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Soar Over The Big Apple at RiseNY

RiseNY is a new experience in the heart of Manhattan that has something for tourists and New Yorkers alike. It’s part museum, part theater, part thrill ride, and all about The Big Apple.

As a Disney fan, what first caught my attention was the similarity to the theme park ride “Soarin'”. I was curious to see how it compared, but also a bit hesitant about paying $28 plus tax for one ride.

But RiseNY is more than that.

@adventuresinfamilyhood NYC history & pop culture + fun photo ops + Disney-style ride = @risenyofficial ♬ Empire State Of Mind (Karaoke Version) – Karaoke Star Explosion

A visit to RiseNY not only gets you the ride, but also a bit of history of New York City and some fun photo ops.

RiseNY: A Story of New York City

I had first heard about RiseNY from an ad in my Facebook feed. It looked interesting, but I also had a healthy amount of skepticism since Facebook is notorious for showing me things that are suspect. Not long after seeing the ad, I actually stumbled across RiseNY as I was walking to work.

So, when I found myself with some time to kill between shifts a couple of weeks later, I decided to check it out.

How To Buy Tickets to RiseNY

Purchasing my ticket to RiseNY was super easy. I simply pulled up the website on my phone and clicked the link to buy tickets. There, I chose the date and time I wanted to go.

Then, I selected the number of tickets I wanted and checked out.

RiseNY offers a variety of ticket options. On the date I selected, a ticket for kids 3-12 was $24 and adults were $28. Seniors, Students, and Military can get a slight discount at $26 with their valid ID.

In addition, RiseNY has VIP tickets for both kids ($36) and adults ($42). The extra $12 makes your ticket flexible so you can show up any time you want. It gets you priority access to the ride, and you get a souvenir from the gift shop.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think the VIP tickets are worth splurging for.

After checking in, I headed up to the second floor by either stairs or elevator. There is a coat/bag check and restrooms here for your convenience before entering the experience. Depending on when you walk up, you could wait up to about 10 minutes to go in, assuming the amount of people waiting doesn’t exceed the capacity of the next show.

Act 1: New York City’s Cultural Rise

The first part of the RiseNY experience is an 8-9 minute movie narrated by Jeff Goldblum. The theater’s design mimics the historic City Hall subway station with its arched walls of tile, vaulted ceilings and glass skylights.

Six rows of bench seating face toward a screen, as if you were sitting on the subway platform.

As the movie starts, the seats start to rumble. The benches shake to add to the effect of the subway cars going by. Then, Jeff Goldblum’s familiar voice starts to weave a tale of New York City’s development. He lays out the city’s transformation from financial capital of the country to being a cultural epicenter for the world.

The subway is a character in the story, but the real star of this story is Times Square.

Scenes through the decades detail how Times Square became a center of culture. There is a particular focus on Broadway and New Year’s Eve celebrations. Sprinkled throughout the film are lighting effects and more seat vibrations.

There are many ways to tell the story of New York City. I can easily see people taking issue with the over-simplified tale of a city that is so complex. To be fair, the filmmakers mention the fact that New Yorkers often despise Times Square for being a tourist trap. They don’t gloss over the bad times when Times Square was known for its vices rather than its virtues.

As the film ends, the wall on the left changes to reveal a train pulling into the station. Then, magically, one section of the wall becomes the open door to a subway car. It was a very cool effect.

We all get up and move on through the subway car and on to the next part of the experience.

Act 2: Money, Art, and Pop Culture

The second portion of RiseNY is a self-guided, walk-through tour of seven exhibits. Now, I know some people might be tempted to skip anything that looks like a museum… but, trust me, it’s worth it.

As you exit the subway car, you are very briefly in nature, as homage to Manhattan’s natural origin as a land of hills and beavers. The contrast between the dark brown and greens and the stark white of the next two sections is jarring. I like to think it was an intentional statement.

You then enter a series of rooms, with each doorway announcing the theme of the gallery you are entering. Here are the seven exhibits in order:

  • Finance
  • Skyline
  • TV & Radio
  • Fashion
  • Music
  • Film
  • Broadway

My favorite sections were the TV & Radio and Music. The photo ops in the TV sections are great! You can pose on the set of “The Honeymooners”, a late night talk show, sit on the couch from “Friends”, and even pose with Oscar the Grouch when he pops out of his trash can!

