Gulliver’s Gate Review: A Miniature World to Explore in NYC

Gulliver’s Gate Review: A Miniature World to Explore in NYC

Size Does Matter –

Regular readers know that I love miniatures – dollhouses have fascinated me ever since I was a little girl. So when I heard about Gulliver’s Gate opening in New York City, I knew I had to go. If you’re curious about what this world-in-miniature is like, read on for my Gulliver’s Gate review.

About Gulliver’s Gate

The attraction draws its name from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. The classic story features the title character entering fantastical, hidden places. In each of those places, he discovered his expectations challenged and his sense of wonder expanded. Gulliver’s Gate seeks to do the same for its visitors.

The exhibit includes miniature scale models of well-known places from all over the world, and a few fictional worlds. These worlds are connected by train tracks and highways featuring all manners of transportation known to mankind – from horses and elephants to hot air balloons, jet planes and space shuttles. Gulliver’s Gate is done in HO scale, which is 1:87 (1 foot = 3.5 mm). A six-foot tall person would be .8 inches high in the Gulliver’s Gate world.

Gulliver's Gate Review: The Big Attraction with the Tiny World in NYC

Upon arriving at Gulliver’s Gate, you will receive a lanyard with a silver key. The key, they tell you, unlocks some of the special features of this miniature world. All you have to do is look for the kiosk (key-osk? hahaha), insert your key, and turn it.

First stop: New York City

Not surprisingly, New York City is the first stop on your journey through Gulliver’s Gate. It has all the major landmarks: the Empire State Building, Central Park, Staten Island Ferry Building, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, and more. Here is the 9/11 memorial:

Gulliver's Gate Review: The 1:87 miniature depiction of the 9/11 Memorial in NYC.

The miniature version of Grand Central Station is sliced open to allow you to see three levels of transit at the same time – cars, commuter trains, and the subway system, as well as the main concourse.

Gulliver's Gate Review: Visitors are treated to a cross section view inside the miniature Grand Central Station.

Just like the real life city, in Gulliver’s Gate there are so many people – in cars, on the streets, going about their business and seeking fun. And just like the real city, model NYC is pretty big and complex.  It took a team of 16 builders almost a full year to complete!

A Slight Detour Before Crossing the Atlantic

Other areas of the United States represented in Gulliver’s Gate don’t get as much attention as NYC . There is a large display portraying New England in the fall, but I found it to be disappointing, and I wasn’t sure why that area of the US got special attention when no other area did. The bright autumn foliage was too sparse, and the display is inexplicably full of different businesses, including a prominently displayed, overly large Citgo sign. I wondered if there was some corporate sponsorship of Gulliver’s Gate.

Gulliver's Gate Review: New England received a dedicated display, but no other region of the US did.

The section also included a stunning depiction of Niagara Falls. Visitors could have their face projected into the falls by standing in a designated spot off to the side, but I liked it just as it was. The famed Maid of the Mist boat moved around at the base of the falls.

Then on to Europe

I thoroughly enjoyed the Europe section of Gulliver’s Gate, and lingered there longer than any other area. There was just so much to take in!  Countries blended seamlessly together, and iconic landmarks loomed over the tiny European people.

The British Isles

Naturally, I gravitated toward the Britain side of the exhibit first. There was a great Scottish castle, Westminster and the Elizabeth Tower, which houses Big Ben. Buckingham Palace, Stonehenge, and Tower Bridge, featured prominently against a backdrop of the London skyline.

I tried out the key in the Scotland exhibit and the Loch Ness Monster popped up, looked around, then disappeared beneath the waters again. But not before I got her picture!

Gulliver's Gate Review: Turn your key in the Scotland section of the British Isles display, and the Loch Ness Monster will pop up to greet you.

I was absolutely mesmerized by the London display, particularly the long road that led up to Buckingham Palace, flanked my light posts with Union Jack flags hanging from them.

Gulliver's Gate Review: Buckingham Palace in the British Isles display.

Another interactive opportunity arose at the outdoor concert arena.  By turning my key in a particular direction, I could choose who performed on stage. On my first try, I accidentally choose the Beatles.

Gulliver's Gate Review: The Beatles are one of four performers at the outdoor concert venue.

