July 4th on Top of the Rock

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July42013

I’m a solid nine months behind when it comes to recounting my  adventures, so I’m just going to start with a few of the more recent ones and work backwards as the spirit moves me. And I can’t believe it has already been a month since the 4th of July.

Last year my neighbor Tobia and I spent the evening of the 4th wondering around our neighborhood hoping someone would invite us onto their rooftop, and then hoping against reason that said rooftop would have a small view of the fireworks on the Hudson. The problem with this plan (aside from the need to gain access to a stranger’s home) was that an entire island and some of the world’s tallest buildings were between me and the show. It goes like this: Brooklyn >> East River >> Manhattan >> Hudson River* >> New Jersey. I’m making a point to tell you this because it took me about a year to get the rivers straight, and I want to show you that I’ve finally mastered my immediate geography.

Anyway, this year I had a better plan. My friend Tricia and her boyfriend Brian were in town, and after some extensive Googling, we decided to take a shot at trying to see the fireworks from the Top of the Rock. Having been to the top twice, I had a good feeling that the view of the fireworks would be decent, but I couldn’t find any website recommending it as a spot to watch the show, and the Rock’s own website had a disclaimer stating that fireworks views were not guaranteed.  Tricia and Brian were already planning to go to the Top of the Rock (it is probably the number one touristy thing I recommend to anyone who visits), so the only “extra” money we were spending was $30 for my ticket. Considering that rooftop bars across Manhattan sell tickets to to watch the show for $75 and up (way up), $30 was a steal.

We weren’t disappointed. The two great things about the Top of the Rock, and why I recommend it over the Empire State Building, are that 1) you can buy a ticket in advance for a specific time, meaning that you can ensure you are on top just before sunset; and 2) you can see the Empire State Building from the Top of the Rock, making the view that much better. Between the sunset, watching the lights come across the city, and the Empire State Building’s own 4th of July LED light show, the fireworks almost seemed like an afterthought, but we could see them really well, even though I didn’t get any decent pictures.

If you go, know that you can’t stand on the west side of the roof on the upper levels, so the view is a little obstructed (this is the only real flaw in the plan and probably what keeps them from charging an arm and a leg.) You can see the boats on the Hudson in my picture below, which gives you some idea of the line of site — a couple of those boats are the barges they use for fireworks. We were glad we got there more than an hour early as we had to stake out a spot and hold it or we would have been at the far back of the crowd. But the wait was nothing compared to what we would have had to put up with if we had made our way down to the riverfront, and the “pre-show” was worth the money on its own.

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July42013_5* The lower Hudson (from NYC to somewhere near Troy)  is actually a tidal estuary.

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