Our 2011 Road Trip #8: Shadows of the Empire

Anne + ESB!

Tourist Anne can tourist like no tourist ever touristed before. I love you, Tourist Anne!

[The very special miniseries continues! See Part One for the official intro and context.]

“See the Empire State Building!” all the travel guides say. “Ride to the top of the Empire State Building!” they say. “The Empire State Building was in good movies! See NYC from the Empire State Building! Empty your wallet inside Empire State Building!” Getting a scenic view of Manhattan is a must, but the Empire State Building isn’t the only skyscraper in town. And what luck that we had one next door with public elevator access…for a price.

Empire State Building!

That’s all they ever say. Empire! Empire! Empire!

After the NBC Studio tour at Rockefeller Center, once I came down from the Cloud Nine of “Troy & Abed in the Morning” mug ownership, our next stop was a concession to my son: the Nintendo World store visible in one of our Ann Curry photos. My son was hoping for twenty stories of wall-to-wall video game nirvana. The reality was two stories of a dozen-plus video game displays spaced so far apart that the place felt deserted and in danger of closing. On weekends I’m sure all that emptiness comes in handy for accommodating the underage mobs and parents. On a late Monday morning in the summertime, elbow room and personal space were in ample supply.

One of the happy store helpers had so much free time on his hands, he felt compelled to keep himself occupied by enforcing the no-sitting rule and asking Anne to stand up when she made the mistake of trying to sit on the floor and rest her boredom away. Meanwhile, the boy and I enjoyed a no-wait demo of the new Nintendo 3DS. He and I share mutual disdain 3-D movies, but the quasi-holographic whatzit-tech of the 3DS performed above our expectations and was a little adorable.


We’re still not buying one, but the test drive was fun.

From there we retraced our steps to 30 Rockefeller Center and rode up to the sufficiently accurately named Top of the Rock. Ascending 30 Rock was a few bucks cheaper than the Empire State Building, and we were willing to bet that once you get past the first few dozen stories, the views probably aren’t all that dissimilar. Paying customers can ride up to the 67th floor of 30 Rock for observing and sampling the air a bit further above sea level than usual. An optional staircase to the 68th floor had zero impact, view-wise.

Rockefeller Center!

Safety glass everywhere to protect visitors allergic to heights.

Anne posed for the mandatory Empire State Building shot like the dedicated tourist she is, Hare Krishna souvenir cap and all. I was a bit more low-key in my giddiness.


Funny how they’ve never made a movie about giant jungle animals climbing Rockefeller Center. Unless that was an episode of 30 Rock I missed.

While the other visitors were all like, “Look, honey, you can see the Empire State Building from here!” I took extra moments to appreciate the aggregated building assortment separating 30 Rock from the ESB.


I’m sure locals can tell vivid stories about every building in this photo, not just clinging to the ol’ Empire.

The north side of the Rock faces the wilds of Central Park.

Central Park!

It’s not exactly next door, but it certainly stands out from the metal-and-concrete crowd.

By the time we left my stomach was aching for lunch. My Bouchon quiche had been scrumptious, but as dinky as a single English muffin. We descended again to the Rock Center basement and settled for Manchu Wok, a chain eatery found in most of our malls back home. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to pass it up and embark on a lengthier quest for some other untested quantity. My son enjoyed his chicken teriyaki, and I made do with the typical standard scoops-of-meat-on-rice mall meal. I’m sure the Empire State Building’s basement is lined with five-star eight-dollar gourmet buffets, but we weren’t in the Empire State Building. Desperate times, unremarkable measures.

To be continued!

[Historical notes:

1. I sigh wearily every time I reflect upon the times we settled for ordinary restaurants. We can’t afford to eat four- or five-star for every meal, but eatery exploration was harder in the days before I could whip out a phone and review all the nearest options, not just those in our immediate line of sight.

2. To this day neither of us owns a 3DS. Handhelds never were my thing, no matter how much I tried to enjoy my old basic Game Boy in college.

3. Five years later we’ve still seen very few episodes of 30 Rock. Insights and jokes from its diehard fans are welcome in the comments section.

4. Someone remind me to ask Anne if she still has that hat. That was at least $20 worth of hat. Someone gonna wear it.]

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

2 responses

  1. We never had a 3DS. The last one I got was a “regular” DS when I got M his because I somehow got addicted to Animal Crossing and needed my own to play. I think we unearthed mine when we moved last time and it was still ticking…


    • My son never got a Nintendo handheld of his own, come to think of it. He still has his PSP, but he only played a few Final Fantasy games on it. They were fun, but not really worth shelling out for an entire system, even used. I think (maybe?) I gave him my old Gameboy, though the only games I ever had were Super Mario Bros (no complaints, came with it), Tetris (passable), Elevator Action (sadly inferior to the original arcade version), and some kind of Spider-Man game that was laughably incomprehensible. I guess I just wasn’t made for tiny gaming.


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