Go Mad for Judith Leiber Bags At MAD Museum in New York

Go Mad for Judith Leiber Bags At MAD Museum in New York

So many bad MAD jokes that I don’t even where to start. MAD Museum  (also known as the Museum of Arts and Design) in New York City is a small and quirky museum located on the west side of Manhattan. After a morning spent wandering around the area, my children and I stopped by MAD to check out the Judith Leiber exhibit featuring dozens of her bejewelled evening bags and minaudieres.

Judith Leiber Bags At MAD Museum in New York | Museum of Arts and Design | Judith Leiber Handbags | Judith Leiber minaudieres| Judith Leiber exhibition

An exhibit of Judith Leiber bags at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City

Judith Leiber is the name to know in celebrity evening bags. She has a colorful international history herself. Born to a wealthy Jewish Hungarian family, she studied at Kings College London, worked at a prestigious Hungarian handbag company, survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary during World War II and married an American soldier.

After the war, the couple moved to New York. Judith first worked with a New York handbag designer but then started her own company in 1963.  Of course, it was only natural that MAD would highlight this hometown immigrant hero of the decorative arts with a special exhibition.

The Museum of Arts and Design

If you are in Columbus Circle, you really can’t miss the 10 story gleaming Museum of Arts and Design. The building shimmers like a vertical lake thanks to a $90 million tile and glass facelift to the modernist building that was previously at the location.

Judith Leiber Bags At MAD Museum in New York | Museum of Arts and Design | Judith Leiber Handbags | Judith Leiber minaudieres| Judith Leiber exhibition

The Museum of Arts and Design at Columbus Circle

Whats On at MAD Museum

Although the museum was founded in 1958, the MAD Museum only got its swanky new digs in 2008. The museum had acquired thousands of pieces of art, craft and design from the 1950’s onwards.

Yet, only 10% of the museum’s permanent collection is on display at any given time. The other floors are devoted to assorted things like artists’ spaces, an auditorium, and an education centre.

Bookending the building, on the bottom floor there is a very cool gift store and on the top floor, Robert the restaurant has great views of Central Park. I couldn’t visit Robert the Restaurant without thinking of Robert The Doll.

Judith Leiber Bags At MAD Museum in New York | Museum of Arts and Design | Judith Leiber Handbags | Judith Leiber minaudieres| Judith Leiber exhibition

One of the many beautiful craft and design items available for purchase at the gift store.

Special Exhibits at MAD Museum

So whether you enjoy this museum really is dependent on what the special exhibitions on display happen to be at the time of your visit.

For example, the Judith Leiber exhibit showcasing her crystal-encrusted evening bags was beautiful and interesting to both my daughter and myself. My son’s eyes glassed over like he was contemplating throwing himself into Columbus Circle traffic as a more appealing alternative. Each of the floors though are small and so we were able to finish ogling over the gorgeous Leiber handbags before he got too desperate.

Judith Leiber Bags At MAD Museum in New York | Museum of Arts and Design | Judith Leiber Handbags | Judith Leiber minaudieres| Judith Leiber exhibition

The MAD Museum in New York City put on an exhibit of Judith Leiber handbags.

Previous temporary exhibits have been Crochet Coral Reef (a crochet project with yarn and garbage that highlights marine life issues); Richard Estes: Painting New York City (photorealism); and fashion After Fashion (an exhibit on the end of times for the fashion industry). So, as you can tell, it’s a mixed bag catering to many different interests.

The Judith Leiber Exhibition

We went to the Judith Leiber exhibition on her evening bags which was fantastic!!! Well, for my daughter and me. My son’s reaction was less enthusiastic. He does not appreciate the beauty of jewel-like evening bags.

Judith Leiber Bags

Judith Leiber is a firm celebrity favourite for evening bags. These little bags can run into thousands of dollars and have achieved collector-status similar to Faberge eggs. There’s a lady in New Orleans who has almost 300 Lieber bags.

Judith Leiber Bags At MAD Museum in New York | Museum of Arts and Design | Judith Leiber Handbags | Judith Leiber minaudieres| Judith Leiber exhibition

A Mondrian inspired Judith Leiber handbag

Leiber became a household name when she designed the handbag carried by First Lady Mamie Eisenhower at President Eisenhower’s inauguration ball. Leiber has since  made evening bags for several first ladies, including a minaudière of Socks the White House Cat for Hilary Clinton.

