But as I turned onto 44th street today, I discovered a place where I became the giant, gazing down upon thousands of tiny people, towns, cities, and countries. It was Gulliver’s Gate, a new gigantic mini-model tourist attraction in Times Square.
I have always enjoyed model train set-ups, most recently the amazing holiday train display that was embedded into the plant life of the New York Botanical Garden last year. But as fun as it is to watch the trains speed by on the tracks, I find myself more attracted to the little worlds built around them - the tiny displays of houses, cars, trees, and people. At Gulliver’s Gate, those worlds are the main attraction, and there are more of them there than I have ever seen in my life. This is surely the largest miniature model display in the world, as the space takes up an entire city block with 100,000 tiny people populating major modeled sections of the world, including Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, as well as extensive representations of parts of New York City and seaside New England.
Apparently the creators of this massive miniature world were inspired by the far smaller, yet still impressive Miniatur Wonderland in Hamburg, Germany that has been popular for years. This being New York, of course, the size of Gulliver’s Gate had to far surpass that, and I’m quite sure that it does.
The level of detail seems unsurpassable as well. There are not just miniature people placed all around, but they are also involved in little happy or dramatic scenes, so to speak. They are having picnics, but they are also involved in car accidents and arguments. Tiny people are living their tiny lives as we giants peer at them from above and take our pictures. There are also trains, subways, cars, boats, trams, and balloons, a good deal of them moving right along their way. The landscape is minutely and realistically detailed depicting all the seasons as the tiny people bathe, ski, pick apples, watch movies and plant farms. The activities these little people engage in, as in our own world, are endless.
A fascinating element of Gulliver’s Gate is the transparency into the workings of all the various worlds. As I walked around, there were technicians that would sometimes (Gulliver-like) pop their heads up to tinker with a broken cable or vehicle that had stopped moving. Several of these giants were working on fixing the Panama Canal locks while I was there. You could also watch the computerized control room where all the technology in the worlds is coordinated - very Westworld.
Until Gulliver’s Gate, the most impressive model of Manhattan in my opinion was the Panorama of the City of New York, located at the Queens Museum. This is a giant pale colored, stage-sized model of New York that was built for the 1964 World’s Fair. I still think that it’s worth a look, as it has a different “old future” feel about it.
Lastly, a nice touch at Gulliver’s Gate was the metal key I was given when I entered. Looking like an old fashioned “Ghost Key” used in that old magic trick, I could insert the key into a lighted box at various points in order to trigger an animated scene of some sort, like a merry-go-round, or people skiing down a mountain. Alas, I could not get the the Gulliver’s Gate key to work for the Ghost Key trick (the weight on the front end is not evenly distributed), but it is still a fine souvenir.