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Scott's Column
New York In One Day, Full HDTV

September 1, 2009
By Scott Lewis

This month I will concentrate on my recent trip to New York. The main purpose was to go to my best friend's sister's memorial. My youngest son went with me, so while we were there we wanted to cram in as much as possible. We had one day in Manhattan (New York City). What did we do? Read on to see our plan and what actually happened.

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Trip to New York - The Plan

I took at rip to New York in August. With only one day set aside for Manhattan we had to plan what we wanted to see. This is the plan I created for my son and I before we left:

  • 10:00 AM Museum of Natural History
  • 1:00 PM Liberty Island
  • FAO Schwartz by 6:00 PM (closing)
  • Times Square (Toys R Us by 9:00 PM and M&M World by Midnight)
  • Empire State Building before 2:00 AM)

We were staying on Long Island near the MacArthur Airport. We would be taking the LIRR (Long Island Rail Road) into Manhattan. We needed to catch the 7:47 AM train out of Central Islip to arrive at Penn Station about 9:00 AM. That gives us an hour to get to the Museum of Natural History. My son loved the Night at the Museum movies, so this was a great idea. The Museum opens at 10:00 AM on Sundays (our day in NYC was a Sunday).

I figure 1-1/2 to 2 hours (max) at the museum. Hopefully we will get out of the museum with enough time to take a quick walk through Central Park. After that is a cab ride to Battery Park.

I bought tickets to Liberty Island two weeks before our trip. Unfortunately, this was one week too late to get tickets to enter the base of The Statue of Liberty. So we could go to Liberty Island, but not inside. They claimed that some tickets are left for same day visitors, but getting there at 1:00 PM would probably not help us. By the way... when I booked the tickets to Liberty Island tickets to go up to the crown were sold out for a little over 3 months... for a weekday visit. I don't no how long they were sold out for weekends. If you really want to see the Statue I suggest you plan far in advanced.

Once we get back from Liberty Island things can slow down a bit. We need to get to FAO Schwartz before 6:00 PM when it closes (on Sundays). After that it gets even easier. Toys-R-Us in Times Square is open until 9:00 PM on Sundays and M&M World is open until midnight.

While in Times Square I thought we could eat dinner at Hard Rock Cafe or Planet Hollywood. Both are in Times Square and all in walking distance of Toys R Us. This is the Toys R Us with a 3 story Ferris Wheel inside the store. My son is going to love it.

I would also like to get over to Rockefeller Plaza if time permits.

Finally, I bought tickets to the Empire State Building. Getting the tickets online eliminates the wait in line for tickets when we get there. I read someone telling of waiting just over an hour for tickets on a Sunday evening around 9:00 PM. That was enough for me. I bought mine online. I also paid extra for the Express Passes. These allow you to go to the front of the line for the elevators. I assumed there would be an equal wait at the elevators, but did not know. Since we were on a very aggressive schedule I figured it was money well spent.

I wrote the above the morning before we flew into New York, below I will report what really happened.

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New York City In A Day

We had our plan for Manhattan all worked out. Many people told us that we would not be able to get it all done. Gladly I can say they were wrong. We didn't go everywhere on the list, but we only missed one item and it was replaced with three items. Here are the sites we saw in Manhattan in our one day world wind tour (items listed are in order):

  • Long Island Railroad to Penn Station
  • Museum of Natural History
  • Central Park
  • Battery Park
  • Liberty Island (and Ellis Island)
  • Ground Zero
  • Apple Store
  • Empire State Building
  • Rockefeller Plaza
  • Toys-R-Us (Times Square)
  • Dinner at my Dad's
  • M&M World (Times Square)

Long Island Railroad to Penn Station? Yes, this counts as a site because my son never road a train before, and Penn Station is a site to see in itself. There are so many stores that were wide open for business on a Sunday morning. My son even asked why they needed two Starbucks in the train station just a couple hundred feet apart.

I would say that the only item that truly got short changed was the Museum of Natural History. You could spend all day in the museum and not see everything. We took quite a few pictures, and after we saw enough we ended up seeing three more areas trying to find our way out. The next time I go to New York I will allow for at least one guided tour through the museum and at least one show in the planetarium.

Central Park was an abbreviated tour. We went into it with the intent of coming out on the 5th Avenue side (5th Avenue goes downtown in the direction of Battery Park). It was really cool. We saw a number of people lying on beach towels on the grass getting sun. We also saw a significant number of joggers and bicyclists on the paths. I pointed this out to my son because it seems so unusual in a city that does nothing but build up, to have all this space reserved as a public park. I love the idea of it. On my next visit I will get a map of Central Park and walk it with more time and try to see some of the the performers there. As it turned out we got about halfway through and ran into dead ends. There were some paths under construction, and not knowing our way around we were worried about the time. So we turned around and came out where we went it.