Judith Leiber Bags At MAD Museum in New York | Museum of Arts and Design | Judith Leiber Handbags | Judith Leiber minaudieres| Judith Leiber exhibition

Judith Leiber has designed thousands of bags for her celebrity clients.

If you want to read more about Judith Leiber,  Jeffrey Susan has written her biography, No Mere Bagatelles.

Although the Leiber exhibition at MAD has finished, the Leibers have set up their own small museum in the Hamptons called the Lieber Collection. Entry is free and the museum is open for limited hours during the summer.

The Story of Handbags

I loved that MAD gave an introduction that explained the rise of handbags as a fashion accessory to my accessory-and-sparkle-mad daughter.

Until the 18th century, women had pockets in their outfits that they could carry stuff. Imagine all the stuff that you could stick inside one of those Elizabethan skirts. With the rise of a more streamlined silhouette for women’s clothes, women started carrying a reticule (a pouch on a cord).

Judith Leiber handbags at Museum of Arts and Design Boston

A 19th century silk reticule at the MFA (copyright of MFA Boston)

Women, of course, had to carry a lot of stuff for themselves (lipstick, money etc) as well as stuff in their role as caretakers. As a mother, I often felt like a packhorse with my ginormous diaper bag with essentials for two babies.

Even now, I am the one who carries the water bottles, the band-aids, hand sanitiser and everything else the kids need. Their pockets are reserved for important junk they pick up along the way, like interesting sticks and stones.

Judith Leiber’s Creations As Decorative Art

Judith Leiber’s creations are truly a cross between art and accessory –  similar to many of the items we saw at the Swarovski museum in Austria. You can see why many Leiber  pieces have become collector’s items.

The designer is most famous for her minaudieres (metal evening bags encrusted with jewels and precious metals) which she started making in 1967.  The minaudière started off as a way for her to repair a damaged handbag but then came into a life of their own.

Judith Leiber Bags At MAD Museum in New York | Museum of Arts and Design | Judith Leiber Handbags | Judith Leiber minaudieres| Judith Leiber exhibition

Judith Leiber like to use animal motifs in her work.

Judith Leiber has designed more than 3500 bags, all of them handcrafted and unique over her 35+ years designing under her own name. Judith designed her last bag, The Peacock, in 2004.

Judith Leiber Bags At MAD Museum in New York | Museum of Arts and Design | Judith Leiber Handbags | Judith Leiber minaudieres| Judith Leiber exhibition

The Peacock was Judith Leiber’s last design.

Visiting MAD Museum

The Museum of Arts and Design is a small but cool museum. You’d be MAD to miss it. Sorry, couldn’t resist. It’s right near Columbus Circle, the shops at Coumbus Circle and the 57th west entrance to Central Park.

Definitely check out future exhibits at MAD before you visit to make sure that you want to see what’s on. The entrance price of $16 for adults is pretty steep if you don’t like the rotating exhibits. Luckily, children 18 years and under are free. MAD is also free for everyone on Thursday nights.

MAD is located at 2 Columbus Circle. Like many museums in New York City, MAD is closed on Mondays.

Where To Stay

We have stayed near the Mad Museum at The Hudson Hotel, a charming boutique hotel just behind Columbus Circle. The subway at Columbus Circle is a major hub so there are many transportation options available.

Nearby we have stayed at Row NYC which is closer to Times Square. It’s small but great location. The Westin New York is also closer to Times Square and has larger rooms. If you are looking for suite apartments, we can recommend the newly renovated The Benjamin which is a short walk across to the East Side.

Where To Eat

If you chose not to eat at Robert, we recommend eating at Landmarc, a French and Italian bistro by Chef Marc Murphy at the Time Warner Center next door. My kids were thrilled that there was cotton candy as a dessert option at Landmarc. Alternatively we have also gotten freshly-made deli sandwiches at eaten in Central Park nearby.

