The Brooklyn Bridge, New York City

US icons maintaining their wow factor

They’re another year older, but their appeal to travellers is undiminished.

It’s heading for 135 years since the opening of the iconic Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, while across the US in San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge is 80.

Both remain among the world’s most popular tourist attractions; never more so than in this age of the ‘selfie’.

Spanning New York City’s East River, the neo-Gothic Brooklyn Bridge is beloved by tourists as the scene of a romantic and inspiring stroll, with spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline, the river and the Statue of Liberty.

Photo courtesy Pexels

In fact, an estimated 4,000 pedestrians and 2,600 cyclists cross the bridge each day on a decking sitting above the six-lane roadway (which is used by about 120,000 vehicles daily)

A combination of a cable-stayed bridge and a suspension crossing, the bridge connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn and was seen as a giant leap in innovation at the time of its construction.

Photo courtesy Pexels

Back then, Brooklyn Bridge was one of the tallest structures in the world and towered over all of New York. It also helped turn Brooklyn from a rural farming area with scattered neighbourhoods into a bustling city suburb.

Hold onto your hat up there

If you’re visiting New York City and are fit enough, we thoroughly recommend the bridge walk, but be prepared for the bracing winds that often whip over the water and through your hair.

Although nowhere near as old, California’s Golden Gate Bridge is often described as “incomparable in the magnificence of its setting”.

Undoubtedly the most photographed bridge in the world, this striking structure spans the Golden Gate Strait which connect San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean.

With its 746-foot tall towers, sweeping main cables, signature orange colour, and Art Deco styling, the Golden Gate Bridge attracts more than 10 million visitors a year.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Photo courtesy Pexels

The bridge is instantly recognised internationally and has been declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

However, that wasn’t always the common view.

Many experts in the field doubted that the bridge could ever be built over a strait known for ferocious wind and blinding fog. And, after it opened, some sections of the media dubbed it an ‘ugly duckling’.

How wrong they were!

The bridge is especially beautiful on a sunny day with no wind. But when the area’s famous fog rolls in, the main span and towers can effectively disappear.

The bridge is visible from many parts of San Francisco. We found city buses were an ideal and affordable way to get to the viewing area on the southern side. San Francisco Muni’s 28 and 29 buses take you directly to the vista.

If you are able, we recommend a walk out onto the bridge’s pedestrian path.

It’s hard to really appreciate the size and height of the Golden Gate structure unless you’ve walked on it – at least a little way.

Both the Golden Gate Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge have featured in many movies, television shows and books.

US

New York series: where to explore in the Big Apple

Most people know the Statue of Liberty, Central Park and the World Trade Centre site – but here’s 16 more icons of New York City well worth seeing

1. Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) – 11 W 53rd Street

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Photo courtesy Wikimedia, Flickr and hibino

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A masterpiece

2. Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) – 36 W 44th Street

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Photo courtesy Wikimedia, Flickr and mister-e

3. Guggenheim Museum – 1071 5th Avenue

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4. M & M World – Times Square

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5. The High Line elevated garden – West 34th Street, from 10th & 12th avenues.

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6. Grimaldi’s famous pizzeria – 1 Front Street, Brooklyn

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7. Empire State Building – 350 5th Avenue

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8. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, Central Park

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9. Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi – 1021 6th Avenue

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10. The Hotel Chelsea – 222 West 23rd Street, between Seventh and Eighth avenues

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This famous hotel may be closed for renovations

11. Diana Ross Playground, Central Park – West 81st Street

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12. Times square commercial neighbourhood – West 42nd to West 47th 

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13. Macy’s Department Store – 151 West

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14. Bronx Zoo – 230 Southern Blvd. Bronx

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15. Ed Sullivan Theatre radio and TV studio – 1697 – 1699 Broadway

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In the days of David Letterman

The main photo shows New York City’s Staten Island Ferry which carries 22 million people a year between St. George on Staten Island and Whitehall Street in lower Manhattan.

The five mile, 25 minute ride provides a majestic view of New York Harbor and a no-hassle, even romantic, boat ride, for free!

 

New York City

New York: giant bridge on the road to Woodstock

“New York State throughway is closed, man”

As a teenager in Australia in 1969, those words by folk singer, Arlo Guthrie, at Woodstock, really struck a chord.

One day, I told myself, I’d see this throughway that literally became clogged by traffic headed for the legendary rock festival.

My opportunity came in recent years, when Sue and I passed the site of the Tappan Zee Bridge and its eventual replacement – known as ‘The new NY bridge’ – which is being built on the throughway near New York City’s northern suburbs.

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Promoted as possibly the biggest and most challenging bridge project in the US, it will be the widest on the planet, carrying at least 138,000 throughway vehicles a day across the Hudson River between Rockland County and Westchester.

The project – said to cost about US$3.98 billion – includes two parallel, 3.1 mile bridges about 25 miles north of New York City.

Although not scheduled for completion until 2018, the new bridge was already taking shape at the second widest point on the Hudson River.