Next up was a cab ride to Battery Park to meet my brother and father for the ride to Liberty Island and The Statue of Liberty. When we arrived we saw a very long line coming from the place where you buy tickets to where the ferries are. People said the line was about an hour and a half long. People seemed to have tickets, so I assumed we needed to be here. I waited for my brother and father to arrive before I thought about checking if we were in the wrong line. I didn't want to lose my place. Our tickets said 1:00 PM and it was about 12:30 PM. I compared our tickets with a couple of people around us and theirs did not have a time, and ours said "reserved." We left the line and headed to the front. Sure enough, we got to the front and there are two lines, one for regular tickets and one for reserved tickets. The reserved line was empty. By the time my brother and father arrived it took us 20 minutes to get on the ferry... including the security check. Not bad. Buy your tickets in advanced!

We went all around the statue. We saw a line for getting inside the Statue. We were going to ask if we could get tickets for that, but two things stopped us. 1) Someone else was asking so we just eavesdropped and we heard them say if you didn't already buy them before coming to the island you can't get them. 2) My son did not want to wait on the line which was at least an hour. We took plenty of pictures then enjoyed some sodas while sitting in the shade. Now it was off to Ellis Island. The ferry returning from Liberty Island stops at Ellis Island on the way back to Battery Park. We did not get off the ferry, just took some pictures on the approach.

Once back we got the chance to see some street performers in Battery Park. I really appreciated this for my son. I have seen this kind of thing before, but he had not. If we had time I would love to see more of that. Next time.

From Battery Park we walked over to Ground Zero. I wanted my son to see this as it could very well be a once in a lifetime thing for him. Unfortunately with all the scaffolding you can't see anything noteworthy. Time to grab a cab as we make an adjustment to our schedule. You see, in the cab ride to the museum I pointed out the Apple Store. This is the all glass cube with a glass elevator that leads to the underground store. My son wanted to do that instead of FAO Schwartz. My Dad offered to make us dinner, so we all took a cab and we dropped my brother and father off at my father's apartment (lower east side). We went to the Apple store because we had no way to lookup when it would be closed.

The next change of plans came because my son wanted to do the Empire State Building during the day instead of at night. So we went there after the Apple Store.

We had the Express Passes. These worked much better than I expected. Yes, you get to cut in front of the lines to the elevators, but that is a gross oversimplification. These passes were more like VIP passes. At every point on the way up we would show the passes and someone would stop what they were doing and escort us to the front of whatever line it was. We were escorted to the front of the security line, the front of the picture line, the front of the elevator lines (both of them). And... we got the same treatment on the way down. It took us a total of 50 minutes to go through the ESB. Granted, we could have spent a lot more time on the observatory, but it was massively crowded. My son is only 11 and it was too much trouble fighting the crowds to get a look. We did walk all the way around the 86th floor observatory. We did not go to the 102nd floor because that would have cost more and the trip was getting expensive.

We left the ESB at 7:20 PM. We walked around a bit and saw some of the big stores on 5th Avenue. We even stopped in to get something at The Gap. Toys-R-Us closes at 9:00 PM. I didn't think we could make it to my Dad's and get to Toys-R-Us before 9, so off to Times Square and Toys-R-Us first. This was perfect. We got to my Dad's about 8:45 PM. Yep... there would not have been enough time to eat. It worked out better anyway. We stayed at my Dad's until just after 10:30 PM.

Back to Times Square to get to M&M World before it closed at 12:00 AM. We were online buying our souvenirs while they were closing the store. Perfect. We had just enough time to get to Penn Station, find a bathroom and hop on the 12:14 AM train back to Central Islip... with 3 minutes to spare.

So, how much can you do in a single day in New York City? Apparently quite a lot. The planning we did ahead of time was necessary to make it all work. Granted, we only bought two sets of tickets (ESB & Liberty Island), but it was having a plan of places to go that really helped. If you show up at Penn Station and ask, "what next?" you will not be able to get a lot done. Since we knew when each item we wanted to visit closed it made it easy to keep on schedule and see all we wanted to see.