Jean-Georges Vongrichten’s flagship restaurant Jean-Georges is across the street at 1 Central Park West. They do have a reasonable lunch menu if you would like to try a 3 star Michelin restaurant in New York. For my kids, though the decision was a no-brainer when cotton candy was involved.




Family-Friendly NoMad Neighborhood and Flatiron District NYC

Family-Friendly NoMad Neighborhood and Flatiron District NYC

Although the Flatiron Building has always been a famous landmark in New York City, the area now known as NoMad has really only been a trendy area in the last few years. With the clean up of Madison Square Park and the Flatiron district going residential, the area has become very family-friendly. Although all these things below are fun, my children absolutely adored the National Mathematics Museum, aka MoMath (much to my surprise). Younger and trendier than other more touristy areas of Manhattan, the neighbourhood is still good with kids (thanks to its gentrification over the last few years).

Family-Friendly NoMad Neighborhood and Flatiron District NYC

Things to do with kids in the NoMad neighbourhood and the Flatiron District in Manhattan

The NoMad Neighbourhood and the Flatiron District NYC

The NoMad neighbourhood and the Flatiron district are basically two neighbourhoods divided by Madison Square Park. NoMad is to the north of the park, and Flatiron to the south.

NoMad Neighborhood

With the arrival of the trendy Ace Hotel and NoMad Hotel, real estate professionals dubbed the area north of Madison Square Park “NoMad” since 1999. In New York city, as my friend Andrew said about NoLiTa (North of Little Italy), you know a neighbourhood has arrived when property people give it a nickname. A trendy neighbourhood emerged from the gritty urban landscape of pawn shops and bodegas.

Madison Square Park

Named after the fourth US President, James Madison, Madison Square Park was established in 1847.  The park is most famous though for giving its name to a sporting and concert arena, Madison Square Garden.

In the late 19th century, many wealthy New York families had mansions in the area, including the Roosevelt family and the Jerome family (a Jerome daughter was the mother of Winston Churchill).

In the 20th century, Madison Square Park had a fairly grim phase before the whole area got cleaned up at the turn of 21st century.

Flatiron District NYC

The Flatiron district is named after the Flatiron building, a triangular shaped building which was an architectural marvel built in 1902. It’s one of the most photographed buildings in the world and also appeared in numerous movies, like Spider-Man and Godzilla.

Family-Friendly NoMad Neighborhood and Flatiron District NYC

The Flatiron building is one of the most photographed buildings in the world. So, of course, I took a photo.

The Flatiron district itself was a pretty commercial area with lots of clothes and toy manufacturers alongside artists attracted by cheap rents. Now it’s known as Silicon Alley because of the number of technology companies in the area. It’s also become very residential with young professionals and families.

Places To Visit

Museum of Mathematics (11 E 26th Street) is a fabulous little museum for children. My kids are not fans of math at school but I could not get them out of this museum. Ironically, I met with some resistance when I announced we were going to a Maths Museum. A museum and math combination seemed a bridge too far as far as my kids were concerned. They were pleasantly surprised at how much fun it was though!

Family-Friendly NoMad Neighborhood and Flatiron District NYC

The MoMath museum fronts onto Madison Square Park

There are two floors which introduces maths concepts that many kids don’t even know are mathematics. For example, kids think they are playing but they are really learning about patterns, symmetry, cryptography and the like. Computer generated exhibits like the pattern paints or the dynamic wall show kids in a fun way wave phenomena or symmetry.

Although the top floor is for younger children, my children enjoyed both floors. The bottom floor has a lot of logic games which kept them captivated. In addition to the games, you also have a small cafe and even more activities such as the Tessellation Station where kids use magnets to make patterns.

Madison Square Park is a small green space located between Fifth Avenue and 6th Avenue from 23rd to 26th streets. It’s got a playground and public art spread out amongst the landscaping. My kids also like to watch the dogs in the dog run.

Family-Friendly NoMad Neighborhood and Flatiron District NYC

Little Miss-Butter-Wouldn’t-Melt gently shoving her brother off the hammock installation at Madison Square Park. Totally caught in the act on film.

Books of Wonder (18 W 18th Street (between 5th and 6th)) is the largest American children’s book store. Nora Ephron, director and writer, used the store as the inspiration for the children’s book store in the 1998 movie You’ve Got Mail.

