I visited New York last month, and decided to tailor the trip to my more geeky nature. Here is my list of the top 10 nerdy things to do.
10. Visit your favourite movie sets
New York has been the set of so many different movies. Visiting my most favourite had to be on the list. Naturally, my first stop was to the Ghostbusters Headquarters. The movies were filmed at the Hook and Ladder Fire Station in Downtown Manhattan. It is still used to this day, so it’s not uncommon to see fire engines whizzing in and out of the building. Unfortunately, Bill Murray wasn’t hanging around outside with his proton pack, but there was a Ghostbusters mural on the floor to mark the location.
The Men in Black Headquarters was also on the list. It was another set located in Downtown Manhattan, right next to Battery Park. It’s very hard to locate on a map, but you will find it close to the Liberty and Ellis Island Ferries. There isn’t much to see, just the door of an aqueduct, heavily guarded by gates. Suspicious? Well it turns out, wearing shades does not give you free entry inside, unfortunately.
Finally, I had planned to see quite a few more modern set locations within Central Manhattan. Ever heard of a movie called The Avengers? Well a huge chunk of that was shot in Park Avenue. Whilst I was trying to locate my favourites, I came across an actual Superhero tour. The reviews were amazing and it covered most of the sites I wanted to visit, plus a few I hadn’t considered.
It was a two hour tour, guided by ex-DC comic illustrator, Paul Lepelletier. You meet him opposite the Empire States Building, in the doorway of what used to be Jim Hanley’s Universe (this popular comic book store has now been relocated.) The tour itself is packed with amazing facts about, not only the Superhero sets, but also the comic rivals; DC and Marvel, and the big guns in the comic industry, such as Will Eisner and Batman creator, Bob Kane. Lepelletier really knew his stuff.
The tour circuit takes you to 20+ locations, but don’t worry, there is plenty of little breaks for discussions and photo taking. My favourite sets that we were fortunate to visit; The Daily Bugle (Spider-Mans workplace), The Daily Planet (Superman’s workplace), The Public Library (set to both Ghostbuster, and Spider-Man scenes), Bob Kane and Will Eisner’s old offices, the set of the Avengers Battleground, and The Chrysler Building (a place where Spider-Man perches to overlook the city).
The tour ended in the Overlook Bar, a very suited location. The walls were covered top to bottom, with illustrations from comics and books, by the original artists themselves. It was amazing to look at everything from Kermit and Miss Piggy, to Garfield, and even Spider-Man.
9. The Museum of Natural History and Hayden Planetarium
I couldn’t resist a visit to the Museum of Natural History, film set to the Ben Stiller movie; Night at the Museum. It is located down Central Park West, at 79th Street, and tickets can be bought on the door. There are very few exhibits from the original Night at the Museum movie left, but you should be able to locate a few, such as Rexy the loveable T-Rex, the Easter Island Head who likes to eat ‘Gum Gum’, and the little Capuchin Monkey who has an addiction to stealing keys.
There are an abundance of other exhibits located over the 4+ floor museum. These include the Dinosaur Hall, the Hall of African Mammals, Reptiles and Amphibians, and Birds of the World. My favourite was the Hayden Planetarium. It was a large ball shaped planetarium, located on the lowest level. Inside, I saw the new space show; Dark Universe. It was one of the most amazing things i’ve ever witnessed. The ceiling transformed into the universe above us, and we were transported through the Milky Way and bombarded with information about the most pivotal space discoveries of our time. I could have stayed in there for hours.
8. The Superhero Supply Store
The Superhero Supply Store is located down 5th Avenue, in Brooklyn. It is exactly what it says, a shop where you can buy supplies for your superhero, or Villain, lair. This includes equipment such as capes and masks, utility belts, secret identity kits, various superpowers in cans, anti-matter, and ‘weapons’ such as a ‘Sea Sword’ which happens to be a bubble wand. There is even a cape station, where you can try the various capes on for size.
The shop is more than meets the eye however, as behind a fake bookcase at the back of the store there is a secret lair that holds an after-school student tutoring centre, co-founded by writer Dave Eggers. All profits from the store, which is run by volunteers, benefit the students at the centre.
