We climbed the new sculpture from Thomas Heatherwick and Heatherwick Studio at Hudson Yards in New York City on a sunny early-spring day in March. Here’s everything you need to know about it: how to get tickets to climb the Vessel, and what it’s like once you’re there, with photos. The headline? The experience is stimulating, energizing, whimsical and stunning. And like so many true luxuries in life, this one is free.
what you need to know about the Vessel at Hudson Yards
By now, you’ve seen photos of the exterior of the new public art sculpture that opened in New York City in late March. Thomas Hetherwick’s creation, The Vessel, will likely be renamed at some point in the future. The developers of Hudson Yards are already soliciting new names from the public.
But in the meantime, we’re calling it “the Vessel.” And we climbed it less than two weeks after it opened to the public. Here’s what we saw, what we made of it all, and the tips that will help you ensure that your visit is as lovely as ours was.
How to get tickets for the sculpture at Hudson Yards in New York
First things first: you need a timed entry ticket to climb the Vessel. They’re given out in 10-minute increments. The sculpture is open Monday-Sunday from 10:00A to 9:00P.
Getting tickets is easier than you might expect, given that this is New York, and this is a new Thing. Just go onto the website for Hudson Yards, here. You can reserve a block of up to 6 timed tickets up to two weeks in advance.
If you log on, as we did, and find that all the timed tickets for the day you want are sold out, don’t despair. A large block of new tickets becomes available at 8:00A every day.
Here’s an insider tip: you can actually secure your tickets even before 8:00A. We logged onto the site at about 7:53A, and there were already 45 people in the virtual line before us. The website is really good at telling you the estimated wait. You can join the virtual queue and it will email you when you’re close to the top of the line.
Our wait was 2 minutes. We were able to access the site and get tickets for the time we wanted, print them and download them and be on our way by 7:57A. Easy, no?
What to expect when you arrive at the Vessel at Hudson Yards
Don’t show up even 5 minutes early – the day we were the attendant made us wait until the very stroke of our entry time.
If you get there early, there’s plenty to do. You can shop, use the lav (the closest one is one level up from the entry to the Shops and Restaurants – if the line is long, there are others on every floor above you). Have a snack, grab a coffee, or just sit and people-watch. You definitely won’t be bored.
Once your time arrives, you’ll be admitted to a short line that curves around the base of the sculpture. The attendants will check your ticket twice, so keep it handy until you’re inside.
And then you’re in! You can stay as long as you like – there’s no time limit once you’re inside.
The entry level of the sculpture
Don’t be dismayed if your first experience of the Vessel feels really crowded. There’s a smartphone pile-up right at the entry. The reason? People are setting timers to take a snap of the opening at the very top of the sculpture.
I guess it’s fun, but it’s extremely easy to do this on your own, without getting into that queue. Just point your camera or phone skyward, and you’ll get the shot. But it’s a jovial crowd and you’ll probably overhear something that will make you laugh. Your call.
For those who cannot or who do not want to climb to the top (or back down), there’s a sleek funicular elevator available.
Be warned, though: there was a 30-minute wait for the elevator the day we were there. If you’re able to make the climb on the stairs, then all you have to do is pick a route, and go!
The view from halfway up
The sculpture is comprised of 154 interconnecting flights of stairs – that’s almost 2,500 individual steps and 80 landings.
When we heard that the vertical climb was almost one mile up and another mile back down, we wondered how strenuous the experience would be.
The answer? It’s not strenuous at all. If you can walk through a museum in a big city without any real stress, this is going to be exactly the same level of exertion.
Depending on the weather when you go, just bring the right outwear. It’s colder on the Vessel than it is at street level – the wind off the Hudson is wonderful but if you get chilly easily, plan accordingly.
There are so many ways to climb that we were pleasantly surprised that it didn’t feel overwhelmingly crowded, even in the middle of the day.
And if you do get separated from your party, there are numbers on each intersection so that you can easily be found again. Clever, that.
so many selfies, so little time
It’s lovely to just wander, and let your instinct lead you one way or another as you ascend. Of course, people are stopping everywhere to take pictures and selfies.
If that’s your mission, be sure to take pics against a variety of backgrounds – as you’ll see, the photos feel quite different depending on whether you want a water view or a city view behind you.
We waved at a jolly group of construction workers on the roof of The Shed performing arts center. It wasn’t yet open the day we climbed the Vessel. It’s worth noting that there’s a great deal of construction still underway throughout Hudson Yards, so expect lots of noise and activity all around you on ground level.
There are beautiful reflections and shadows around every turn. And the sharp geometric lines and angles of the architecture make for some truly striking views.
Undoubtedly, whole volumes will be written about where to take the best photos and selfies at the Vessel. All we’ll say is, have fun experimenting with that. But at some point, put the phone down and soak in the communal experience.
The top of the sculpture and the view of New York
There are so many different visuals coming at you on the way up that you may wonder if the top of the Vessel is going to deliver as the pièce de résistance. Like, how much better could it be?
Dear reader, it’s definitely worth the climb.
You’ll see the city and the Hudson River in a way that you’re unlikely to have seen them before.
And the excitement and enthusiasm of the people around you is totally infectious. So go ahead: throw your hands up in the air if the spirit moves you.
Our advice is that once you get to the top, circle 180 degrees, and descend on the opposite side from your climb up. The light will be different, as will the views, on the way down.
On your way down
If you’re like us, on your way down you’ll start to notice more nuances and subtleties. You’ll observe that there are little human dramas playing themselves out all around you. Someone is trying to take a really cool photo.
A kindly stranger is helping a couple get a nice photo together. Someone else is lost in reflection. Two friends are out for an adventure. A couple is on a day date.
From this vantage point, you can see that the fine-dining restaurants in the Shops & Restaurants complex are going to be sensational, especially on a warm summer night.
so, what should we call it?
The Vessel is described by those who view it from the outside as a “beehive,” a “honeycomb,” or a basket (the snarkier among us refer to it as the “wastebasket”). When you’re roaming around inside it, though, it feels much less prosaic than any of those things.
We felt that we were on an important mission, accompanied by an incredibly eclectic group of companions. Perhaps it was because nearly everyone we saw that day was extremely happy to be there. For whatever reason, we began to feel that we part of an enormous generator of human energy.
As you know, we believe in the power of circular spaces. As we spent more time in this one, we began to feel like we were both receiving and radiating positive energy. That the entire structure was an engine powered by the people in it, churning up sparks and energy that swirled around us, and then went flying up and away into the city and the sky.
Who knows what this sculpture will ultimately be called? We experienced it as almost like being inside of a turbine. Or a web. A colony, or a hive. A tapestry. An interconnected group of humans. It made us feel optimistic about human potential. Call it whatever you like. Something about this structure manages to capture, channel and amplify the vibrant urgency of Gotham in vertical form.
When you go, you’ll see what we mean.
the bottom line
You can easily climb to the top, circle around and be back down on the ground in about 45 minutes. Making this a perfect add to our Two Hours in New York list. It’s a small investment of time, with a very large payoff in terms of pleasure.
Nice job, Hudson Yards! Now, tell us, dear reader: when are you going to visit?
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