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Tasked with playing “New York City Ambassador” for friends and family? Need to duck inside during one of New York’s sweeping summer rainstorms? Embarrassed to admit that you live here and know very little about the Big Apple? Head to RISENY, Midtown’s newest multimedia, interactive museum, featuring a curated tour through the city’s history — and a fully-functioning theme park ride that will impress any out-of-town guest.
Tucked away on W45th Street and Broadway where the iconic Toys R Us Ferris wheel once stood, the exhibit has been in the works for the past 10 years, said RISENY representative Meghan Doran. “It took us some time to find a space that could accommodate a full amusement park ride,” she explained, adding that the shuttered Toys R Us had the right infrastructure for the company’s ambitious build-out.
In a collaboration with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Museum of American Finance, Museum of Broadcast Communications & Radio Hall of Fame, Museum at FIT, Skyscraper Museum, Tribeca Festival and David Bushman, former head curator at The Paley Center, RISENY takes visitors through key cultural “tipping points” of the city’s history, highlighting New York’s achievements in architecture, finance, TV, radio and film, music, fashion, and of course, the birth of Broadway.
It all kicks off with a delightful simulated subway ride – “Our subway is the cleanest in New York!” said Doran – and a documentary produced by Ric Burns and James Sanders (and narrated by actor Jeff Goldblum!!). Visitors get an introduction to Times Square through the years before stepping into a historical walk-through of the city’s milestones.
The multimedia exhibit not only features film and audio clips but an impressive selection of collector memorabilia, including but not limited to a statue of Alexander Hamilton commissioned by his son, a full-sized Oscar the Grouch puppet gifted by Sesame Street Workshop, Madonna’s hand-painted Keith Haring jacket, Bruce Springsteen’s guitar used to write Born to Run, Ringo Starr’s Beatles’ 1964 U.S. Tour drumhead, Bob Dylan’s guitar gifted by John Lennon, the Notorious B.I.G.’s worn tracksuit, Cardi B’s bodysuit, The Village People’s full costumes, Beyonce’s Bill Blass-designed gown and costumes from Broadway blockbusters Hamilton, Aladdin, The Phantom of the Opera and The Lion King.
Tours are self-guided and come equipped with handy QR-scannable codes for additional audio fun facts. And for those looking for a bit of a thrill, the exhibit caps off with a soaring, flight-simulated ride through New York’s most iconic landmarks, complete with wind, mist, and “snow”!
The exhibit focuses on the stories behind New York’s great legends, but “these stories are not just stories of people in the past – they’re my family’s stories, and they’re your family’s stories – because we all ended up here,” said Doran.
Despite the obvious draw for tourists unfamiliar with the city, quite a few locals have visited since the opening in March. “People are excited about a one-stop shop for all things New York,” Doran said, adding: “We want to be part of the new renaissance of Times Square.”
Open every day, the entire experience takes about an hour and tickets start at $27, making it a perfect combination with a Midtown Ferry ride to Battery Park City for a full (and stress-free!) day of sightseeing. Go forth, New York City ambassadors, and rise to the challenge!