In October of 2015 we able to take our first trip to New York City and finally see Rockefeller Center and Plaza, as well as the Skating Rink. It was a little too early for the Christmas tree, but it was still incredible. What I didn’t realize was how large the area is. It is located in the center of Midtown Manhattan, spanning the area between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue, and is a complex of 19 commercial buildings covering 22 acres. I also didn’t know that it was declared a New York City Landmark on April 23, 1985, and a National Historic Landmark on December 23, 1987.
Before I get a little into the history of what I heard some of the locals call Rock Center, I have to say this place is amazing. As you walk up to the area the first thing I noticed was all the flags. There are some 200 flagpoles that line the plaza at street level. These flagpoles around the plaza display flags of United Nations member countries, the U.S. states, and territories or decorative and seasonal motifs. During national and state holidays, every pole carries the flag of the United States. It was a great sight to see as you walk up. It was great to see such diversity.
After walking further into the plaza, you can’t help but notice Paul Manship’s highly recognizable bronze-gilded statue. The statue represents the Greek legend of the Titan Prometheus recumbent, bringing fire to mankind, and like I said it is featured prominently in the sunken plaza at the front of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The model for Prometheus was Leonardo (Leon) Nole, and the inscription, a paraphrase from Aeschylus, on the granite wall behind, reads: “Prometheus, teacher in every art, brought the fire that hath proved to mortals a means to mighty ends.” I also read that some sources cite it as the fourth-most familiar statue in the United States, behind the Lincoln Memorial, Mount Rushmore, and the Statue of Liberty. It was definitely impressive.
The main thing I wanted to see was the skating rink. This was the thing that my sister wants to see the most in New York. Apparently, this World Famous rink was first opened on Christmas Day in 1936. It can accommodate approximately 150 skaters at a time and the rink is 122 feet long and 59 feet wide. We stopped and took a bunch of pictures and just watched the people coming and going. It was quite an experience, but we never did go ice skating. Maybe next time we are in New York. There was just too much to see and do on our first trip to this amazing city. Here is a link with more information if you are interested in skating at Rockefeller Center.
I also liked the plaque/memorial at the entrance to the plaza dedicated to John D Rockefeller. He is the founder of Rockefeller Center who leased the space from Columbia University in 1928 and developed it beginning in 1930. It was the largest private building project ever undertaken in modern times. Construction of the 14 buildings in the Art Deco style began on May 17, 1930, and the buildings were completed and opened in 1939.
Today Rockefeller Center is a combination of two building complexes: the older and original 14 Art Deco office buildings from the 1930s, and a set of four International-style towers built along the west side of Avenue of the Americas during the 1960s and 1970s. The Time-Life Building, McGraw-Hill, and News Corporation/Fox News Channel, headquarters are now also part of the Rockefeller Center.
Rockefeller Center contains a series of shops, and restaurants with an under-ground pedestrian passage that stretches from 47th Street to 51st Street, and from Fifth Avenue to Seventh Avenue. Access is via lobby stairways in the six landmark buildings, through restaurants surrounding the Concourse-level skating rink, and elevators to the north and south of the rink. There is also a connection to the New York City Subway via the western concourse. It was definitely a beehive of activity, but I loved it 🙂
We actually spent the majority of the day running around the area with a former customer of the company I used to work for in CA, and had a great time. While we were at Rockefeller Center it was lunchtime so we headed down into the restaurant area and had a nice lunch. It was quite busy but we were very lucky to be able to find a table with a window overlooking the rink. We were able to watch people skate as we were eating lunch. Just thought that was a cool thing to do. Regrettably, we didn’t have as much time at Rockefeller Center as we would like, but it only increases our resolve to make it back to New York as soon as possible. Make sure to plan some time here when visiting Midtown. Here is a website with more information about the center if you are planning your own visit. Happy travels.
Rockefeller Center Visitor Information
B D F M TRAINS:
Take the B, D, F, or M train to the 47th-50th Street Rockefeller Center stop.
Take the 1 train to the 50th Street stop and walk east on 50th Street to Rockefeller Center between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.
Take the 6 train to the 51st Street stop and walk west on 50th Street to Rockefeller Center between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.
N Q R TRAINS:
Take the N, Q, or R train to the 49th Street stop and walk east on 49th Street to Rockefeller Center between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.
Fifth Avenue (going south) or Madison Avenue (going north):
Take the M1, M2, M3, M4 or M5 bus to 50th Street. Buses run north and south.
Take the M7 bus. Exit at 50th Street and walk east to Rockefeller Center. Buses run north and south.
From 49th and 50th streets:
Take the M50 bus. Exit between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue. Buses run east and west.
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