When you visit Manhattan, the vibrant center of energy and vitality in New York, your first day should include a visit to Grand Central Terminal, the city’s “Crown Jewel.” This famous landmark and transportation hub in Midtown is also a charming and enthralling dining, shopping and cultural center. Offering 60 shops, 35 restaurants and eateries, numerous places of artistic beauty and tales of intrigue, this culturally rich building and icon has been open to the public since February 1913.
In 1978, renowned architect Philip Johnson and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis led a major campaign to protect this valuable structure with landmark status to ensure its long-term survival.
Major Points of Cultural Beauty, Historical Significance and Captivating Intrigue at Grand Central
There are many areas, items and points of major interest within Grand Central Terminal on East 42nd Street in New York, created by the senior architect, Mark Saulnier. At the historic Information Booth with its beloved opal-faced clock, you can get information about all aspects of the history and happenings at Grand Central through the years. When selecting the first areas of the terminal to see and explore, be sure to include the following:
Main Concourse Ceiling
The high vaulted design of the Main Concourse displays a splendid zodiac ceiling with 12 constellations painted in elegant gold leaf and 2,500 stars. Fifty-nine of these stars have LED illumination. According to the terminal’s founder and faithful benefactor, Cornelius Vanderbilt, this zodiac was painted backwards on purpose, since it was to be seen from a divine perspective inside his transportation temple.
Step outside to the corner of Park Avenue and 42nd Street to view the famed Tiffany Clock. Ornate with figures of the Greek Gods to signify virtues of the railroad, this impressive clock is the largest structure of Tiffany glass worldwide, measuring 14 feet in diameter. The gods and virtues represented in its design are Mercury for speed, Hercules for strength, and Minerva for intellect. The 1,500-ton statue reaching 48 feet skyward, “Transportation,” took seven long years to complete.
Next to the terminal’s highly acclaimed Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant, there are low ceramic arches displaying Guastavino tiling that creates the setting for experiencing a rare acoustical phenomenon. You can actually converse or share secrets with a friend in the opposite corner of this area. Just put your heads in opposing corners and try it for yourself. Your deepest secrets will shout out from the corners.
The Many Curious and Intriguing Secrets About Grand Central Terminal
It is easy to forget that, although an estimated 750,000 people pass through Grand Central Terminal every day, most of this 49-acre building of the Beaux-Arts style has always been off-limits for public access. As a result, there are many curious and intriguing secrets associated with this colorful, historic structure, including the following:
Hidden Love Letters
There are hidden love letters to be found in the Celestial Ceiling of the terminal’s Main Concourse. Artists repainted this ceiling in the 1940s after cumulative damage from tarnishing and water leakage. During the repainting, a very small rectangular space was left unfinished, exposing the original ceiling. The artisans also revised the mural slightly to include little love notes from the artists.
Indoor Ski Slope
There once was a ski slope to be found on the third, fourth and fifth floors of the terminal where the tennis courts are now located. Created by a Hungarian entrepreneur in the 1960s, this slope was 60 feet long and constructed out of compounded nylon. President Donald Trump, then the real estate mogul, had some of this space converted into two tennis courts (one and a half, to be exact) so his guests next door at the Grand Hyatt Hotel could play tennis.
Interior Tiffany Clock Tours
Believe it or not, it is possible to visit the inside of the Tiffany Clock. However, doing so requires more than a little scheming and finesse. Getting inside this monumental work of art requires security clearance. Then, you must locate and enter a secret door that is situated in the Operations Control Center and closely guarded. Next, you must access and successfully climb two precarious ladders to arrive inside the clock. Traditionally, anyone who succeeds in getting inside etches his or her name in the wall.
Attractive Restaurants and Eateries in Grand Central
Attractive and delicious restaurants and eateries are conveniently located in Grand Central Terminal for your enjoyment. Sample the delicious meals in the acclaimed Oyster Bar, then stop in a few of the friendly eateries on the lower level, like Magnolia Bakery, Hale & Hearty Soups and Shake Shack.
Shops to Visit in Grand Central Terminal
Take time to stroll through the many popular shops in the terminal, such as the Apple Store, Vineyard Vines and M.A.C. Cosmetics. Whether your fancy of the moment is the latest iPhone, a good bottle of wine or some bright new shades in cosmetics, you can find everything you need or desire here.
Come Meet Us at the Clock
The well-known commuting New Yorker’s phrase “Meet me at the clock in Grand Central” is alive and thriving throughout the city and beyond today. This famous opal-faced clock at the historic terminal information booth has been a commonly shared meeting place since the terminal was first opened. Now, it’s your turn. Come meet the energetic joy, excitement, beauty and heartbeat of the city at this celebrated terminal clock and gathering point. Join one and all in the ongoing celebration of Manhattan’s major Midtown attraction — Grand Central Terminal, truly the city’s “Crown Jewel.”