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Top 10 Engineering Sites in NYC (Part 1)

July 22, 2017
In case you thought New York City was all Broadway shows and big buildings, here are some of the places that may be a bit more entertaining for engineers.

It’s summertime, which means everyone wants to travel. And more than 60 million people in 2016 choose New York City as their destination. But what to do once you’re there? Well, there are obvious stops (like museums), but if you don’t have time to plan—and wouldn’t mind seeing attractions more geared toward an engineer’s tastes—this article is for you. Part one of our engineering sightseeing itinerary will cover some popular spots in Manhattan, while part two will venture to the outer boroughs for visitors with more time to spend on subways.


Of course you start at the Math Museum! The National Museum of Math or MoMath, focuses on the math of patterns and the geometry the surrounds us every day. The exhibits are very hands on, which make it great for kids. However, riding a tricycle with square wheels is fun at any age.

In addition there are brain teasers and puzzles downstairs. MoMath is especially valuable for fourth through eighth graders. Another benefit to MoMath is its location. Madison Square Park is just out the door, and if you’re feeling a bit hungry you can stop by the original location of Shake Shack. The line is normally long, but it tends to move fast.

Next stop: After your burger, walk to the southwest corner of the park and continue west until you see the F and M subway entrance. Take either train uptown to 47-50th St. Rockefeller Center. Upon exiting the station, walk north to W. 49th St. and turn right. Turn left on Rockefeller Plaza. At this point you are adjacent to our destination and need only walk to the far corner of the Summer Garden bar (or in the winter, the ice skating rink).

Be aware that the NYC subways have been in better shape, and construction on the weeknight and weekends don’t seem to be improving the situation. In fact, the subway system was put into a state of emergency. You can read more about what the city is planning on doing about it, or even tell the city your ideas by checking out “New York City's Subway a Metaphor for the Nation's Infrastructure.”

 Lego Store

I don’t think this one needs an explanation. Even if you don’t buy anything, the Lego sculptures are impressive, as is the opportunity to see Rockefeller Center. Speaking of which, Top of the Rock offers one of the better observatory decks I’ve been. Travelers Tip: you can get a reduced view from the Rainbow Room if you sit outside and order a drink (granted, the cheapest drink is about the cost of a ticket to the Top of the Rock, but hey—now you have a drink in your hand and a chair to sit in).

Next stop: Walk north on 5th Ave. to E 53rd St. and grab the E train. This train might not say uptown or downtown, so look for the one going to Brooklyn, and take it to the 14th St. station. Upon exiting, walk west to Washington St.—unless you’re hungry. Then you can turn right on 9th St. and check out the Chelsea Market. It has a lot of places to shop and eat, along with one of the few public bathrooms in NYC. If you make it to Washington, go left until you see the Samsung 837 on the left side of the street. If the subway has yet to impress you can check out, “All Aboard! The Future of Railroads, Subways, and Smart Cities.” This article spotlights the newest subway line in NYC, the 2nd Ave. expansion that only took more than 100 years to open.

Samsung 837

Not that I have a particular bias toward Android or Apple, but the Apple store doesn’t have a virtual reality stunt plane, roller coaster, and zombie apocalypse experience. Yes this is free, and it’s fun. The Stunt plane simulator will flip you completely upside down. For the more faint of heart, there’s an area downstairs where visitors can walk around as the VR space matches the real space of the room. This allows you to “play” with your friends. A worker informed me most people spend their time in the room picking up things like buildings and throwing it at their companions.

Next stop: The nice part about this destination is that it’s right by the High Line Park, our next stop. Simply continue down Washington St., and on the right side you’ll be able to see the south entrance of the park.

The High Line Park

The old elevated rails you see here ran freight from 1934 to 1980, but had been going to the rust and weeds ever since. Luckily, the community took action, and plans were hatched to turn the old railway into a long elevated park. The first section was open to the public in 2009. Today it is finished, and in true NYC fashion the views were quickly choked out by new condos. It’s still a great place to go, however, and you can see old sections of the rails in some areas. At the very end, about a mile-and-a-half later, is the Javits Center, where Machine Design has covered many shows.

Next stop: In case you’ve been out of the subway long enough to think everything is okay, be sure to read “Inflatable Vectran Plug Could Protect Subways and Infrastructure.” This article shows a new way researchers are trying to keep people underground safe from flood waters in case of an accident. Fortunately, from here you can walk west, over the highway. Once on the Hudson River Greenway, watch out for bikes. Continue north until you see the big ship. (Trust me, you’ll see it.)

Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum

The Intrepid is a great place to visit, and you may want to make sure you have plenty of time to walk around this massive ship. Currently, the oldest remaining Douglas A-1 Skyraider in the world (part of the aircraft collection) is being restored. There are countless examples of technology from the past you could tap into. In addition, there is a recently opened exhibition on drones, so there's a good amount of current and future technology as well.

Thus concludes the first five engineering sights to see in NYC. Until our next installment, let me know what your favorite engineering place in NYC is in the comment section below.

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