It’s not uncommon for tourists visiting New York to attend a show on Broadway. With 70+ shows a night to chose from, you’ll always find something that meets your interests. I decided to join the masses and take in some of the acts myself. The first show I attended was Marvels Spider-man: Turn off the dark. It was essentially a musical meet stunt show, telling the story of how Peter Parker got his powers, his romance with Mary Jane Watson, and his battles with the Green Goblin and his Sinister Six.
The other show I saw whilst in New York, was Avenue Q. It combines the use of puppets with actors to create a musical, addressing the issues associated with graduating college and becoming an adult. It was one of the funniest shows I’d ever seen, with hilariously controversial songs to accompany the ridiculous puppets.
6. Action Burger
Action burger is a comic themed restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; the place superheroes go when they get hungry. From the outside, it looks like just another Burger Joint, but when you go inside, you soon realise it is far from the normal. The walls are covered in comic book pages, and pop culture memorabilia litter the shelves on every wall. The tables themselves are a comic book montage so that you can read while you eat, there are even added comics from the latest series to take a gander at. If you are a gamer as well as a comic enthusiast, take some time to play their arcade machines. Street Fighter is a favourite.
The food itself is delicious – seasoned burgers with a choice of every topping you could imagine. There are even pre-made Hero and Villain burgers, including the Jaden, Bellona, Skeleborg Soldier, and the Dark Energy Knight. If you don’t fancy a burger, you have the choice of a salad.. But come on, if you’re going to have a salad, don’t go to a burger restaurant.
5. The Way Station
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to go to the loo in Doctor Who’s Tardis, visit the Way Station, a Doctor Who themed bar in Brooklyn. As soon as you enter the doors, you come face to face with the Tardis itself and are welcomed in by some costumed staff; my favourite being the waitress dressed in blue as if she were the time travelling police box in human form.
The bar has a very Steampunk feel about it, but apart from the Tardis, and a few pictures up on the wall, it’s not massively Doctor Who themed. It does however, have a nice list of doctor who style cocktails, including the River Song which is made up of Citrus Vodka, Orange Juice, and Grenadine – delicious!
4. Comic Book and Book Stores
Comic book stores are quite hard to come by in England. I am very fortunate to live round the corner from one, but generally they are few and far between. New York seems to be a Mecca for the wondrous shops. Not only do they have the well Know Forbidden Planet, they also have various locations of Midtown Comics, one of the largest US comic store chains, and Jim Hanleys Universe, another well know American store. Each is filled to the brim with memorabilia, comics, graphic novels, and clothing. It’s a wonderland. There are also a huge amount of bookstores. One of my favourites was the Strand because of it’s highly discounted merchandise and large graphic novel and Fantasy section.
3. Geeky Stores
Before venturing to New York, I had a small list of shops I knew I’d want to visit and buy things from. One of my favourites was the Nintendo Store. You walk into a brilliantly white shop to docking stations of DS’s everywhere, where you can try out new games, and battle your friends. Upstairs, it’s all about Pokemon. A large Pikachu statue is accompanied by rails of Pokemon plushies. Mainly all are from the new X and Y games, but there are some first gen ones as well.
The Lego Store was another favourite. Located opposite the Rockerfeller centre, it’s decorated with impressive lego structures, inside and outside. The most impressive being a scale replica of Rockerfeller square, with added ice rink and hundreds of different mini figs and cars.
2. Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art
Located within the Society of Illustrators, East 63rd Street, the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art (MoCCA) houses various exhibitions displaying some of the newest comics. When I visited, the exhibit happened to be for a graphic novel called Battling Boy, by Paul Pope. Popes impressive storyboards were laid out all over the first floor of the museum for all to see. They were beautiful. The exhibitions change regularly so it’s definitely worth a visit if you’d like to learn ore about the comic creation process.
1. King Kong
This I just couldn’t resist. During my first NYC visit, whilst standing on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, it occurred to me that I couldn’t actually see the building I was standing on in the skyline. Obvious, I know. It did mean that this time around, I wanted to make sure that if I was going to go up 70+ stories, i could see the impressive building in the background, and what better thing to add to the photographs than a little plastic ape. I could a lot of funny looks, and some giggles from passers by. It was a little frustrating trying to position it perfectly, but a lot of fun.