USA Series: Bronx Zoo and the Guggenheim Museum

Guggenheim exterior

Guggenheim exterior

Alex and I are on holidays in Manhattan, New York. 

Today we are looking to take the train to the Bronx Zoo before we later visit the popular Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. 

Scarily, but not offputtingly, my trusty Rough Guides USA book tells me:

“The city’s northernmost and only mainland borough, The Bronx was for a long time believed to be its toughest and most crime-ridden district.”

We should be fine, we are heading to the zoo. It should be fun and safe there right?

12:00pm
So we reach the Bronx Zoo station (West Farms Sq, East Treemont Av) and make our way down the street towards the zoo entrance. There seem to be floods of people in front of us who seem to also be headed to the zoo.

East Treemont Station for Bronx Zoo

East Treemont Station for Bronx Zoo

We suddenly come to a holt and find ourselves at the end of what seems to be the end of the queue for the Bronx Zoo.

Queue for the Bronx Zoo I think

Queue for the Bronx Zoo I think

This is possibly the longest queue ever and this is for the Bronx Zoo? What am I missing? I can’t understand why such a big queue. I check my Rough Guides USA book and I think I know why the big queue. I didn’t realise Wednesday (ie today) is “pay-what-u-want Wednesday”. It’s like tight arse Tuesday, but the less common Wednesday version. Bugger!

What this means is that families, the hundreds that are here anyway, can have a cheap day out with their large families. Can’t imagine how packed inside will be like… what a nightmare!

With time to kill waiting in the queue Alex and I debate as to the status of the Bronx Zoo in terms of it being an “attraction”. I thought it must be the most popular attraction in town given the queue. Alex suggested it might be the only attraction in town. We settle on it probably being the only safe attraction in town.

Bronx Zoo

Bronx Zoo

Now to decide on how much to pay on “pay-what-u-wish Wednesday”…considering the normal admission price is USD$15 we vote on… $5.

We eventually make it inside but stupidly we left the apartment this morning without breakfast. Our first stop needs to be to buy some food… this is our next mistake. USD$13 for the smallest (and possibly worst) burger meal ever for Alex.

The zoo is packed with people. We decide the one thing that looks like worth doing is the Wild Asia Monorail and head to its entrance.

Now bear with me, because I am beginning to know how Chevy Case felt in the Griswald’s vacation to WallyWorld…

“SORRY WE’RE CLOSED!” says the lady at the ticket booth at the monorail.

It’s closed due to a pending thunderstorm. Then right on cue the rain starts to bucket down. We seek refuge for a while to wait out the heavy rain. We wait and we wait and wait a bit more…

1:30pm
Its still raining but only lightly now. We decide to call it a day on the Bronx Zoo and make our way back to the station for the train back to Manhattan where there might ironically be less people and cheaper food prices.

Total animals viewed today while at the Bronx Zoo…two. Yep, we managed to see a couple of long legged birds (in an unlabelled area so not sure if they even count) and we did pass some camels on the way in… 2 species of animal.

Not our best trip ever and I would just suggest its best not to go to the Bronx Zoo on a rainy Wednesday.

2:30pm
Alex and I are over our first disappointment of the trip. Our visit to the Bronx Zoo wasn’t a success but we have now re-grouped and make our way to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Typical Manhattan Street

Typical Manhattan Street

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is a very popular New York attraction located opposite Central Park on the Upper East Side.

On arriving I decide I love this museum already…no queue. Entrance fee USD$22 (each).

The first exhibit is James Turrell’s, Aten Reign which is a daylight/led site specific installation which forms the internal rotunda shape of the building proper.

Guggenheim says:

“Aten Reign (2013), the centerpiece of James Turrell’s first exhibition in a New York museum since 1980, recasts the Guggenheim rotunda as an enormous volume filled with shifting artificial and natural light.”

The rotunda design of the building takes you up to the other levels by curved ramp built around the Aten Reign installation.

Guggenheim interior levels

Guggenheim interior levels

On the next level are depictions of other light installations of James Turrell which are very clever.

Further up the Rotunda is the museum’s current art exhibit.  Again from the Guggenheim:

“On view now from the collection are portions of the Thannhauser Collection —presenting masterpieces by such artists as Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Camille Pissarro, Pierre Auguste Renoir, and Vincent van Gogh.” 

I am so enjoying this place.  I am not normally into such artsy things and am the first to confess I know nothing about art.  However, these exhibits are so well constructed it is difficult not to be impressed.  Alex says he is also enjoying it… well he says he was confused initially but is liking it.

Guggenheim interior

Guggenheim interior

We continue to make our way up the rotunda until we come across the coffee shop. One Guggenheim coffee please… “USD$5 thanks”. Expensive artwork subsidised by the cafe.

Going up two more rotunda levels we join the queue for the 45 minute wait to see James Turrell’s “Iltar” installation, a source perception using light.  Very clever James.

6:00pm
Given we are in the Upper East Side where restaurants are fairly plentiful, we stop for an early dinner at Sriracha for some southeast asian street food which makes a pleasant change from all the hamburgers on offer.

7:00pm
It is a Wednesday night and apparently Bloomingdale’s (department store) is open until about 9:00pm.  We grab a taxi the short(ish) distance to Bloomingdale’s for USD $13 and do a bit of window shopping.

Taxi interior

Taxi interior

Shopping at Bloomingdale's

Sadly with no purchases made we decide to call it a day and head back to base.  It has been an interesting day.  While the morning didn’t start out the best, the afternoon was excellent with our visit to the Guggenheim .

Tomorrow we plan to visit the Statue of Liberty and the 9/11 Memorial, so another big day ahead… and loving it ![showmyads]

For previous USA series post see Wall Street and the High Line
For next USA series post see Statue of Liberty and 9/11 Memorial