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Ice Skating at Rockefeller Center
New York in the winter is the best. Especially when you get a chance to ice skate at Rockefeller Center. The annual Christmas tree is always a sight to see. We made this trip last year, enjoyed skating, shopping and dining in all the great restaurants.
Peacocks can be very expensive
A visit to this Great Depression center of commerce and communication can be quite expensive but there are also a few most worthwhile things worth your attention at no cost. The 22-acre Rockefeller Center is more than the setting for NBC's Today Shows, where lines often begin to appear by 6am, and a giant Christmas tree in December. If you are near the end of your stay and find that you meant to spend more than you have, you can always shell out $24 for a tour of the NBC studios and offices or $27 for a trip to the observatory deck. (It seems that there is absolutely no way to get high in New York without breaking the bank.) Do stop by to see the slew of art commissioned under the very wordy theme of "Man at the Crossroads Looks Uncertainly But Hopefully at the Future." Although the theme is wordy the pieces pack a big punch, such as the statue of Prometheus overlooking the skating rink, or Atlas holding the world at 630 Fifth Ave. Jose Maria Sert's murals in the GE Building use the likes of Abe Lincoln to replace the original "communist imagery" of Vladimir Lenin and others of his ilk.
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Have Lunch or play the latest video games
Always heard about Rockefeller Center on TV. David Letterman? or a special. Then, there is the iconic winter skating at the center. So, we made a short side trip to stop by. We were between meals and looking for the Nintendo store. It's rumoured to have the earliest release and free trials of the newest games.
Found Nintendo (south off the sunken plaza). Yes, they did have games that were pending release at the time. Be wary as the average age is under 20. The lines weren't too long. There is a parents waiting area with reasonably comfortable seats.
The buildings and open spaces are covered or filled with art. You could spend a day, just checking out the carved reliefs, paintings and sculptures.
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You surely must go to Rockfeller Center.
Why? Well... because it is there, it was made expressly to take you there, it represents well the best in New York (harmony in XXXXL size), because it has lights and decorations, because it has shops, and ice to skate in winter, Radio City Music Hall, and...
Enough! Everybody goes, so, what are you waiting for?
I Think I Know Why Jay Z is Always Shouting Out to
..but seriously, Rockefeller was a good time. It houses the NBC studio's, so you can take a tour of the studios of some of the NBC programs you may watch. I got to see Dr. Oz's studio (Used to be Late Night with Conan Obrien!), that one guy from SNL's late night show studio, and SNL doing dress rehearsal. We caught them in the middle of rehearsing zach galifianakis' monologue. He even gave us a friendly wave. What a gentleman.
If you like spending loads of cash on expensive items, there's an entire mall on the ground floor with all sorts of high-end boutiques.
And last, but definitely not least, there is the Top of the Rock, an amazing view of Central Park and Manhattan from the roof. We bought tickets in advance and avoided a lot of the line. But it wasn't any sort of wait like I'd imagine you would have for the Empire State Building. And guess what! We had an amazing view of the Empire State Building from atop Rockefeller. Try and get a time slot right before sunset. That way you can see the skyline in the daylight and night time all in the same visit.
Watch out for the other tourists. A lot of them were pretty rude, clueless, and no respect for personal space.
Built by the Rockefeller Family, ROCKEFELLER CENTER is a complex of 19 commercial buildings covering 22 acres between 48th and 51st Streets. Radio City Music Hall and the GE Building, the centerpiece of the complex with 70 Floors.
In the center of it is a huge people place Plaza with about 200 Flags lining the Plaza. In the winter it is a skating ring and in the summer, it is a dining area.
There is an underground concourse with dozens of shops and restaurants including a Starbucks and a Manchu Wok where Hans and I had lunch.
The center boasts many pieces of art, including the bronze gilded statue of the Greek Legend of the Titan Prometheus.
Proposals on ice?
(work in progress)
All of my trips to New York have either been in spring or autumn, which is a bit of a pity, as it seems that New York is a city that assumes an entirely different (and very interesting) winter persona.
My last trip was in early October, when preparations were underway at the open air ice rink at the Rockefeller Centre. Open air skating in New York is one of those impossibly romantic staples of Hollywood movies, and even though I'm a terrible skater, it's something that I'd dearly love to experience.
The skating season opens in mid October and continues through to April (see the website below for more details). The rates at the time of writing were $20 for an adult and $12 for children (under 11) and seniors, plus an additional $10 for skate rental. Substantially discounted rates for groups booking in advance are available, and it's also possible to book skating lessons. There are also several cafes and restaurants to which you can retire to thaw out and/or catch your breath.
On the subject of romance, I was gobsmacked to discover that the website features an 'engagement-on-ice' option, designed to "make your proposal truly special and seamless" (!). This includes (and I quote):
* VIP admission passes
* five minutes exclusive ice time after your skating session for the proposal
* playing your favourite song during your proposal "victory lap" after she/he says "yes"
* you may provide a bouquet of flowers, and we will present them to your fiancee/fiance after she/he says "yes"
* celebrate with a champage toast at the Rock Center Cafe."