Family-Friendly NoMad Neighborhood and Flatiron District NYC

The NYC mural in the story time space at Books of Wonder

The store is always running events for kids of all ages. Frankly, it’s also a great place to hang out  in air conditioned comfort in the dog days of summer or escape the bitter chill of winter. I have never been able to leave this bookstore without buying something!

Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site (28 E 20th St) is run by the National Park Service.  Teddy Roosevelt was a sickly child who went onto be a adventurer and president immortalised on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. It’s a small museum so pretty easy to get kids to go around.

The Lego Store (200 5th Avenue) has the usual giant displays of Lego creations you find in other Lego stores such as the one in Rockefeller Center. Unique to this location though is the giant Lego recreation of the Flatiron District. My kids are Lego crazy and can spend hours in any Lego store.

Kid-Friendly Restaurants in Flatiron District NYC:

Eataly (200 Fifth Avenue) has delicious paninis and gelato either to eat in or to go.

Big Daddy’s (239 Park Ave S (btwn E 19th & 20th St.)) is a retro-style diner where you can get the usual comfort foods such as burgers, mac & cheese and milkshakes.

Shake Shack (11 Madison Ave (at E 23rd St)) is a safe bet if your kids are craving a burger.

We ate at this branch of Rosa Mexicano ((9 E 18th St (btwn 5th Ave. & Broadway)) the night before the twins were born. Not that I’m saying that this place brings on childbirth or anything but maybe that explains our kids fascination with Mexican food??

I prefer Burger & Lobster (39 W 19th St (btwn 5th & 6th Ave)) to Shake Shack. Burgers for the kids and lobster for me!

Maybe your family really can’t agree on where or what to eat (it’s been known to happen to us!). In that case, just go to Whole Foods on 4 Union Square so everyone can just pick something for themselves from the deli counters. Sushi for one person, a sandwich for another person, and life can continue without further drama.

Family-Friendly NoMad Neighborhood and Flatiron District NYC

Family-friendly things to do, where to eat and where to stay in the NoMad neighbourhood and the Flatiron District of New York City

Accommodation near NoMad

You have several good choices for staying in the area if you are looking for cool and contemporary hotels. The stuffy more traditional type hotels tend to be further uptown.

NoMad Neighborhood

We love the Ace Hotel and hang out with the hipsters in its lobby even when we are not staying at the hotel. The downstairs Ace Hotel lobby has large tables, sofas and great WiFi. Throw in the hipper than hip coffee shop and you’ve got a perfect place to unwind after a hard day of sightseeing.

By the way, there’s an old-fashioned photo booth which throws out the coolest vintage-style photo strips. My daughter is a big fan of the photo booth!

Family-Friendly NoMad Neighborhood and Flatiron District NYC

Colorful flowers outside the Ace Hotel cafe

The NoMad Hotel attracts a slightly slicker but still young and attractive crowd. My favourite part of the NoMad Hotel is it’s library cafe where you can order a light meal in a beautiful setting. The restaurant itself was a bit too grand for my children.

FlatIron District

I have not stayed at The New York Edition but my occasional contributor, Dianna, has stayed at the hotel this year. It’s the usual trendiness with compact rooms. The bar is full of beautiful people and difficult to get into (even if you stay at the hotel). It reminded me of the way original Whiskey Blue bar used to be at the midtown W hotel way back in the day. I won’t even give a year because it just makes me feel old but it was definitely pre-children.

Gramercy Park

Alternatively, you can go to the original trendy hotel which rocked the neighbourhood when it opened in what seems another era (2006).  The Gramercy Park Hotel is within easy walking distance of this area. My daughter loves its full on dashing red glamour as well as the fact that you can get access to Gramercy Park (the gated residents-only park). The Bar downstairs has great comfy seats and even better people-watching.

If you are wondering why I am on about the public spaces are in these hotels, its because the rooms are fairly similar for what you get — cool and quirky and small. Definitely small square footage for the amount of money you pay. You can get a double double room with children (that accommodates four) or a suite that has a separate sofa bed.

