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Moonstruck: How NYC Is Reliving the Wonder of Apollo 11

Even as a child, I considered sleep to be the most precious commodity on Earth—more valuable than gold, diamonds or Topps baseball cards. So, as a 9-year-old boy blissfully lost to the dreamworld in my New Jersey bedroom, I was more than a little annoyed—not to mention perplexed—when my parents shook me awake around 10 pm on July 20, 1969, turned on our very small black-and-white television, and insisted I focus on some previously unthinkable event happening far, far, far away.

Of course, 50 years later, like many Americans, I vividly remember the thrill of watching Neil Armstrong plant his feet on the surface of the moon and utter those now immortal words: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” It was the beginning of a new era in America, not only of space exploration, but of possibilities for a brighter future.

Unsurprisingly, there are a huge variety of ways to celebrate, commemorate and honor this milestone throughout New York City. Here are 11 suggestions that are sure to “land” with you and your family.

Neil Armstrong, NASA Apollo 11, “Buzz Aldrin Walking on the Surface of the Moon Near a Leg of the Lunar Module,” 1969, printed later (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2017)

Picture Perfect

Leave it to the august Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Ave., 212.535.7710) to create “Apollo’s Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography,” a must-see exhibition of more than 250 photographs and drawings related to the moon and space—some dating as far back as the 1500s, others showing moments from that historic 1969 mission. All of them will definitely fascinate viewers of all ages.

Join the Space Race

The American Museum of Natural History (Central Park West, at W. 79th St., 212.769.5100) marks the occasion on July 20 with “SpaceFest,” a day of family-friendly presentations, performances and hands-on activities about the wonders of the moon, Mars and beyond. And whether you’re there that day—or simply have to visit another time—make sure to stop by the museum’s world-famous Hayden Planetarium for a look at its extraordinary 25-minute “Dark Universe” space show.

Installation of vintage televisions showing archived news media relating to the Apollo 11 moon landing (Christine Butler)

Intrepid Goings-On

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum (Pier 86, 12th Ave., at W. 46th St., 212.245.0072) is going all-out; there is a special pop-up installation, the “Giant Leaps Planetarium Show” and a special night of comedy all set for July 20. Meanwhile, all summer long, you can take in “Apollo 11: Media, the Moon and Beyond,” an imaginative installation of archived news media displayed on vintage televisions, located beneath the Intrepid’s space shuttle! 

Pierre Cardin, “Cardine” dress, 1968 (Courtesy Archives Pierre Cardin, ©Archives Pierre Cardin)

Dress to Impress

In the 1960s and 1970s, no one was on the cutting edge of fashion more than the great French couturier Pierre Cardin. Fittingly, “Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion,” an exciting new exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, 718.638.5000), presents over 170 objects drawn from his atelier and archives, including clothing, furniture, lighting, fashion sketches, personal photographs and more, all displayed in an environment inspired by Cardin’s unique design sense. Oh là là!

Up, Up and Away!

One consequence of the moon landing was that every kid wanted to become an astronaut, and that’s just as true today. In “Above and Beyond,” at the New York Hall of Science (47-01 111th St., Queens, 718.699.0005), visitors can immerse themselves in the wonders of flight, space travel and aerospace innovation. Among the highlights are the chance to step into a simulated space elevator that travels to the edge of the universe and the opportunity to design and test a supersonic fighter jet in a virtual high-speed flying competition.


Apollo 11 Lunar Module Timeline Book (Christie’s Images Ltd. 2019)

Time for the Timeline

There is no more important document related to the moon landing than the Apollo 11 Lunar Module Timeline Book, a manual which was created for the express purpose of accomplishing this once-unimaginable feat, and which sat between Armstrong and fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin as they made that historic touchdown. Christie’s New York (20 Rockefeller Plz., 212.636.2000) auctions this remarkable item on July 18 (with public viewings available from July 11 to 17). The book’s presale estimate is between $7 million and $9 million.

Take a Leap

Talk about special events: “One Giant Leap: The Apollo 11 Moon Landing, 50 Years On,” to be held on July 21 at The Town Hall (123 W. 43rd St., 212.997.6661), begins with remarks by New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet; continues with a reading of a new short play by Tony Award winner J. T. Rogers and featuring Samuel L. Jackson and Jeff Daniels; and concludes with a discussion with NASA veterans of the Apollo missions, including Apollo 11 pilot Michael Collins. The evening is then augmented by a postshow interactive VR experience that brings the audience one step closer to one of the most iconic moments in history.

Do Not Pass “Go”

There are other ways to get to Carnegie Hall (Seventh Ave., at W. 57th St., 212.247.7800) than practice, practice, practice. For example, you can buy a ticket to historian John Monsky’s “We Chose to Go to the Moon” on July 20. This multimedia presentation features stunning photography and film from NASA, along with performances of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” Elton John’s “Rocket Man” and Bart Howard’s “Fly Me to the Moon” by a 30-piece orchestra and a cast of Broadway singers.

RJ ARRAW 6919 watch (Courtesy RJ)

Watch What Happens

Here’s a trivia question: What was the first watch worn on the moon? The answer: The Omega Speedmaster, a then state-of-the-art chronograph. Now, Omega has released a Limited Edition Speedmaster with an exclusive new 18-karat gold alloy and which is powered by a brand-new manual-winding Master Chronometer caliber 3861. In addition, Sotheby’s New York (1334 York Ave., 212.606.7000) hosts an auction of vintage Omega Speedmasters on July 19 (to be followed on July 20 with a “Space Exploration” auction). Finally, should the Omega simply not be your speed, consider purchasing Swiss watchmaker RJ’s new ARRAW 6919 timepiece, which is made with authentic material sourced from the original Apollo 11 spacecraft and featuring a patented Moon movement. 

Montblanc StarWalker Collection (Courtesy Montblanc)

The Write Stuff

If you’re looking for a permanent way to mark this occasion, consider purchasing one of Montblanc’s new writing instruments from its just-introduced StarWalker collection (600 Madison Ave., 212.223.8888). These ballpoint and fountain pens pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing through the use of black precious resin (which recalls the dark vast expanse of space), a translucent dome (that evokes the Earth rising above the horizon) and a polished platinum cap and barrel (which represent the astronaut). They’re perfect for writing a journal entry on July 20—or any other day!

Life is Looking Up

Last, but not least, you can simply step outside and gaze at the moon. But if you want to do it right, join the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York (aaa.org), which hosts public viewings of the night sky at various locations around town, including The High Line and Lincoln Center. And don’t worry if you don’t own a telescope or binoculars as the group’s members bring their own and will allow you to use theirs (and even encourage you to ask questions if you do want to eventually purchase your own equipment).ust Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Ave., 212.535.7710) to create “Apollo’s Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography,” a must-see exhibition of more than 250 photographs and drawings related to the moon and space—some dating as far back as the 1500s, others showing moments from that historic 1969 mission. All of them will definitely fascinate viewers of all ages.