Frankly I struggle to think of a scenario more cringeworthy, as overtly public proposals make my toes want to curl with embarrassment for all concerned (including myself), and I will concede that it is so absolutely over the top that it does have its own cheesy charm if you're into that sort of thing.
For those contemplating this intriguing opportunity, may I caution you that at a cost of between $225 and $300 (dependent on time of year), you would be well advised to be fairly sure of the answer, I can see no mention of a 'money back' clause should the answer be, "No"!
Glorious autumnal colour at the Rockefeller Centre
(work in progress
In bad weather, New York unrelenting built up areas can seem depressingly grey, so on a dull and rainy fall day, it was a welcome surprise to turn a corner and be confronted by this extravangant display of autumnal gorgeousness.
It's easy to dismiss chrysanthemums as the mainstay of cheap bouquets bought at service station forecourts by the apologetic and the penitent, but massed in this fashion, they certainly make for a spectacular show.
Prometheus, at Rockefeller Center
“Prometheus, teacher in every art, brought the fire that hath proved to mortals a means to mighty ends.”
— Aeschylus (525-456 BC)
These words are chiseled in granite behind the Greek god Prometheus.
The focal point of the sunken plaza that stretches between 30 Rockefeller Plaza (30 Rock) and the Channel Gardens, this gilded bronze sculpture is the work of Paul Manship (1885-1966).
Prometheus stole fire from the gods to give it to man; and Manship brought the mighty Titan to life through the model Leonardo Nole, a U.S. postal worker and native of New Rochelle, NY.
Prometheus watches over the Rockefeller Center Skating Rink in winter and dining al fresco in summer.
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Top of the Rock
You can’t visit New York without going up one at least of its skyscrapers, and to my mind this, the tallest of the Rockefeller Center’s many buildings, is the best of them. The Empire State Building may be higher, and perhaps more famous, but there are two disadvantages to ascending that rather than 30 Rockefeller Plaza (to give this its proper name). Firstly, when you’re on the Empire State Building you can’t see the Empire State Building! Secondly, the queues for that are notoriously long, even if you’ve booked in advance, whereas when we visited the Top of the Rock (admittedly arriving as it opened at 8.00 AM) we walked straight up to the counter to pay, and then into the first lift. This takes you to a mezzanine level with an exhibition about the history of the building. As part of this you’ll be invited to sit on a steel beam with a photo behind of the New York skyline. This is a bit of a “tourist trap” moment, as later you’ll be offered the opportunity to buy the photo, which now looks as if you recreated the famous image of builders perched on such a beam high above the city. But we gave that a miss, and headed straight into a second lift that whisked us up to the top.
Talking of the lift, the ride up is part of the experience, with lights and images projected onto its ceiling. This is your first glimpse of the stylish makeover that the Top of the Rock has recently undergone. The upper floors reflect the same style, with ultra-modern features (including a fascinating light installation) that somehow complement very well the Art Deco style of the building itself.
There are various ticket options here. We chose the Sunrise and Sunset ticket, which allows you to make two visits on the same or consecutive days. Why would you want to do that? Well, check out my day and night photos (the latter are in my Nightlife tip) and I think you’ll agree it is worth it! Our first visit, quite early on a sunny day, gave us pretty clear views of Manhattan, though inevitably there was some haze from pollution, and the low sun probably added to that, while also making the photos more atmospheric. On this first visit we stayed about an hour and a half, with the sun gradually getting warmer and the roof top busier, though never too crowded. Part of the lowest terrace was shut for a fashion shoot but as there are three altogether it didn’t inhibit our enjoyment (and in fact added to Chris’s, I rather suspect LOL). Of the three terraces, the 67th and 69th floors are partly indoor, but include outdoor terraces with transparent safety glass. The 70th floor, the uppermost level, provides a completely open air, unobstructed 360-degree view. Not the best place for those nervous of heights, and a bit windy, but great for photos.
Later the same day (about 6.00 PM) we returned for our second visit, which I’ve described under Nightlife, as in my opinion it’s one of the best possible ways to appreciate this city after dark.
Top of the Rock is open from 8.00 AM to midnight, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The first lift is at 8.00 AM and the last at 11.00 PM (though times vary on holidays). There’s no time limit as to how long you can stay on the observation decks.
It’s open year round, regardless of weather, though the open-air parts of the roof may be closed.
There are no restaurant facilities at the top. This is a deliberate decision by the management intended to help keep the observation decks clean and litter free (you’re not allowed to bring your own food and drink either) but we would have welcomed a chance for a cup of coffee at least after our early start that morning.
You can buy a leaflet for $2 which points out all the buildings and other sights you can see from the top – and some you can’t see, like London!
Visiting in September 2008 we paid $30 each for our double visit ticket (a single visit would have cost $20). There are of course various concessions, and also a number of combination tickets (e.g. Top of the Rock and a Circle Line tour, or Top of the Rock and MOMA (the Museum of Modern Art).