The biggest differences are in their public spaces. And, I’m a fan of their bars for meeting up with old friends. When you are travelling with kids in tow, you can set them up with an iPad on a comfy couch while you have a drink with friends nearby. If I have been hanging out in the Lego Store all afternoon, it ain’t no surprise that mama needs a stiff drink and adult conversation!




Getting the Most Value From City Pass for a 3 Day Visit to New York City

Getting the Most Value From City Pass for a 3 Day Visit to New York City

Although my children have been going to New York City every year for the last 9 years, we have only just completed visited all of the major tourist attractions in Manhattan.  Why?  The crowds, the lines and the expense.  I can only cope with a couple of sightseeing options per trip  before we go do something more off the beaten path.  I feel New York City is crowded enough without immersing yourself in hordes of tourists.  This recent trip we visited so many more of the top Manhattan attractions thanks to the New York City Pass.  We used the New York City Pass for a 3 day visit to New York City and easily covered all the major attractions.

Thanks to City Pass you, too, could have an easy time sightseeing in New York. Check out the bottom where I am giving away 2 adult New York City Passes to one lucky reader.

How to use City Pass for a 3 Day Visit to New York City

You will get fast and easy access to 6 of the top attractions in New York City with the City Pass.

The New York City Pass

The New York City Pass saves you money and time.  You don’t have to wait in the long lines (and, trust me, there are always lines at these major attractions).  So many people have seen these monuments on television and film that they are always at the top of the list for visitors to New York.

Here’s what’s included in the New York City Pass:

  • The American Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History is housed in a gigantic building on Central Park West. There are exhibits, a library and a planetarium.  Although wonderful with children, the museum is a treasure trove for adults too.

  • The Empire State Building Experience

The Empire State Building Experience takes you through exhibits related to this Art Deco building and then up to the top viewing floors.  Recently renovated, the Empire State Building is gleaming from top to bottom.

How to use City Pass for a 3 Day Visit to New York City

From the Top of the Rock, you can see both the Empire State Building and One World Trade.

  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a diverse collection of art spanning over 5000 years of human creativity.  It is the most visited museum in New York City.

  • Top of the Rock Observation Deck OR the Guggenheim Museum

The Top of the Rock Observation Deck gives you a view of New York City 70 floors up from the middle of Manhattan. Unlike the Empire State Building which is further away, you get a clear unobstructed view of how Central Park is laid out.

How to use City Pass for a 3 Day Visit to New York City

The green space of Central Park is a lure for New Yorkers and tourists alike.

The Guggenheim Museum is world-famous for both its modern art collection inside and Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture on the outside.

  • Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island OR the Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise

The Statue of Liberty is a well-known American symbol where you can walk around the base.  With extra tickets which you have to get far in advance, you may be able to go inside the statue as well.  Ellis Island Immigration Museum is where over 12 million immigrants came into the USA and has lots of exhibits on the immigrant experience.

How to use City Pass for a 3 Day Visit to New York City

The Great Hall where millions of immigrants to the USA were processed.

The Circle Line takes you on either an hour cruise or a 30 minute speedboat ride (during the summer) around Manhattan’s famous skyline.

  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum pays respect to the nearly 3000 victims of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre on 9/11.

How to use City Pass for a 3 Day Visit to New York City

The view of New York City from inside the aircraft carrier, The Intrepid.

The Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum is located on a former working aircraft carrier, the Intrepid, and also lets you go inside a former submarine.

Suggested Itinerary for 3 days with the New York City

The New York City Pass lasts for 9 days once it is activated at the first attraction. Lucky you, if you have 9 days to roam the Big Apple.  I’ve put together some suggested itineraries using the New York City Pass for a 3 day visit to New York City.

The best way to use City Pass

Use City Pass in New York City for access to the best sightseeing day and night.

Museum Lovers

If you are a museum lover, start at the American Museum of Natural History and walk across Central Park to the Guggenheim Museum for the afternoon.

The next day you can easily spend an entire day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art because the collection is so massive. Visiting the Empire State Building Experience at night gives you a magical display of Manhattan lights at night.

Getting the most value from City Pass New York City

One of the best ways to experience New York City is with an aerial view of its nightscape.

