got sail past Ellis Island and the majestic Lady Liberty. As we navigated into open water, the towering buildings seemed small and the entire city of New York fit in one snap shot. This was a truly humbling experience, to take in the full scope of the city that never sleeps. For a late dinner, we grabbed a dish at a trendy Thai restaurant with killer lychee mojitos.

The group saw Van Gogh's Starry Night in person.

Day 6: Empire State of Mind

As the trip neared its end, something amazing happened when snow fell over the city. As a native Texan and current Floridian, seeing snow was a pretty surreal experience, especially from aboard a train. We boarded in the morning from Grand Central station and rode the train to Beacon, NY. After playing in the snow like the crazy tourists we were, we went to the Dia Museum. Dia features some pretty intense conceptual art made of unique materials like dirt, glass and string. The art was cool but I think we were all too distracted by the snow to spend much time indoors.

As we rode the train back to the city, the soothing views of snow-covered trees lulled us all to sleep. Upon waking from our naps and leaving Grand Central station, we went back to our home away from home. That night we went out on our last group dinner to a taco shop in Washington Square. The margaritas there rivaled those I drink in my home state. We spent the rest of the night on our own experiencing NYC night life. We visited clubs and bars and lived up our last night of Spring Break.

Day 7: The City

This day was a sad one. We packed our suitcases, ate our last NY style bagels, and hopped into taxis headed for the airport. As I boarded the plane back to sunny Tampa Bay, I knew I was going to miss the bustle and high energy of the city. I definitely didn’t get a lot of sleep over the course of the week, but I did gain insight into culture, art, food, and fashion in the Big Apple.

I was a little bit hesitant to spend my spring break on a school trip but I am so glad I did. Having a perfectly planned trip that I could completely enjoy without stress was more than I could have ever asked for out of a vacation. Although I love the comfort of Lakeland, getting out there and seeing something new was a terrific adventure.

Experiencing the city with my FSC friends has been an opportunity I will always cherish. My view of the world has definitely broadened, along with my appreciation for art. Although it wasn’t the standard beach spring break, every student should explore the city of New York at least once.