Boxing Day in NYC

Here is the link to my photos at Top of the Rock
My friend and I woke up early today so we could walk to Rockefeller Center before 8:30am. The Top of the Rock observation deck opens at 8am and I had initially wanted to arrive by 8am but as the saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. There was already a line up at the door when we got there, even for the fast track aspect of the NYC Day Pass. We had to line up outside first and then when we got inside, we could go to the fast track lane which did save us some time. At the counter, we got tickets both for Top of the Rock and the Rockefeller Center tour. The first time slot for the tour was at 11:30am and it wasn’t even 9am yet! We then lined up for the elevators to the observation deck as well as going through the security screening. The elevator’s ceiling gives an illusion of the elevator passing by the floors which is nice because you’ll be looking up at it and it helps with the ear pressure of rising up or going down quickly. The views from the observation deck were phenomenal however the crowds of people weren’t. I had initially thought that more people would be shopping on Boxing Day because of the deals rather than going to attractions so The Top of the Rock would be less crowded. I was sorely mistaken! The Top of the Rock observation deck gives you an unobstructed view of Central Park, Upper East and West Side, the Empire State Building, downtown and many bridges.

Here is the link to my photos of the Radio City Music Hall tour
After we had content ourselves with the views, we went to Radio City Music Hall and were able to get the 10am tour tickets. This worked out perfectly since the Radio City Music Hall tour was an hour long so we would be able to have some time to figure out where the Rockefeller tour meeting place would be. I recommend the Radio City Music Hall tour if you’re watching a Rockettes show because it gives you alot of background and historical information and I felt that it added to my experience of watching the show later since it made me appreciate it more. Michael was our tour guide and it was an excellent and informative tour. The elevator has an unstained wooden interior with three panels depicting the arts, wine and women. In the lobby of the theatre when you first enter the theatre to watch the show, there are 2 chandeliers. The 2 chandeliers have 60 lightbulbs each and can be lowered down so it can be easily cleaned so it can maintain that glamorous shine. The Swarovski crystal Christmas tree is only for the Christmas Spectacular show. The track around the ceiling enables a swing to hang and move so that somebody can clean the walls. The mural along the staircase from the ground floor to the mezzanine level depicts a man seeking the fountain of youth. The carpet is an abstract painting of 6 instruments: guitar, banjo, sax, harp, accordion and clarinet. I’m abit surprised that it doesn’t have the piano. The tour also gives you a glimpse of the show (we got to see a sneak peak of the Christmas Spectacular because of it’s 3+ daily show schedule, you’d have to time it properly for a sneak peak of the Spring Spectacular I would presume). For the Christmas Spectacular, it has a 36 person orchestra. The theatre itself is designed to have a cruise ship or ocean liner feel and shape. There is only perfect seating since there are no obstructions (pillars, etc). The acoustics are amazing since there’s no microphone on stage and you can still hear in the nosebleed section. The stage turntable has 4 moving parts which made me appreciate the ingenuity of it when I was watching the show in the evening. Back in the 1930s the shows were less than $0.50 and you got to view a movie and a Rockettes performance. The show tickets remained extremely affordable until the 1960s. We were led into a cinema room with seats from the 1930s for a short film on the Rockette’s history. If you want to be a Rockette you need to be 5’6 – 5’10 and know how to do ballet, tap and jazz. To give the illusion of the Rockettes all being the same height, the tallest stand in the middle with the shortest at the ends with the skirts cut the same length. We were then taken to the Roxy suite which has furniture from the 1930s and are all the originals and there is a circular room with no artwork or decor because the conversation is the artwork. It has a domed ceiling so one can whisper and the people across the round table can still hear you. We then went to the costume room which has the original costumes ever worn by a Rockette. It costs between $3,000-$10,000 to make a costume so a new show has alot of upfront costs.

Here is the link to my photos during the Rockefeller Center tour
After the tour, we meander our way to Rockefeller Center and found the guided tour meeting place. It’s inside the Rockefeller Center off of the inside entrance to the lobby of Top of the Rock. The guided tour provides a listening machine since you’ll need it because the tour is mainly the artworks and building structures of the Rockefeller complex. It’s a 75 min. tour and I felt that the tour should be renamed as the artwork at Rockefeller tour. John D. Rockefeller Jr financed the construction during the Great Depression. The first tenant is Radio City A (RCA) then NBC in the building now known as Radio City Music Hall. 21 buildings covering 22 hectares make up Rockefeller Center. The art work is mainly art deco inspired by the Egyptians and Aztecs. Abby, John’s wife, was in charge of hiring the artists for the multitude of artworks decorating the center. She had wanted Picasso to contribute but he charged too much so she had to look for other similar artists instead. An interesting fact I learnt was that Abby hired a number of Communist artists. There are many depictions of light and sound to represent broadcasting scattered around the complex in a variety of styles. At the skating rink, there is Prometheus with a maiden and a youth who represents Adam and Eve. Atlas supporting the world is in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. There is a mural depicting the history of flight. There’s another mural of action reaching towards thought that features Abraham Lincoln. The artist who painted that particular painting got revenge on Rockefeller with a similar painting featuring Lenin and Rockefeller gambling with diseases hanging over his head. On the ceiling of a building is past, present and future which all face you even if you look at it from three different angles. There are also 5 panels presenting people facing history and tribulation such as slavery, medicine, machinery/industrialization. The last of the 5 panels represents hope and the future. There are a number of artworks both inside and outside the buildings. There is a law that requires building set backs for lighting and air/wind so this is why buildings in NYC have that distinct look compared to other buildings in other cities. The Christmas tree has 5 miles of lights which means 40,000 lightbulbs and it’s 50% solar powered by the nearby buildings with solar panels on top. The famous skating rink was an accident. It was initially a roller blading rink that attracted gangs. There also used to be a speakeasy and the Rockefellers couldn’t reject them from the property.

