Escape Plan NYC: The Inventor's New York - Atlas Obscura

Escape Plan NYC: The Inventor’s New York

This day trip is a celebration of American ingenuity.

(Previous page, cover photo of Washington Square Park: Doc Searls/text overlay and color change/CC BY 2.0)

Don’t get stuck in the city this weekend! This summer, Atlas Obscura and Zipcar have partnered up to bring you inspired day trips in and around major American metropolises. We guarantee there’s something right around the corner that will surprise and delight you.

The New York City area has given us countless innovations (toilet paper, air conditioning and Pizza Rat all got their start in The Big Apple) and has been home to inventors from Thomas Alva Edison to Nikola Tesla. Spend the day with some of the region’s greatest minds, and eat a legendary hot dog, too.

Trip Highlights

  • Nosh on the real Waldorf Salad, in its original environs
  • Commune with spirit of brilliant but doomed inventor Nikola Tesla
  • Eat at a truly authentic New Jersey establishment (makes its own relish)
  • Honor Thomas Edison with some of the most terrifying sculptures you’ll ever see
  • Visit a museum dedicated to a strange Victorian invention, the automaton

Itinerary

The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. (Photo: (WT-shared) Onyo at wts wikivoyage/CC BY-SA 4.0)

1  A Good Egg  9:00AM

Waldorf Astoria, New York, NY

 

New York City’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, established in 1893, has become synonymous with a certain kind of urban, genteel elegance; it conjures up images of monied upper-crusters carefully dissecting lavish dinners. But the hotel is also a culinary innovator: Not only is it the home of the eponymous Waldorf Salad, but is credited with inventing the brunch staple, Eggs Benedict. Stop here for eggs anointed in creamy Hollandaise before setting out on your trek. 

Breakfast is served from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday-Friday, and brunch is served Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Waldorf Astoria, 301 Park Ave, New York, NY 10022

Nikola Tesla Corner. (Photo: Heather Paul/cropped from original/CC BY-ND 2.0)

2–3  Teslas’s Last Days  10:00AM

The New Yorker Hotel & Nikola Tesla Street Corner, New York, NY

 

Visionary inventor Nikola Tesla (best known for his work with alternating current and his eponymous coil) spent the last 10 years of his life living in Suite 3327 of the New Yorker Hotel, which now has a plaque commemorating his transformative work. Alone and destitute at the end of his life, Tesla’s great joy during these years was taking a walk around the corner to feed the pigeons at Bryant Park.

The intersection of Bryant Park and West 40th Street is now known as Nikola Tesla Corner, and you’ll see a sign just under the official street sign. Bring some birdseed.

The New Yorker Hotel, 481 8th Ave, New York, NY 10001; Nikola Tesla Street Corner, 80-98 W 40th St, New York, NY 10018

Rippers and onion rings at Rutt’s Hut in New Jersey. (Photo: William J Sisti/CC BY-SA 2.0)

4  Hot Diggity Dog  11:00AM

Rutt’s Hut, Clifton, NJ

 

Wave goodbye to NYC for now, and head to Clifton for a classic New Jersey delicacy.  Rutt’s Hut, established in 1928 as a humble roadside stand, originated “The Ripper”—a hot dog deep-fried until its casings split. Their housemade relish is equally legendary.

Rutt’s Hut, 417 River Rd, Clifton, NJ 07014

The tower at the Thomas Edison Center at Menlo Park. (Photo: Adam Skowronski/CC BY-ND 2.0)

5  Off to See the Wizard  12:30PM

The Thomas Edison Center at Menlo Park Edison, Edison, NJ

 

Located in the town named for the inventor, this museum celebrates the life and discoveries of inventor Thomas Alva Edison, who is most famous for perfecting the light bulb, but was a prolific inventor who filed over 1,000 U.S. patents. The museum includes many of his creations, such as the phonograph, and features an Art Deco tower on the site where Edison’s lab once stood, topped off with what has been touted as the largest light bulb in the world.

The Thomas Edison Center at Menlo Park, Art Deco Edison Memorial Tower, 37 Christie St, Edison, NJ 08820

A detail of the fountain at Roosevelt Park, Edison New Jersey. (Photo: Dan Century/CC BY-SA 2.0)

6  Science of the Apocalypse  2:00PM

Light Dispelling Darkness Fountain Roosevelt Park, Edison NJ

 

This bizarre sculptural celebration of Edison was commissioned in 1938 as part of the Work Progress Administration program. Created by noted Art Deco sculptor Waylande Gregory, the fountain depicts six figures astride horses fleeing in from a central shaft decorated with men representing the benefits of science.

Four of these figures are supposed to be the horsemen of the apocalypse, all six represent the worst that mankind have to offer, and every single one is terrifying. Think howling, misshapen faces, wizened crones, and menacing skeletons astride extremely angry horses. The statue is in the southernmost part of the park, between Pine Drive and East Grandview Avenue. Have the kids cover their eyes.

Light Dispelling Darkness, Pine Drive, Roosevelt Park, Edison, NJ

Inside the Mechanical Universe section of the Guinness Collection at the Morris Museum. (Photo: Courtesy The Morris Museum)  

7  A Moment of Machine Music  3:30PM

The Murtogh D. Guinness Collection of Mechanical Musical Instrument and Automata, The Morris Museum Morristown, NJ

 

Automatons are delightfully complicated machines that, when set into motion, appear to operate as if under their own volition. Examples of such seemingly magical devices date back to ancient Greece and modern-day examples include novelties like the cuckoo clock. This collection includes many 19th century examples, which were employed as entertainments. There’s a 10-foot one man band, mechanical ballerinas and clowns, a self-playing violin and other wonders. The Morris Museum’s assemblage of such contraptions is so vast, that they cannot display them all at once and have created a viable storage area where visitors can peek at over 600 additional offerings. 

Murtogh D. Guinness Collection of Mechanical Musical Instrument and Automata, Morris Museum, 6 Normandy Heights Road, Morristown, NJ 07960

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