Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal was opened on February 2, 1913, with its very first train leaving at 12:20 p.m. Many people still call the terminal Grand Central Station, as this was the name of the previous railway station that occupied the same spot. Others refer to it simply as Grand Central, which is the name of the subway station on 42nd Street. Grand Central Terminal is the largest train station in the world and it is certainly worth marking in your itinerary when visiting New York. It consists of an impressive 44 platforms and 67 tracks in addition to a number of restaurants. Most people though come to see the Main Concourse in all its grandeur – and it surely is splendid! Grand Central Terminal is open daily from 5:30 a.m. until 2:00 a.m. and is located on East 42nd Street and Park Avenue. You can take subway lines 4,5,6,7 or S to Grand Central (42nd Street).
Grand Central Commuters and Extensive Renovations
When the current building was erected, the surrounding streets were also provided with electricity, making it one of the most desirable districts for commercial offices. When inside the building, an eye catcher is the large American flag, hung a few days after 9/11. However, perhaps the most notable and well known icon of Grand Central is the four-faced clock atop the information booth. With each face made of opal, the grand clock is estimated to be worth anywhere between US$10 million and $20 million. Each day over 750,000 people travel through the station of which 93% of those commuting are college graduates. With that many people making use of the station, it is surprising to see the station in pristine condition today. This wasn’t always the case, as extensive renovations of both the interior and the exterior have helped save the building.
Grand Central Tour
If you want to know all the ins and outs of this beautiful station, you should definitely book a tour. The official Grand Central walking tour, led by trained guides, will bring you to all the special spots. You’ll pass by the East Staircase, the Sky Ceiling and the famous clock in the heart of the central hall.
Shops and Restaurants in Grand Central
For a long time now, Grand Central is not only known for being a transportation hub. These days, there is a diverse range of shops, restaurants and even a food market within the terminal. For your Apple products you can head to the Apple Store that looks out over the Main Concourse. To get to the store, take the stairs to the East Balcony. On the ground floor, there’s Grand Central Market. A market offering locally produced goods, such as fruit, coffee and bread. If you prefer your food made for you, the Great Northern Food Hall is perfect! This food market, located in the Vanderbilt Hall, has a wide variety of stalls offering dishes hailing from Scandinavia.
Surprises in the Station
When visiting Grand Central, be sure to look up at the ceiling. After 12 years of restorations, a beautiful decorated astronomical ceiling was revealed to the public – something which was completely hidden beforehand by tar and nicotine from tobacco smoke. A little patch above the Michael Jordan Steakhouse has been left to remind visitors of the grime that once covered the ceiling. The painting itself, however, has two rather large errors: the sky is backwards and the stars themselves a little displaced. To account for this, some have argued that the sky is backwards because this is how God would have viewed it from above. The stars themselves are slightly misplaced due to the design being based on a mediaeval manuscript. Be sure to tell this fact to your children when visiting Grand Central, it’ll surely impress them.
Another thing that will impress the kids, or flatter that special someone, is to have fun at the Whispering Gallery. On the dining concourse, near the Oyster Bar, the ceramic arches make a whisper sound like you are shouting across the room to each other. You will need two people to do this, each standing at opposite ends of the arch, face the corner and whisper. You’ll be surprised what you hear!
Finally, you can impress your companions with facts about the building itself: Did you know, for example, that there is a secret platform (track 61) leading directly to the Waldorf Astoria, that President Franklin D. Roosevelt once used to avoid pesky journalists?