Buon giorno and welcome to A Road Retraveled!
On this A Road Retraveled episode we explore one of Manhattan’s most famous place: the Rockefeller Plaza. While here we will visit Radio City Music Hall, NBC Studios, Rockefeller Center, and St Patrick’s Cathedral. This video was produced in 2009.
Midtown is an area of Mahnattan that’s world known when it comes to famous New York landmarks like the Rockefeller Center, NBC Studios, Empire State Building, Times Square and more. This is also New York’s largest central business district, the busiest commercial sector in the United States, and the most diversely used bit of real estate in the world….and of course a magnet for tourists, like myself!!
So, just me, myself, and I, set out like camera toting tourists to visit some of these New York landmarks and see what they’re all about: tourist traps, or must sees?
How to get there:
To get to different places in New York, you can catch a taxi, but more practical is a bus, or the subway. In this case, we’re taking the subway F train to 47th–50th Streets–Rockefeller Center stop. For a scenic route, and if you have half hour to spare, you can walk from Penn Station to Rockefeller Plaza by heading southeast on W 33rd street towards 7th Avenue, and then go left on famous 5th Avenue till you get there.
You can literally spend the whole day here, that’s how much there is to do! There are 4 main points of interest we’ll hit today:Rockefeller Center NBC Studios Radio City Music Hall St Patrick’s Cathedral just across the street.
It would easily take a whole show to cover just each of these 4 landmarks, so in order to include them all in one episode, we’ll just highlight the most important aspects
Rockefeller Center, named after John D Rockefeller Jr, son of famous the billionaire Standard Oil industrialist, John D. Rockefeller, But this building almost never happened! Initial plan was to build an opera house for the Metropolitan Opera , but then the stock market crashed in 1929 and the Metropolitan Opera withdrew from the project.Rockefeller had only 2 options: abandon the project, or finance its construction himself. Obviously the went with option #2, and this turned out to be the largest private building project in contemporary history. In total, the Rockefeller Center consists of 19 commercial buildings spanning over 22 acres, and is a National Historic Landmark. It’s also no longer owned by the original Rockefeller, as it was sold and resold for buku bucks. Included in these 19 commercial buildings is Radio City Music Hall, and NBC Studios which we’ll be visiting along with the Rockefeller building itself.
One architectural and design theme you see recurring throughout is Art Deco, a popular international design movement from 1925 until 1939. Just about all the buildings that were constructed during this time, like the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building bear these designs. If you were ever interested in Art Deco, THIS is the place to come!
I decided to purchase tickets for the group tours of Radio City Music Hall, NBC studios, and to go up to the top of the Rockefeller Center, or Top of the Rock for a panoramic bird’s eye view of New York.
Visited by more than 300 million people, Radio City Music Hall is one of the most popular tourist attraction.
Tourist Trap, or Must See?
Built in 1932 and named in reference to the RCA building next to it (or Radio Corporation of America), its fabulous interior was named a New York City landmark in 1978, and it’s an incredible example of Art Deco Design at it’s best. I’ll admit, I’m not a group tour person, I rarely do it, but I was glad I joined the tour at the Radio City Music Hall. It’s rich history, entertainment, architecture, and design are brought to life and learning about this famous landmark is an opportunity not to be missed. Now, if you’re not into this stuff, or you’re looking for excitement, this tour may not be for you. But throughout the tour of this oppulent building you will be surprised to learn that everything from the designs on the carpet in the main lobby [pause] to the wallpaper prints in the theater has historic and artistic relevance. There’s significance and meaning behind every detail, and every detail is explained to you by the very well informed tour guide.
Now when you think of Radio City Music Hall, you must also think: the Rockettes!! This famous precision dance company performs here, and are very well known for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular that runs from November 11 to December 30, and it’s been a tradition since the first viersion was presented in 1933. The show’s star performers are the Rockettes, and their perhaps best known technique is the high kick in perfect unison in a chorus line that concludes every performance.