Then I got the one I really wanted: Adele.

Gulliver's Gate Review: Adele is one of four performers you can see on the outdoor stage

Depending on who you choose, the stage will rotate around to show miniature figures of them. The music plays in full audio (not miniaturized squeaky chipmunk tones as you might expect), accompanied by video clips of their performances on the small screen above the stage.

It wasn’t until I began looking through my photos to decide if I needed any more that I noticed something decidedly out of place at the miniature Stonehenge. Can you see it?

Gulliver's Gate Review: Stonehenge at the British Isles Display.

Wait a minute, I thought. Is that what I think it is? No way! I backtracked to the miniature Stonehenge and confirmed that my eyes had not been playing tricks on me.

Gulliver's Gate Review: The TARDIS from Doctor Who is just one of many hidden surprises in the miniature world.

The TARDIS from Doctor Who was right there in the middle of Stonehenge – how funny! Well, needless to say, I had to look for more little surprises like this. I headed off to go through the exhibit a second time.

When I did, I found a few more interesting items in the British Isles section. For instance, Peter Pan stands atop the palace at Westminster. Elsewhere, you will find the Beatles crossing Abbey Road. And back in New York, there is a tightrope walker balancing between the chandeliers in Grand Central Station (it’s in the photo above – see if you can spot her!).

Italy

Italy, like the British Isles, had all of the major landmarks represented. St Mark’s Square in Venice, the Colosseum of Rome, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, even the Cinque Terre for avid travelers.

I took a few pictures, but it wasn’t until my second pass through that I noticed the humorous touch they had added.

Gulliver's Gate Review: Trying to set the Leaning Tower of Pisa straight.

The van is marked Servizio Torri and all of those people are attempting to straighten out the famously leaning tower. This picture was taken at an angle from the side, not from the front where most people would stand and look. In fact, from the front you may only notice the string, but I didn’t.

If you’re looking hard enough, you might spot the Ghostbusters’ car in Italy, too. They must have left it there and flown home, because you can find them on one of the streets in New York, chasing after some ghosts.

France

The Arc de Triomphe was replicated in miniature. You can’t see it in this photo, but the Moulin Rouge is located behind the Arc.

Gulliver's Gate Review: The miniature Arc de Triomphe dominates the French section of the European display.

Off to the left of the Arc is something I didn’t notice until my second pass through. It isn’t funny, but it is one of the excellent details that made touring the exhibit such a joy:

Gulliver's Gate Review: Look to the left of the Arc de Triomphe and you will see the European Giant Pumpkin competition.

Spain

Then there was Spain, and another opportunity to use the key.  When I turned it, Don Quixote came out charging at the windmill as he did in Miguel de Cervantes’ classic story.

Gulliver's Gate Review: Use your key to make Don Quixote charge at the windmill in Spain.

Portugal

In Portugal, this was not a hidden scene, but it certainly was an eye catching one:

Gulliver's Gate Review: Why was there a rhinoceros in Portugal?

Figures dressed in medieval garb, and a rhinoceros wearing a garland of flowers around its neck. The rhinoceros presented a mystery, as I had no frame of reference for this. As it turns out, this is a significant bit of Portuguese history.

India sent the rhino to Portugal in 1515 as a gift. It survived the 120-day sea voyage to Portugal. Unfortunately, once it arrived, it was kept shackled and on display at king Manuel I’s Ribiera Palace. Efforts to make the rhino fight an elephant for entertainment failed (the elephant wasn’t interested, and walked away). Lacking any entertainment value, King Manuel grew tired of the rhino and decided to re-gift it to Pope Leo X, whom he was schmoozing. Unfortunately, the rhinoceros died when the boat carrying him to Rome wrecked.

Yet despite its short life and even shorter time in Portugal, this rhinoceros was the inspiration for a fantastical illustration. Famed Renaissance wood cutter Albrecht Dürer never saw the animal in person, but based on descriptions and a sketch someone else had done, he recreated the rhinoceros. Dürer’s Rhinoceros depicted the animal with hard plates that covered its body like armor – including a gorget around its throat and a breastplate. The armor even appears to have rivets! Despite the fact that Dürer’s rhino was not what an actual rhino looked like, it went on to inspire dozens of paintings and sculptures across Europe.

