Ice skating at the Rockefeller Center in New York City, USA
Stuart Pearce/age fotostock
Rockefeller Center was one of the great construction projects of the Great Depression, a complex of 14 buildings between Fifth and Sixth avenues and 48th and 51st streets built over the 1930s. It’s also one of America’s grandest examples of Art Deco design, from the Indiana-limestone-clad buildings themselves to its interior murals and allegorical figures in panels above the entries to the various buildings. (Daniel Okrent recounts the fascinating history of the complex in detail in his acclaimed Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center.) For many travelers to New York, the center is a favorite destination even if they aren’t students of architecture or urban planning. It’s the home of Radio City Music Hall, where the Rockettes perform; its 70th-floor observation deck offers sweeping views of the city; and every morning tourists gather outside the windows of the NBC studios during the broadcast of The Today Show.
The center also hosts temporary large-scale art installations, like Jeff Koons’s enormous dancer and flower puppy in recent years, and the lighting of its Christmas tree marks the unofficial start of the holiday season. Another bucket-list experience here is taking a turn on the small sunken ice rink under the golden statue of Prometheus. Just across Fifth Avenue from Rockefeller Center is another New York landmark, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, looking better than ever after a multiyear renovation that included a thorough cleaning of the Gothic building’s facade.
Art in Rockefeller Center
As you’re taking in the sights and shops around Rockefeller Center, don’t forget to look around at the art that decorates the space. A gift from the Rockefeller family, the center’s sculptures, carvings, mosaic, and murals are meant to show a grand conceptualization of man’s efforts toward industrialization. From Atlas holding up the earth to Prometheus giving fire to humanity, the overriding theme of the progress of man inhabits the space.
30 Rock During the Holidays
Manhattan is one of the most magical places in the world during the holidays. It’s also one of the craziest and most crowded. The crown jewel of a New York Christmas is the huge Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. Thousands of people gather in this public square to take in the twinkling lights, the ice skaters mobbing the Rockefeller ice rink and, of course, the famed 30 Rock building itself. The area around 30 Rock includes some of the city’s most iconic stores - Cartier, Saks 5th Ave, - which also glitter with holiday lights. Here’s a tip: to avoid the crowds, but still get to enjoy the sights, get up early one morning and walk the streets in the morning calm, while all the shoppers are still sound asleep. It’s a goose bump instilling, wonderful time of year to visit the city that never sleeps.
Maine's Beautiful Rockefeller Garden
The Rockefeller Garden in Seal Harbor, ME is only open for a few days each summer—and well worth making a trek for. The setting is a small harbor town on the rugged coast of Mount Desert Island, where John D. Rockefeller Jr. kept a summer home with his wife Abby in the 1920s and ‘30s. The juxtaposition of these blustery surroundings with the property’s formal gardens—which are tucked into a wooded clearing—is just part of what makes this garden special. There’s also an enormous variety of landscape elements brought together here – including a moon gate, a bottle gate, pieces of Asian sculpture, and many formal flower beds and borders. I found the abundant lilies and delphiniums especially dazzling. (image: lederman/flickr)