However, all that being said I would much rather spend at least three days in Manhattan that one. Next time I would want the following:

  • More time at the Empire State Building. I don't know if there is a good time when the Observatory is much less crowded than it was, but I would still like more time to soak in the view and get better pictures than we had. I would say I want to add one hour to the observatory part, otherwise it was perfect. I want to take a telephoto lens and see if I can get a good picture of Central Park from the ESB.
  • More time in Central Park. This time with a map and a plan to see at least one kind of entertainment. I figure 2-3 hours instead of 10-15 minutes. I would like to walk it leisurely and see some performances. Maybe sit on the grass somewhere for a picnic lunch.
  • Maybe add the option to go into The Statue of Liberty. This is a maybe. I really liked our short tour of the island. I didn't feel cheater, and I was not in the mood for a long wait to go inside, but I think I would still like the option. This just means getting tickets sooner, but the cost I believe is the same, so their is no downside to planning it better.
  • More time in Rockefeller Plaza. I would like 2-3 hours to walk around. Actually this would be best done when it is cold and the ice skating is setup. I have seen Rockefeller Center lit up between Thanksgiving and Christmas and it is a sight to see. If I get the chance to see New York during that time frame it will definitely be in the plan.
  • More time with my Dad. My dad knows his way around the city. I would love to spend a day checking out the local culture. City blocks that are blocked off for events. Walking around Greenwich Village & SOHO. These areas are not far from my father's apartment and it would be cool to take a slow tour of the area. I am thinking of the movie You've Got Mail with Tom Hanks. He takes two kids (his aunt and brother, see the movie to understand) around a part of New York. I think this is the lower west side, not far from my father's in the lower east side.
  • More time at the Museum of Natural History. Like I said above, this time with a guided tour and one show in the planetarium.
  • Possibly the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met). My older son would appreciate an art museum more than my youngest son, so this is a maybe. As an adult I would like to check it out. We'll see.
  • More time in Times Square. This is not a big deal, but I would like to walk around Times Square without the rush of getting to stores before they close. I just want more time to soak in the experience.

That's at least three days right there. ESB, Rockefeller Plaza & The Met could be squeezed into one day. I believe The Met is in Rockefeller Center, so it all makes sense to put these in a single day. The Museum of Natural History, Central Park and Liberty Island would make a great second day. I would go to Liberty Island early in the day (the ferries stop going over there around 3:30 pr 4:00 PM) and head uptown for the rest of the day with the Museum and the Park. This puts less strain on getting to the ferries in time. Finally a day walking around Greenwich Village & SOHO. Maybe add in Little Italy and Little China. This third day could end with an evening in Times Square.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. There is plenty to do, and I can't wait to do it bigger and better next time. Oh, next time I will stay in Manhattan, so I have to save a lot for an expensive hotel.

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Full HDTV

I have had an HDTV for 9 years. Yes... NINE YEARS. I bought a Mitsubishi 65" rear projection TV back in 2000. It is one of those 400 lbs. boxes. It is a CRT based rear projection set. Very old technology by today's standards. I had that TV for over 4 years before I ever managed to get an HD signal to it. It took that long for Time Warner to get me HDTV service, in late 2004.

This TV only has one HD connection using Component Video (Y-Pb-Pr). This is essentially an analog connection. When we got an XBox in the house I bought a Component switch, so I could take the Y-Pb-Pr signal from the XBox and Cable box and send them the to only Y-Pb-Pr input on the TV.

Remember, this is a CRT based rear projection TV. Even thought it natively supports 1080i video, the 7" CRTs do not have the resolution to fully display all 1080 scan lines. At the time a CRT based TV that could display all the scan lines of a 1080 signal would need 9" CRTs and those cost $8-10K.

Flash forward to the summer of 2008 and we bought a Toshiba 42" LCD based HDTV for the bedroom. At the time we did not have an HD cable box, so we were pushing a non-HD signal into the TV.

My wife had a number of movies and shows on this DVR, and she was not interested in losing those shows to upgrade to an HD DVR. Well, that changed. She decided it was time to put an HD DVR in the bedroom.

Time to set the TV up right!

I saved this link to CNet's forum pages where they gave their settings when they reviewed the Toshiba Regza 42RV530U, my exact model of TV. I followed their settings to the letter.

WOW!

I am now enjoying full HDTV. O.K. It is still only 1080i and not 1080p, but the picture is amazing. I recorded and watched The Bourne Ultimatum on HBO's HD channel. Oh My! It looked incredible. I thoroughly enjoyed the aerial shots of New York City and the other cities around the world.

This makes me want to go out and buy a big Plasma screen for the living room. But that will have to wait until that 65" beast stops working.

Oh, and in case you think I can't enjoy the benefits of 1080 resolution on a 42" TV... when I am lying on the bed with my head at the foot of the bed my eyes are about 4' from the TV. It looks amazing.

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Conclusion

I had to cut this month's topics short. The New York trip took so much I had to leave out my coverage of the Garmin GPS device I borrowed for the trip. I also decided on what to watch next on my Zune 80, which come to me with help from someone in New York.

Those will have to wait until next month.

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