After the Rockefeller tour, we initially wanted to eat lunch at Ellen’s Stardust Diner however there was a very long line up outside of the diner so we had lunch at TGI Friday’s instead. After lunch, we went back to Radio City Music Hall to get our Christmas Spectacular tickets since we didn’t buy it online so we had to redeem our voucher for the actual show tickets. To redeem the voucher, you need to show ID (my Canadian driver’s licensed sufficed) and the purchase receipt. I also got asked alot of questions before I was given the show tickets. After getting our show tickets, we took the metro to the Museum of Natural History.

Here is the link to my photos at the Museum of Natural History
The Museum of Natural History is really really big. You can’t fully see all the exhibits in a day. I was mislead because I was told that I could see the entire museum in 4 hours. You can probably see the museum’s highlights in 4 hours. The museum has 5 floors packed with exhibits. The top floor is the Koch Dinosaur Wing which contains the largest collection of dinosaur fossils. It has the skeleton of a T-Rex amongst other dinosaurs and the first Velociraptor skull to be found. I liked the tree diagram of how the museum classified the dinosaurs. We were able to see Lonesome George in the Astor Turret however it is now not exhibited at the museum. The second highest floor had the Easter Island head and a decent-sized collection of the artwork and culture of the Pacific and Aboriginal peoples. There was also primates, African mammals and North American birds taxidermy. On the second floor, there were displays about the art and culture of the people of Africa, Asia and Central and South Americas. There were birds and African and Asian mammal taxidermy on the second floor as well. The first floor has a variety of exhibits but the ones that stood out the most is the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, the Hall of Biodiversity, geology and Northwest Coast Indians. The North American mammals exhibit reminds me of the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. The Milstein Hall of Ocean features dioramas of different oceanic habitats and there’s a blue whale hanging overhead from the ceiling. For geology, there’s the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems which features the Star of India which is the biggest sapphire in the world at 563 carat, Chrysoberyl Cat’s Eye at 85 carats, De Long Star Ruby at 100 carats and the Midnight Star at 116.75 carats. There is also a 34 ton meteorite rumoured to be a fragment of a massive meteorite in the Ross Hall of Meteorites which is on the way to the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems. My friend and I had watched or rewatched in my case the movie Night at the Museum and the movie set and the actual museum layout were completely different which shocked me slightly since I was expecting it to be the same. I also couldn’t find the Aztec, Roman and Western civilization dioramas so I was abit disappointed. We stayed until the museum announced that they were closing and capped off our visit at the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall (we entered from another entrance) and took photos of the Barosaurus fossil protecting his/her child from a predator. A statue of Theodore Roosevelt is outside of the main entrance way.

After our museum exploration, we went back to Row NYC so my friend could charge her phone. We then did some shopping at Fifth Ave before going to Radio City Music Hall to watch the Christmas Spectacular. We had Orchestra seats. They were ok-not the perfect seating that was advocated to me during the tour earlier in the day since although there aren’t any obstructions caused by the building there were obstructions caused by other people. The only bad part about orchestra is if you have the dismal luck of sitting behind taller people or people with really frizzy hair or if the theatre allows photography/filming, the multitude of screens and arms and hands in the air are extremely annoying. I had that dismal luck so my lesson in this is to just splurge for front row Mezzanine seats to avoid this kind of problem again. The Christmas Spectacular is comprised of 18 numbers including the 3D Santa sleigh ride segment, the famous toy soldier cannon segment, the multiple Santa Clauses segment, the nutcrackers featuring bears segment, the bus segment, the skaters segment, the two brothers trying to find a gift for their sister segment, the Merry Christmas and Happy New Year blocks dance routine, Jesus Christ’s birth with live animals, to name afew. Although the audience in front of me partially blocked my view of the stage, it was still a spectacular show. If you’re in New York around Christmas time I recommend seeing this show at least once in your lifetime.

Here is the link to my photos at Empire State
After the show, we went to have dinner at Ellen’s Stardust Diner. It was still busy when we arrived but we didn’t have to wait long for a table. After dinner, we went back to Row NYC to pick up our phones and cameras before heading to the Empire State Building. There wasn’t a line up to get our tickets or go up the elevator or going through security this late at night. The night view of New York City is certainly another experience from the morning view of New York City. I could easily find Madison Square Garden, Chrysler building, downtown NYC and Times Square. It would probably be interesting to do the same observation deck twice in a single day – once in the morning and once late at night just to see that difference between day and night. After enjoying the night views, we took the metro back to Row NYC.

Categories: New York City, Sightseeing, USA | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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