The third day can be spent exploring the museum at Ellis Island and either the 9/11 Memorial and Museum or the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum (depending on your interests).  Although both museums are excellent, I prefer the 9/11 Museum for its excellent curation of those tragic events.

Family Travel

If you have children with you,  I would suggest that you spent more time at the American Museum of Natural History on the morning of the first day.  Children recognise it from the Night At The Museum movies with Ben Stiller.  Between the dinosaur exhibits and the planetarium, most children love this museum.  Then hang out at Central Park stopping off at the playgrounds especially the excellent Heckscher playground at 7th Avenue and Central Park South.  The Empire State Building is once again a great place for the evening.

How to use City Pass for a 3 Day Visit to New York City

A horse and carriage ride through Central Park is still a must-do for many tourists.

The next day watch New York City spring into action at the Top of the Rock Observation Deck.  My kids can’t seem to get enough of seeing New York City from the top of skyscrapers.  There’s plenty for families to do at Rockefeller Centre and nearby, including the American Girl shop and Radio City Music Hall.  You can once again wander through Central Park on your way up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It’s either a 45 minute walk or a short taxi ride (depending on traffic!).  Once again, there is a great view of Central Park from the rooftop terrace.

On the third day, the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island is a nice cruise for children and interesting history for adults.  Alternatively, you can take a Circle Line Cruise which is conveniently located right next door to the Intrepid Museum.  My kids LOVED the Intrepid Museum.

I would suggest children be at least 8 years old before they visit the 9/11 Museum because the subject matter raises a lot of questions.  The more graphic exhibits are zoned off and parents can decide if they want to go through that section.  For example, the live coverage of the day, including of the people who jumped from the towers, is in this section.

My New York City Pass Choices

My kids love the American Museum of Natural History especially the planetarium.  We did a short stint at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for my daughter to check out a special Faberge exhibit.  She likes anything sparkly.  I wanted to see the Psycho House exhibit on the rooftop terrace.

PsychoBarn is a special exhibit by Cornelia Parker on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

PsychoBarn is a special exhibit by Cornelia Parker on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

My children were duly impressed visiting the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island for the first time. The audio guides that walk you through the monuments have a special children’s audio tour which they found entertaining.  You need to book far in advance if you want to go up into the base of the Statue of Liberty and even longer (to get into the torch area).  I’ve heard from friends that the inside of the statue can be crowded and claustrophobic.

We went to the Empire State Building at  night.  As much as my kids loved the Guggenheim Museum, they preferred the Top of the Rock Observation Deck to another museum.  I thought going at night would be less lines.  Nope!  Thankfully we breezed straight past the line with our New York City Pass.

The third day we went to the Top of the Rock in the morning and then the Intrepid Museum in the afternoon. My kids can spend hours at the Intrepid – for example, it’s got an old Concorde, lots of fighter planes, a Space exhibit and a submarine to explore.

New York City Pass Giveaway

Thanks to City Pass I am able to give away to one lucky person 2 adult New York City Passes (valued at $116 each for a total value of $232). Please note that you can use the adult New York City Pass in lieu of a children’s New York City  Pass.

  • This giveaway ends on September 29.
  • You have until February 28, 2018 to use the two City Passes.  That’s plenty of time to plan a trip to New York City!
  • The giveaway is open to anyone worldwide.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How to use City Pass for a 3 Day Visit to New York City

The New York City Pass comes in a booklet with tickets you trade in for the attraction ticket.

I partnered with City Pass to receive 2 New York City Passes and bought the third New York City Pass myself.  All opinions are 100% my own.

This post is linked up with Monday EscapesThe Weekly Postcard, Fly Away Friday, Weekend Travel Inspiration and Photo Friday.

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A Bird’s Eye View on a Manhattan Helicopter Tour

A Bird’s Eye View on a Manhattan Helicopter Tour

My relationship with Manhattan is complicated.  Every time I move away, I am drawn back its siren song of wailing sirens, honking taxis and grumpy sales people.  Even now though I live across the pond, I am in New York City at least twice a year.  Manhattan is beautiful, infuriating and alluring – a beautiful woman who knows how to wield her charms effectively.

