This is one of the most ill-appreciated and yet one of the most impressive
attractions in the entire city. It is truly something that must be seen to be believed
, and in my humble opinion
, something that always retains the power to impress.
Built for the 1964 New York World's Fair, The Panorama of the City of New York is a complete scale model of the city. It is also the largest architectural model in the world. It measures 9335 sq. ft.
It is currently displayed in Flushing Meadows Park at the Queens Museum of Art. The room that contains it has a walkway to allow you to circumnavigate the entire model, and has cards that tell you what part of the city you are looking at from each vantage point.
The entire room cycles between light and dark, to simulate day and night. At "night" 2,500 lights come on in the tiny buildings and bring the model to life. Since 9/11, the World Trade Center and its vicinity have been illuminated by a single spotlight during the dark phase. That was the case in the times I have visited it since that date, and I do not know how long they will do it, but I believe it will be a permanent aspect of the model, at least until it gets modified to reflect what ever they build on the site to replace it. It is a hauntingly beautiful tribute. It is also the only place one can see how the WTC looked in context to the city and the buildings around it, now that it no longer exists.
It is a perfect place to take visitors, as it allows one to put the city in perspective, a "living map". It has all five boroughs, including Staten Island. Maintained regularly during the 1960's and 70's, there was an update done in 1990. The last update was done during the model's renovation in 1994. (Frankly, I almost hope they never update it again, due to the WTC. But I guess they could always cut that section out and display it separately, as a memento and tribute.) There is less than a 1% margin of error between the model and the actual city.
There is also a little plane that flies on a wire, constantly landing and taking off from La Guardia Airport on the north shore of Queens. It runs across the ceiling, down to the airport, under the runway (though the pulley hidden there) and back up to the ceiling. It is often operating, but when it breaks, it sometimes takes several days for them to fix it.
In another area of the museum are scale models of the Fairgrounds as they looked at the time of the Fair.
I have found that no matter how much I talk the Panorama up, first-time viewers are blown away. I have yet to have someone look at it, no matter how much they were expecting, and walk away unimpressed. It is one of the best-kept tourist values in the city, probably because it happens to be hidden in Queens.
The Queens Museum of Art
Wednesday to Friday, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM,
Saturday and Sunday, 12:00 to 5:00 PM.
Directions by Subway: Take the #7 train to Willets Point/Shea Stadium.<,p>
Update March 2004
: I recently brought a visitor by the panorama
, and they have stopped the "nightly" spotlight on the WTC
, and the little plane that lands and takes off from La Guardia
is gone. I hope the latter is only away for renovation
or repair. The WTC still has a red, white, and blue ribbon wrapped around it.