Most of the substructure work—which includes piles and pier columns—is finished.

Construction continues with the ever-growing placement of steel-blue girders, road deck panels and stay cables on the iconic 419-foot main span towers.

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We were also keen to see the original crossing, an iconic cantilever structure that was apparently designed to last only about 50 years, but has been operating since about 1955.

An Internet search revealed that the 3.1-mile Tappan Zee crossing was named by 17th century Dutch settlers. The Tappan was apparently a native American tribe that once lived in the area – and the word ‘zee’ means sea in Dutch.

It’s been a long time since Woodstock, but I have ticked this one off my list.

And, in seeing the New York State throughway, man, I also got to view a massive and eye-opening engineering and design feat.

Main photo courtesy Pinterest and New York Daily news.com

New York City travel

Review: Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago

We knew of the African Apes, but we hadn’t heard about the ‘mind games’.

For this reason alone, our visit to Lincoln Park Zoo, in Chicago, Illinois, was certainly an eye-opener.

Researchers at the zoo’s Lester E. Fisher Centre have been using touch-screens, among other techniques, to understand how our closest cousins think.

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Encouraging gorillas and Japanese macaque monkeys to place objects on the screen in sequence may allow scientists to determine how they think and feel.

The centre, which brings together global experts and organisations, is working on these ‘mind games’ as part of its mission to advance knowledge of ape biology; improve care of apes in zoos and sanctuaries; and conserve and protect wild populations.

An excellent location

And the not-for-profit Lincoln Park Zoo is a great facility for this work.

The zoo boasts the Regenstein Centre for African Apes, a $26million state-of-the-art facility that stretches over 29,000 square feet and includes complex forest and riverbed habitat.

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There are dozens of trees, 5,000 feet of artificial vines, skylights, bamboo strands, termite mounds, a waterfall, moat and heated logs.

Huge glass windows separate the indoors from the outdoors and zoo visitors can be actively involved in science and conservation initiatives.

Of course, the fascinating African apes are not the only attraction at Lincoln Park Zoo, which is a 35-acre historic Chicago landmark founded in 1868 against the stunning backdrop of Lake Michigan and the city’s famous skyscrapers.

Big cats and polar bears too

Other attractions at the free-admission zoo include big cats, polar bears, penguins and reptiles. In all, there are about 1,100 animals.

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Lincoln Park Zoo continues to be a big hit with the people of Chicago and surrounds.

We visited on a sunny Saturday and the zoo was busy without huge crowds.

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It is located at 2001 North Clark Street, Chicago, on the fringe of Lincoln Park.

The zoo boasts stunning views of the city’s impressive skyline from the bridge that spans its artificial wetlands.

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We thoroughly recommend this one.

Outstanding accessibility

Lincoln Park Zoo deserves a pat on the back for the steps it takes to ensure accessibility to older visitors and people with a disability.

The  Zoo’s main entrance and paid parking lot are located on its eastern side – and there  are 19 accessible parking spaces along Cannon Drive. There are also three areas reserved on northbound Stockton Drive for vehicles displaying accessibility placards. Parking in these areas is free:

Wheelchairs

These are available at Gateway Pavilion for temporary use by guests within the zoo. Loans are first come, first served. A refundable deposit of $US20 is required.

All public buildings at the zoo have at least one wheelchair-accessible entrance, as does the animal encounter program.

Lincoln Park Zoo permits the use of wheelchairs and other power-driven mobility devices.

Service Animals

Service animals are also allowed at the zoo and there are sighted guides and sign-language assistance services.

See Vienna Zoo

Zoos are a favourite attraction of ours. See our review of Tiergarten Schoenbrunn, Vienna’s wonderful zoo

 

Chicago travel

‘G’day, jump an Aussie tram by the dock of the bay

As historic streetcars glide along San Francisco’s waterfront, Australian travellers can be forgiven for staring.

Streetcar Number 496 – with its distinctive green and gold colours – is a former Melbourne ‘tram’, which operated in the southern Australian city for more than 50 years before joining San Francisco’s colourful fleet of cars.

One of the famed ‘W Class’ trams, No 496 was built in 1928 and ran through Melbourne streets until it was purchased by the San Francisco operators in the 1980’s.

The streetcar clearly bears the logo of the City of Melbourne and carries signs that explain its pedigree and background.

A second Aussie ‘tram’ – this one a more modern SW6 class – was donated to San Francisco in 2009.

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Ofter overshadowed by San Francisco’s famous cable cars, the bay city’s vintage streetcars are wonderful to watch in action as they run up and down the F-Line and Market Street alongside the dock of the bay.

Besides the Australian ‘trams’, there are others from Italy, Japan, Portugal, the UK and several other US cities.

Restored to sparkling condition, the often brightly-coloured vintage streetcars are an eye-catching sight passing San Francisco icons such as Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square – and providing travellers and locals with a memorable glimpse of a romantic transport past.

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Light rail San Francisco