On your first visit to New York City, it’s a must. Rockefeller Center is the very heart of midtown Manhattan, encompassing 19 buildings between 51st and 48th Streets (north-south), and Sixth and Fifth Avenues (east-west). Here you’ll find great art deco architecture, incredible views at Top of the Rock, and world-class entertainment at Radio City Music Hall. Plus, some of the most fascinating people watching on the planet.
Rockefeller Center is actually two building complexes – 14 original art deco buildings completed during the 1930s, and four towers built during the 1960s and 70s. Because construction occurred during the depression, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. financed the entire project by himself. The land on which the project was built belonged to Columbia University until 1985, when it was sold for $400 million.
What’s now called the GE Building was originally the RCA Building. You know that famous photograph of workers sitting on a skyscraper under construction, eating lunch? That was the RCA Building. The NBC Radio Studios were in the building from the start, so the whole Center had the nickname “Radio City” at first, and that’s how the theater came to be called Radio City Music Hall.
Now you can tour all of Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, and NBC Studios. You can go to the top of the GE Building and get a panoramic view of the city from the Top of the Rock observation deck. You can be on television in the crowd at the Today Show. At the right time of year, you can ice skate or view the gigantic Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. You can shop at more than 100 stores, and dine at any of 40 restaurants. And you can see the statue of Atlas, along with the remarkable architecture all around you.
Rockefeller Center is something every visitor to New York should see. Chances are you’ll find yourself coming back on every visit to the Big Apple.