Life in the City

Sightseeing on a deadline

More stories from Ta'Leah Van Sistine

Life in the city
December 8, 2021

Note: “Life in the City” is an ongoing column in which freelance writer Ta’Leah Van Sistine writes about her semester in New York City through the National Student Exchange. 

When I was in middle school, I attempted to make a journal of everything I wanted to see in New York. 

Each entry was dedicated to a certain attraction — the Empire State Building, Times Square, Central Park, the Chrysler Building and Top of the Rock were just some of the places. 

I printed off pictures I found online and glued them on the journal’s pages, and I planned to write a description of the sights, why they were worth seeing and what I needed to know before going there.

I say “attempted to make a journal” because I only made six entries — most of them unfinished. As nerdy as the journal was, the idea of making a sightseeing list stuck with me, and when I arrived in New York seven years later, I reminded myself of everywhere I wanted to go and everything I wanted to do. 

A note on my phone now has an ever-growing lineup of the places and events that are “a must,” but as of Sept. 29, my deadline to do all of these things is fast-approaching: Dec. 14 — the day I fly back to Wisconsin. So, on any day my friends and I are free, we explore every part of the city we can. 

A decent amount of walking and usually several bus and subway rides are required to get to many tourist attractions from where I am at Queens College — typically taking an hour or two for travel time — so setting aside part or most of a day for a trip is essential.

Sightseeing favorites

American Museum of Natural History

Located on the western side of Central Park, the American Museum of Natural History is famous for its exhibits and scientific collections. 

The movie “Night at the Museum” is based on AMNH, which is how I originally heard about it, but I was bummed when I visited and saw that the inside looked virtually nothing like it did in the movie. 

AMNH still really impressed me with their new Mignone Halls of Gems and Minerals and the 94-foot-long blue whale model in the Hall of Ocean Life.

The American Museum of Natural History’s 94-foot-long blue whale hangs above visitors in the Hall of Ocean Life. (Photo by Ta’Leah Van Sistine)

Something I only recently learned is that with a Brooklyn, Queens or New York Public Library card, you can get free admission to dozens of museums, historical societies and public gardens, including AMNH, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art. 

Reserving tickets ahead of time, though, is often required or encouraged because of limited capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Flushing Meadows Corona Park

Only a short bus ride away from the Queens College campus is Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which contains the Unisphere monument — a large, stainless steel globe-like structure that was commissioned for the New York World’s Fair of 1964-65.

Freelancer Ta’Leah Van Sistine stands underneath the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. (Photo by Ta’Leah Van Sistine)

Walking through the mist garden in front of the Unisphere is also a really interesting experience because if a person is a certain distance away, the mist hides them from view. 

Another gem inside the park is the Queens Museum, which is free to visit and has the Panorama of the City of New York exhibit — a model of all five NYC boroughs. 

Brooklyn Bridge

When departing from the Manhattan side of the bridge, there’s a long line of vendors selling artwork, apparel and food, so having cash on you is a plus.

A walk across the Brooklyn Bridge is typically an hour long, including time to look at the Manhattan and Brooklyn skylines and take pictures. (Photo by Ta’Leah Van Sistine)

It only took an hour for my roommates and I to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, but the views of Manhattan are timeless. 

After weeks of seeing the skyline from a far-off distance on campus, it was incredible to be up close. I think middle school-me would be pretty content.

Van Sistine can be reached at [email protected].