A heady dose of art deco
If you're a fan of art deco, you'll be inspired by what Rockefeller Center has to offer - loads of free public art deco works by various artists. The main building itself and the centerpiece of this 22-acre development, GE Building or commonly known as 30 Rock, was designed along art deco lines.
Some of the most magnificent friezes are found on the facade of the GE Building facing the ice skating rink. Of course, from the movies, we all recognize the statue of Prometheus overlooking the ice skating rink itself. Perhaps because of this over familiarity that it was a bit anti-climactic to see the statue in reality: it looked smaller than how it appears in the movies!
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From the riches of oil trade...
The Rockefellers built their empire primarily on oil trading, and wealth from this lucrative business gave rise to Rockefeller Center. The property development covers 8.9 hectares (22 acres), upon which 22 buildings were built including Radio City Hall and the GE Building.
A visit to the Rockefeller Center is like being in the set of several movies that were shot there, like Home Alone 2, or Money Train. But what could be a larger-than-life scene in the movies could turn out to be a "disappointment" in reality. Seriously, the ice skating rink looks larger in the movies than in reality! I was a tad bit disappointed.
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My favourite observation deck in New York is definately Top ofthe Rock. One of the best things about the observation deck here is the view of the Empire State Building. The view of Central Park is also pretty spectacular. Also, don´t miss the chance to see the NBC studios and you amy even be lucky enough to see a star or even grab some tickets to the shows.
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See, Shop, Eat, Skate....
Rockefeller Center is actually a complex of commercial buildings between 48th and 51st Streets (between 5th and 7th Avenues). It's best known for its famous Christmas tree, outdoor cafe and ice skating rink, Radio City Music Hall, lots of shopping, NBC Stuidos tour, and Top of the Rock Observation Deck for views of NY.
A great place to spend a few hours any time of the year, but most special in the winter while the Christmas tree is there and you can watch (or join) the ice skaters.
Shop at stores such as Metropolitan Museum of Art shop, Legos, etc.
Visit Top of The Rock for great views of NY...(www.topoftherocknyc.com) or take the Rockefeller Center Tour .
Take the NBC Studios Tour and see the studios of Saturday Night Live, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Today Show, Dateline, etc. Check the website for hours, ticket prices, etc. (http://www.nbcstudiotour.com/)
Tour Radio City Music Hall, see a concert or the Christmas show with the famous Rockettes. (www.radiocity.com/)
A golden statue of Prometheus watches over the ice skating rink. Rink opens in October. (http://www.rockefellercenter.com/tour-and-explore/the-ice-skating-rink/)
This is also the location for the Today Show's broadcasts and (very popular) summer concert series.
If you're not from the US look for your flag. At street level, the plaza has about 200 flagpoles. At varying intervals, the flags of United Nations member countries, the flags of United States states and territories, or various decorative and seasonal flags are flown; during U.S. holidays, every flagpole carries the Flag of the United States.
Very crowded during the Christmas holidays, very, very crowded during the tree lighting ceremony! Still a great time to go and soak up some holiday spirit!
Art Deco delight
Many people visit the Rockefeller Center in order to experience the view from the “Top of the Rock” (covered in a separate tip), but while this is stupendous, it’s by no means the only reason to come here. Indeed, the building you ascend for that view, known as the GE Building or 30 Rock (its postal address is no. 30 Rockefeller Plaza), is only one of several in the complex that is the Rockefeller Center. And many people come here not to go up, but down – beneath ground level are several floors of shops, ranging from smart clothes shops to newsstands, gift shops to book stores. There are also (apparently) over 40 places to eat in the complex, from Burger King and Starbucks to smart brasseries and the famous Rainbow Room.
Another star attraction is the famous Radio City Music Hall, and a guided tour of the complex will take you inside this venerable institution. Having done a tour on our previous visit to New York however, we didn’t bother on this occasion, but if you haven’t been before I do recommend it.
Instead, we enjoyed spending some time walking around the Rockefeller Plaza and the immediate surroundings, taking lots of photographs. If like me you’re a fan of the Art Deco style, you’ll love all the detailing on the buildings – ornamented doors, elaborate signs and numbers, and lots of art work from the period. The sculpture of Wisdom by Lee Lawrie, in photo 2, adorns the main entrance of no. 30 Rockefeller Plaza (the tall skyscraper at the heart of the complex), and the door in my 4th photo is of no. 620 Fifth Avenue, and depicts various trades and industries. At the heart of the complex is the sunken area which in winter is flooded and frozen to be used as a skating rink. For the rest of the year it’s a stylish outdoor café, still closed when we visited quite early on a Sunday morning. Dominating this space is a striking golden sculpture of the Greek Titan Prometheus, bringing fire to mankind, as seen in my main photo. The inscription on the wall behind the statue reads: "Prometheus, teacher in every art, brought the fire that hath proved to mortals a means to mighty ends."
Between this area and Fifth Avenue is a small terraced garden, the Channel Gardens, which was bright with cheerful marigolds on our visit (photo 5). This is a lovely space in which to pause for a rest if you’re exploring Fifth Avenue and feel the need to sit for a while. This to me, as much as Times Square or Central Park, feels like the real heart of New York.
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