The music section includes many iconic artists, and some of their actual items. One of the coolest effects of RiseNY is here. Screens alternate between display graphics of an artist’s name, video of them, and then disappear to reveal the exhibit.

The museum’s final two exhibits are located on the next floor up, which you can reach by elevator or stairs. You are now on the third floor when you enjoy the tributes to film and Broadway musicals.

Act 3: Ringing In The New Year

After taking in the galleries at my own pace, I got on another for the next portion of the experience.

A very energetic employee greets us and informs us that we have time-traveled back to 1957. We are about to witness the first televised broadcast of New Year’s Eve in Times Square at Sky Studios. He also tells us that his boss is waiting for us upstairs to host us for the event.

Before long, we are ushered into another room. There is a podium, a huge Sky Studios logo on the wall, and a New Year’s Eve banner. A young woman greets us and explains that we’ll be heading up to the 27th floor. Apparently, this will be via a freight elevator that isn’t exactly safe and is sometimes infested with rats. Ominous lightning and thunder effects sprinkle her speech.

We enter the elevator, which is a large square room with a light fixture in the middle of the ceiling. There are windows that are obviously screens displaying brick walls at the top of each wall. Once the door closes, the floor begins to shake and we get the illusion that the elevator is moving upwards. The bricks scroll down through the windows to enhance the feel.

Then the elevator comes to a groaning stop. The lights flicker. A voice comes over a speaker, telling us everything is okay and they’ll get us moving again. We can hear the sounds and voices of the maintenance crew attempting to fix the elevator.

I got a little excited thinking we might be about to experience a virtual “Tower of Terror” moment. But when the elevator starts to go down. it’s not fast. After a few moments, it stops and resumes going “up.”

When the elevator stops, another set of doors open, and we step out into a new pre-show area.

Theme park goers will know the drill here. You tell them how many people are in your party and stand on a number corresponding with your seat. We stand there facing a wall of TV screens.

The preshow is the broadcast of the New Year’s Eve festivities. We enjoy snippets of reports from Times Square, musical numbers from the studio, and even some commercials. At one point, they even show a shot of all of us, which gets laughs from everyone.

Then, it’s time to ride, and we follow our guide into the next room.

The Ride

There are four rows of numbers in the pre-show room, but only two ride vehicles in the room we entered. There must have been a second ride area that I couldn’t see. Against the wall are some cubbies for storing personal items.

We take our seats and fasten our seatbelts. The young woman next to me isn’t told to put her phone away. They simply warn her that RiseNY isn’t responsible if she drops it, and that the drop is about 40 feet.

Screens on the wall show us our host again, and he gives a brief introduction to set the scene. We are now on the roof of the building, and more of the nasty weather we’ve been hearing about is approaching.

The our row of seats spins and then lifts up to face the wall and the ride begins.

The lift isn’t very high at all, in actuality. If you’ll recall, you’re already 3 stories up when you board the ride. So the ride vehicle only lifts you a few feet up and moves you forward a bit. From there, you can look down at the rest of the screen, which stretches down to the ground floor.

The elaborate storyline that RiseNY creates to get you on the “roof” of Sky Studios is no longer relevant. Nothing about that story has any connection to you flying over New York City. At this point, the storyline goes out the window. You tilt forward and look straight down the side of the building.

This is probably the most intense part of the experience. Guests who may have a fear of heights can be reassured that it’s a short-lived optical illusion.

After a short drop, you are soon flying over various parts of the boroughs of New York City.

There are a few moments of moving at speed, but you mostly feel the sensation of floating or hovering. You occasionally feel a mist being sprayed on you as you glide near some water. Some of the transitions from one scene to the next could be better.

The scenes transport you around the city, all four seasons, bringing you round-trip from one New Year’s Eve to another. The ride dramatically ends flying through Times Square along with the ball is being dropped.

Exit Through The Gift Shop

Unsurprisingly, there is a small gift shop when you exit the ride, full of merch with RiseNY stamped on it.

All together, the RiseNY experience took me a bit over an hour to go through from start to finish. The majority of that time is spent in the exhibit galleries. Depending on crowds, or just how interesting you find it all, you may spend more or less time in there.

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