Did you know that the Rockettes were called Roxyettes when the dance group was brought to NY to perform at the Roxy Theater by Samuel Roxy Rothafel? When Rothafel left Roxy to open Radio City Music Hall, he brought the dance group with him and renamed them the Rockettes - Which incidentally, when the dance group was founded in 1925 in St. Louis, they were known as the “Missouri Rockets“. And in the tour, we got to meet a Rockette who answered the group’s questions and stayed on for photos.
So, tourist trap or must see? In my opinion, a must see for it’s historic value. And if you have the opportunity to come to the theater for a performance, perhaps a Christmas Spectacular, you’ll appreciate the background knowledge you have about this graceful Showplace of the Nation.
The NBC Studios has been offering this tour since 1933, and it takes you through its halls and studios. If you’re into NBC and interested in its history and shows like Saturday Night Live, Dateline, NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, then this tour would be interesting to you because you get a lot of back stage info that you may not find out about otherwise. If you’re expecting Conan O’Brien to appear for photo op or get to watch SNA’s costume department at work, you might be disappointed.
First thing before the tour, you must go through security checkpoints like at the airport. If you flew to NY, you know the drill! Then you are lead into the NBC History Theater where you’re introduced to NBC from day 1. It’s a priceless reminder of how far technology has gone from just a half a century ago when television was a life changing experience!
Then we’re whisked off to visit the broadcast control room where behind a glass wall you can watch the the people responsible for broadcasting daily programs. We also tour the studio where NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams is filmed, and if you’re lucky to get a well informed animated tour guide, it’s a great learning experience of what goes on behind the scenes to make the shows run smoothly! And by the way, for those who wondered, Brian Williams does NOT wear shorts behind the desk!!
The Saturday night Live set is interesting to see when no one’s there and you see the stage in its entirety, and learn about what goes on from behind the stage, to where the stadium seating came from!! The most fun was the green screen where I, the brown nosing tourist, raised my hand high and waving it like my life depended on it when asked for 2 volunteers. I, and another volunteer had the chance to demonstrate the green screen and teleprompter by reading a make-believe weather and news report.
So, tourist trap or Must see? That depends on whether you’re a fan of NBC and its shows, if you’re lucky enough to get a great tour guide, and if the real good studios on the tour are not in use and closed during your visit. It’s also a good idea to consider such indoor tours in case of bad weather.Did you know…? Did you know that there are reports of Radio City Music Hall being haunted? Orbs have been captured in photos as well….and when I asked the tourguide, she confirmed that it’s common knowledge that the Radio City Hall is haunted. Did you know that it takes the elevator at the Rockefeller Center exactly 1 New York Minute to reach the observatory from the ground floor?
5th Avenue: An assortment of glamorous Art Deco designs, high rise buildings, architectural splendors housing famous designer boutiques and luxurious department stores like Saks 5th Avenue. In the heart of New York’s contemporary opulence sits the noble architectural patriarch, a 19th century Gothic style magnificance by the name of St Patrick’s Cathedral.
It predated anything you see built here. In fact, when visionary Bishop Hughes proposed to build a new St Patrick’s Cathedral, this whole area was near wilderness, and he was ridiculed for considering to build a cathedral so far on the outskirts of the city. The Cathedral was nicknamed “Hughes Folly“. Bishop Hughes intention was to erect a new cathedral to replace the Old St Patrick’s Cathedral in Little Italy. The current Old St Patrick’s cathedral is not the original cathedral. The original was destroyed by a fire in 1866 and has been rebuilt.
But nothing stood in his way, not lack of funds, workers, or the Civil War. Through the generosity of the Catholic community, rich and poor, his vision became a reality in 1879 after 20 years of construction. Thanks to the preservation program, the cathedral’s beauty is maintained. Today the Cathedral serves as the seat of the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York,
Even in the presence of its graceful neighbor, the Rockefeller Center, St Patrick’s Cathedrals dominates 5th Avenue as easily today, as it did when it was built 150 years ago to stand alone.
Thank you for watching. See you next time on A Road Retraveled!