Tourist for a Day: A Visit to Battery Park



Every once in awhile, Conde Nast Traveler or some other travel magazine will publish an article on “How To Not Look Like a Tourist”.  And without fail, it leads to a spirited discussion in the comments section and on social media.  It’s not difficult to understand this ambivalence towards tourists.  New York City received approximately 58 million visitors last year, and locals simply have to accept that it’s a part of city life.  Yes, you’ll encounter those five tourists who decide to walk side-by-side and take up an entire sidewalk. But 2014 statistics show that visitors generated a record $61.3 billion in overall economic impact, supporting 359,000 tourism related jobs and $21 billion in wages.

Personally, I’ve never shied away from the label and all its connotations.  So I get excited about visiting somewhere new.  And maybe I don’t look like I fit in.  Isn’t that part of the experience?  There’s a different energy buzzing inside you when you first embark on uncharted territory.  Your senses are heightened, ready to devour everything you encounter.  And so I shamelessly wander, camera in hand.  There are certain areas in New York City that feel like designated tourist spots which locals avoid like the plague, but I think it’s fun to visit them every now and then.  It can be invigorating to play tourist in your town, and we did just that recently at Battery Park.

Battery Park - Mad Hatters NYC

Battery Park - Mad Hatters NYC

Battery Park is mainly used as an access point for visits to the Statue of Liberty, as there are several water transportation options that can ferry you to the island or around it.  However, even if you choose to stay rooted on land, you won’t find yourself scrolling through Instagram out of boredom.  Steeped in history, Battery Park is a treasure trove of monuments, memorials and just fun sights.  It’s an excellent locale for a lovely stroll on any given morning, with its well-kept grounds and unparalleled waterfront view.

Here are a few highlights:

The Sphere

sphere_before_sept_11
Image courtesy of Wikipedia: The Sphere prior to 9/11

Battery Park - Mad Hatters NYC

The Sphere is actually a piece salvaged from the original World Trade Center. According to this fascinating article from 2001, the World Trade Center’s architect, Minoru Yamasaki, was heavily influenced by Islamic architecture and design.  Yamasaki replicated the plan of Mecca’s courtyard — a circular pattern anchored by a sculpture and fountain, capped by two minarets.  And thus, the original World Trade Center embodied the marriage of Western and Islamic cultures that could have made it a prime target for the attacks.  After 9/11, the sculpture was recovered with minimal damage.  The original sculptor, Fritz Koenig, oversaw the creation of a new base so that the piece could find a second life as a memorial.  It is now located in Battery Park as a temporary art installation.

World War II East Coast Memorial

Battery Park - Mad Hatters NYC

Battery Park - Mad Hatters NYC

This memorial commemorates soldiers, sailors, marines, coast guardsmen, merchant marines and airmen who met their deaths in the Battle of the Atlantic during World War II.  Its axis, marked by the statue of a bronze eagle, is oriented to the Statue of Liberty.  Two rows of four gray granite pylons flank each side of the eagle and contain the name, rank, organization and state of each of the 4,611 missing in the waters of the Atlantic.

Seaglass Carousel

Battery Park - Mad Hatters NYC

Battery Park - Mad Hatters NYC

The Seaglass Carousel pays homage to the first New York Aquarium, which was located in Battery Park from 1896 to 1941.  Unlike most carousels, this one doesn’t revolve around a center pole.  Instead, it’s shaped like a nautilus.  Thirty fiberglass fish (designed after actual fish species) rotate thanks to four turntables located beneath the floor.  Clever LED lighting seeks to replicate the bioluminescence of being underwater.  It’s a visually enchanting experience, and definitely worthy of both a daytime and evening visit.

Not only has The Battery Conservancy done a phenomenal job restoring and maintaining Battery Park, it’s also documented much of the process.  Click through the slideshow below to see its transformation through the years.  Tourist attractions draw crowds for a reason, and I think it’s worth reminding ourselves why Battery Park is one of them.



Pair it with:

A meal at Lox

Lox at Museum of Jewish Heritage - Mad Hatters NYC

Lox at Museum of Jewish Heritage - Mad Hatters NYC

Lox at Museum of Jewish Heritage - Mad Hatters NYC

As you walk west on Battery Place towards the World Trade Center, you’ll come across the Museum of Jewish Heritage.  Pop inside and head to the second floor where their cafe, Lox, is located.  (No museum admission is required.)  As you might expect, you’ll find a selection of Jewish and Russian fare here, from blintzes to babka.  But what’s really worth visiting for, as the name suggests, is the cured fish.  

Chef and owner, David Teyf, actually has Japanese culinary training, which one can glean from the clean aesthetic of the cafe as well as his expert knowledge of fish.  He currently offers five different lox specialties, with an eye to expand the menu further.  The Signature House Lox paired perfectly with a bagel, while the Double Smoked Lox was deliciously complex and amazing with eggs.  We also sampled the other flavors and found the Grapefruit & Gin Lox so refreshing that we took some home with us for later.  If you’re a fan of lox, or contemporary spins on a classic, a visit to this cafe is a must.  We’ll definitely be returning just to discover the interesting new flavors he’ll concoct.

Location:
36 Battery Place

Hours:
Sunday-Tuesday, Thursday 10 A.M. – 5:45 P.M.
Wednesday 10 A.M. – 8 P.M.
Friday 10 A.M. – 5 P.M. Now through November 4, 2016
Friday 10 A.M. – 3 P.M. November 11, 2016 through March 10, 2017

– L.

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