You’re beautiful, that’s for sure
You’ll never ever fade
You’re lovely but it’s not for sure
That I won’t ever change
And though my love is rare
Though my love is true

From Like A Bird by Nelly Furtado

Every time I see Manhattan I think what a gorgeous city.  We took a Manhattan helicopter tour this past trip and I am even more struck by how beautiful the city looks from above.  The streets and avenues form their grid and the skyscrapers reach up into the sky. Although the people scurrying around below are invisible from my viewpoint in the helicopter, their hopes and dreams are no less real.

a review of a tour of manhattan by helicopter

A Bird’s Eye View of Manhattan

The view from the helicopter was amazing.  I was actually able to see how the different neighbourhoods of Manhattan fit together.  At street level, you are bombarded by sights and sounds so that it feels like every little bit of Manhattan is bigger than it is.  From overhead, you see how small the neighbourhoods (and even Central Park!) really are.

Manhattan Helicopter Tour

The Empire State building dwarfs its neighbours.

Manhattan Helicopter Tour

Central Park set into context.

Manhattan Helicopter Tour

A close-up of Central Park.

Manhattan Helicopter Tour

For years, my world revolved around Columbia University seen here.

Manhattan Helicopter Tour

Chelsea Piers, where the Titanic was meant to have docked, is now a leisure complex.

Manhattan Helicopter Tour

One World Observatory rises a symbolic 1776 feet into the air in the area where the twin towers formerly stood.

Manhattan Helicopter Tour

The variety of skyscrapers never ceases to amaze me.

Manhattan Helicopter Tour

The Staten Island ferry coming into dock.

Manhattan Helicopter Tour

The rejuvenation of Battery Park in lower Manhattan is ongoing.

Manhattan Helicopter Tour

The George Washington Bridge connecting New Jersey and New York is the busiest bridge in the USA.

The Manhattan Helicopter Tour

We took our Manhattan Helicopter tour with Helicopter Flight Services, Inc.  HeliNY leave from a helipad near Battery Park in Lower Manhattan. They have four different types of tours starting from $144 per person.  We took the ultimate New Yorker tour which too a route up the Hudson River and back down and around the New York Harbor.

The whole operation runs smoothly.  You put away your stuff in lockers that are provided.  A member of staff puts on your safety gear and listen to a short safety video.  Next thing you know, you are being lead out to a waiting helicopter for your tour.  We had 3 other people on our tour – a nice Chinese girl who was in the USA for university and her parents from China who were visiting her.

My children absolutely loved the Manhattan helicopter tour.  It was one of the highlights of our most recent trip to New York. My son, the lucky devil, got to sit up front next to the pilot.  We received a concession from Helicopter Flight Services Inc. for our tour of Manhattan.

This post is linked up with Pierced WonderingsWeekend Wanderlust and The Weekly Postcard.

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Around the World with the Star Wars Costumes Exhibit

Around the World with the Star Wars Costumes Exhibit

Have you ever stopped to think about the fantastical imagery of Star Wars?  I know I hadn’t until I went to see a Smithsonian Institution Traveling exhibit in New York City entitled, Star Wars:  The Power of Costume.  The exhibit is currently at Discovery Times Square, a building that served as the previous home of The New York Times.

A look at the multi-cultural references in the Star Wars Costumes as shown in an Smithsonian Institution Exhibit

Like every perfectionist, George Lucas imbued meaning in all of his Star Wars imagery including the costumes.  The costumes have cultural references around the world, from the American Wild West, to pre-Raphaelite Europe, Mongolian Queens and Japanese samurai.  The outfits were meant to humanise the characters so that they look vaguely familiar and less alien.  On the other hand, a futuristic film could not attribute its characters to a specific human culture.

The costumes in the exhibit are the actual outfits worn by the actors in the 7 movies to date.  There are more than 70 costumes on display.