Gulliver's Gate Review: Find out the origins of Durer's Rhinoceros in the Europe section.
Photo courtesy of the National Gallery of Art via Wikimedia Commons.

So, there you go.  History can pop up and surprise you in the most unusual places!

From there, I wandered along the path and arrived in the Scandinavian section of Europe – a snow covered land of quaint buildings. The Northern Lights make a guest appearance if you stand there long enough.

Gulliver's Gate Review - Look for the Northern Lights when you get to the Scandinavian section of Europe.

I used my key here too, and when I did, Santa Claus and his reindeer flew across the sky.

Gulliver's Gate Review: Use your key to make Santa fly across the northern sky.

Russia

From one frozen landscape to another, Scandinavia seamlessly blended into Russia. I took a lot of photos in the Russian section because there were so many wonderful details. They had a movie theater that was actually showing a movie, a carousel, ice skaters, and so much more.  It was a lot to take in!  But it was here that I got the best photo illustrating the attention to detail in Gulliver’s Gate:

Gulliver's Gate Review: The attention to detail, like the reverse lights on this car being illuminated, is astounding.

The architectural decoration on the house, the dog in the lane, and the illumination of the back up lights on the car – it was just stunning. Elsewhere, I found a pack of sled dogs, which was also a great scene to stumble upon:

Gulliver's Gate Review: Sled dogs resting in the Russian countryside.

And, of course, you couldn’t have Russia without Saint Basil’s Cathedral.

Gulliver's Gate Review: St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.

That was the end of the European section. Next up:

Asia

Full disclosure: I did not spend a lot of time here. I’ve never been to Asia and I’m not particularly interested in exploring that region. However, there were some impressive mini-masterpieces:

 

Gulliver's Gate Review: A celebration outside the Forbidden City in China.
A celebration outside the Forbidden City in China.

 

Gulliver's Gate Review: The Taj Mahal is equally inspiring in miniature.
The Taj Mahal of India

And, for my fellow travel junkies, here’s the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore. I couldn’t get close enough to it to look for the infinity pool on the rooftop. I’m sure it was there, though.

Gulliver's Gate Review: Marina Bay Sands Hotel of Singapore

Latin America

The Latin American section was appropriately full of music and color. In the miniature Rio to Janeiro, it was Carnival season.

Gulliver's Gate Review: It's Carnival time in Rio!

If you turn the key here, the parade kicks off with music and dancing. Just watch the figures on the street:

Miniature Latin America included Machu Picchu, I could not get a good photo of it. What I could see of it was not very impressive. Other Latin America highlights include a volcano that emits steam and looks like it will erupt at any moment.

Middle East

In the Middle East, the highlight was seeing the holy city of Jerusalem, including the Dome of the Rock.

Gulliver's Gate Review: The holy city of Jerusalem, and it's many historically significant religious sites.

Away from the historic center of Jerusalem, I spotted a terrifyingly ugly children’s playground. I was surprised to learn that it is, in fact, a real place called the Monster Playground. Alrighty then. Sweet dreams, kiddos!

Gulliver's Gate Review: Jerusalem's Monster Playground

Airport

The exhibit ends with a massive airport.

Gulliver's Gate Review: The Airport has over 2000 feet of wire underneath it, and uover 2500 miniature figures in the gate building.

Rumor has it that Yoda is in there somewhere, but I was running short on time and didn’t get to explore much.  The airport has 2000 feet of wires running under it and over 2500 miniature figures in the gate building.

My Two Cents

In summary, I think that Gulliver’s Gate is an excellent attraction for families with kids, model train enthusiasts, and travel nuts like me.  It’s extremely well done, the attention to detail is fascinating, and visitors will enjoy discovering the little extras that are hidden in plain sight. Be sure to check it out the next time you’re in New York!

 

Gulliver's Gate Review at Travelasmuch.com

Summary
Gulliver's Gate Review
Article Name
Gulliver's Gate Review
Description
Gulliver's Gate attempts to recreate some of the most famous landmarks in the world on a miniature scale. The question is: do they succeed or fail, and should you go see it the next time you're in New York?
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Travel As Much
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