Welcome to the ‘city within a city’ – Rockefeller Center. The project started with the intention to build a new opera for the Metropolitan Opera but was changed due to the drop out of the Metropolitan after the stock market crash in 1929. John D. Rockefeller Jr. stated “It was clear that there were only two courses open to me. One was to abandon the entire development. The other one to go forward with it in the definite knowledge that I myself would have to build it and finance it alone.” Thank god he chose the second option.
But those mundane facts give no hint of the excitement to be found within those boundaries. Built on top of underground corridors, known as ”the catacombs” which stretch from 47th Street to 51st Street, the area is home to restaurants, shops, NBC Studios, a skating rink and much more.
Take a stroll around the plaza and watch the ice skaters, or join in! From the plaza level (the rink is sunken) above the skaters you can see the giant, prone Prometheus sculpture.
Above the gilded Prometheus – bringing fire to mankind – is the massive 70-story RCA (now General Electric) tower, housing the Rainbow Room and the observation deck. The Rainbow Room is on the 65th floor and makes for a memorable meal to accompany unforgettable Art Deco décor.
The observation deck, Top of the Rock, has re-opened after a 20-year closure in 2005 and the view is simply breathtaking. On the 20 foot wide viewing area people have the chance to enjoy a 360 degree view of New York City.
The deck sits on top of the famous Raymond Hood designed RCA Building which is now named GE Building due to the acquisition of RCA by General Electrics. Home to the well-known, and still going strong, Radio Corporation of America, the tower is an architectural landmark. It is also well known for the famous picture of workers lunching on a steel beam without harnesses taken by Charles C. Ebbets in 1932.
Should you be visiting during the Christmas holiday period, you can watch the lighting of the 50 foot (or more) Christmas tree here. Don’t forget to walk around and spend some time taking in the sights, including the huge Atlas statue bearing a ringed world on his shoulders.
Shops line several of the ground level buildings, including the popular Nikon House which attracts photographers from all over the world. All around are ample opportunities to find things and people worth snapping, as well. This part of the complex is heavily frequented.
But the shops and restaurants don’t stop at ground level. In the Underground Concourse fast food and other dining, clothing boutiques, card stores and a blizzard of other stores can be found. For those who missed it uptown, the Metropolitan Museum has a store in the complex as well.
Due to the nearby subway entrances running through the concourse, travel to and from the Center is easy from any part of the city.