 Trivia:  Star Wars Costumes Exhibit

You can’t go to an exhibit and not walk away with a treasury of trivia. For example,

  • Obi-Wan’s robes are reminiscent of both the rough ascetic of monk’s robes and the elegant silk of Japanese kimonos.  Lucas wanted Obi-Wan to be part monk and part warrior.
  • The throne room royal outfit of Queen Amidala in The Phantom Menace was influenced by the Chinese Imperial court.  The bottom of the gown was made from perspex so that it would support the weight of the fabric and yet still glide across the room. A car battery powered the lights so that the perspex would glow.
  • The Jedi costumes were plain and muted to convey purity, asceticism and integrity.  The Sith robes, alternatively, were sleek flowing black.
  • The design fro C3P0 was heavily influenced by the robot Maria from the 1926 film Metropolis.
  • Queen Amidala and her court’s outfits were influenced by clothes from Chinese imperial outfits, Japanese kimonos, Mongolian crowns and European medieval fabrics.  The whole menage is intended to convey the impression of royalty without actually referencing any one specify culture or country.
  • The stormtroopers appear efficient and totalitarian with a complete lack of independent thought.   A type of futuristic Nazi in their shiny plastic outfits, they are identical and interchangeable.
  • The rebel forces, on the other hand, evoke the American west or U.S. Marines. (Of course, the Americans are the good guys – this is Hollywood!).
  • The entire budget for the 1977 Star Wars film was $220,000 and $93,000 went to the stormtroopers outfits.  Hence, poor Princess Leia spent a lot of time in one white outfit.
  • Han Solo is meant to evoke a cowboy hero from a Western movie.  He wears boots, vest and a gun belt like any other gunslinger.  The outfit is simple and the materials natural reminiscent of a U.S. cavalry uniform. Although starting off as an outlaw, he proves that when times get tough, he is ready to fight for justice.
  • Chewie’s outfit is made from yak hair and mohair.  He’s a combination of a monkey, a dog and a cat.  They must’ve done something right because my kids adore Chewie.
  • Princess Padme had 18 outfits which took months of work to create.  She had dresses, gowns, corsets, uniforms and, of course, the wedding gown.  Padme’s wedding gown was made from pieces of a vintage Italian lace bedspread.
  • In the Force Awakens, the costumes easily separate the goodies from the baddies.  The First Order is in sleek outfits and cold colours – blacks, greys, blues and metallics.  The Resistance is dressed in natural fabrics in warm colours – khakis, olives and oranges.

Photo Gallery:  Star Wars Costume Exhibit

Star Wars Costume Exhibit

Once you are told, it’s easy to see the Japanese samurai influences.

Star Wars Costumes Exhibit

R2D2 at times actually had a human actor inside him.

Star Wars Costumes Exhibit

You can see the blend of cultural references in this outfit.

Star Wars Costumes Exhibit

The Senators needed to look both alien and yet familiar at the same time.

Star Wars Costumes Exhibit

Propaganda poster for the stormtroopers.

Star Wars Costumes Exhibit

Darth Vader propoganda poster.

Star Wars Costumes Exhibit

Carrie Fisher famously called this outfit ‘the bikini from hell.”

Star Wars Costumes Exhibit

A frozen Han Solo determined to break free.

Star Wars Costumes Exhibit

The seductive side of Padme.


Star Wars Costumes Exhibit

You can easily see the specialist artisanal work needed for Padme’s outfits.

Star Wars Costumes Exhibit

The wedding gown for an illicit marriage.

Star Wars Costumes Exhibit

An intentional reference to pre-Raphaelite masterpiece, Ophelia by John Everett Millais

Star Wars Costumes Exhibit

All black because he is pure evil.

Star Wars Costumes Exhibit

The new set of good guys wears natural fabrics and earth tones.

Video:  Star Wars Costume Exhibit

Visiting the Star Wars Costume Exhibit

The exhibit will be travelling through the United States (and hopefully around the world) through 2019.  The Discovery Times Square centre will show the exhibit until September 2016.  From November 2016, the exhibit will be at the Denver Art Museum in Colorado.  Tickets in New York are $27.50 for adults with discounts for the under-12s and seniors.

You can keep track of which city the exhibit will appear through their twitter feed or through the website.  The exhibit is very child-friendly (obviously – to hook in another generation of children into the Star Wars folklore).  My children LOVED it so I’d say the attempt was very successful.  Not only are there certain interactive elements for kids, you can also download activity sheets to take with you to the exhibit.

This post is linked up with Travel Photo Thursday and Weekend Travel Inspiration.

Weekend Travel Inspiration