Sunday, September 9, 2012

American Girl Place, Rockefeller Center, Times Square, Radio City Music Hall

Following up on my last post (our arrival in New York City during our vacation),  from the Empire State Building we started off our late afternoon, and we proceeded on foot north ("downtown") on 5th Avenue to the corner of 5th and 49th Street to American Girl Place.   "American Girl" is a popular series of historical fiction story books for little girls, with certain key characters representing a little girl from a defined era of a couple of years of American history.  For instance, the character Molly is from World War II era, Kit (the blonde-haired doll shown in the display in the photo below) is from the Great Depression, Felicity is from the American Revolutionary War period, etc.  A major part of the American Girl enterprise is that they sell dolls representing all the characters of their story books.  Not only that, but friends and pets of each character, clothing, and numerous other accessories... about anything you can think of! They have now even produced some excellent Hollywood-caliber movies based on their historical fiction characters. The characters are also pretty ethnically/racially diverse, which is nice, capturing a major element of the USA being the "great melting pot" and our pride that our populace is made up of immigrants from many nations.     

American Girl Place in NYC is a huge 3-story store dedicated to (selling) all things American Girl, and is a huge tourist attraction - at least for folks with little girls - and truly a sight to see. While my wife and daughter really loved it and were overwhelmed, I can honestly say it was pretty interesting and overwhelming even for the dads!  They have exclusive items that can only be purchased at this particular store in NYC, an onsite hair salon for the dolls to have their hair styled, even a place where the dolls can get their ears pierced!   For our daughter's 9th birthday, which was upcoming in a couple of weeks after we had our vacation, we treated her to a celebration dinner at American Girl Cafe (on the third floor), which must be reserved pretty far ahead.  The idea behind the dinner is that the little girl  can bring along one of her dolls up to the dinner table, and the doll is placed on a special chair that clamps to the table (you can see in the photo below) and even served a "pretend" tea and snacks.  Our daughter brought her doll, Kanani, who is a Hawaiian-American character -- although no one in our family is Hawaiian-American, the doll has some resemblance to our daughter, who is Filipino-American. I was expecting that the dinner itself would be nothing to write home about, but my wife and I were really quite surprised and impressed by the gourmet quality and selection of the food served to the adults (I can't remember but I think our main course was tilapia baked with a coating of roasted cashews) and the level of service.  

American Girl Place, 5th Avenue and 49th St., NYC
American Girl Place doll hair salon

Hair Salon at American Girl Place
Dining room at American Girl Place, New York City


Dinner at American Girl Cafe, New York City

Family dinner with 'Kanani' at American Girl Cafe

Kanani's table-clamping chair at American Girl Cafe
Doll hairstylist at American Girl Place, Manhattan


"Meet Kit (1934) -  a resourceful girl facing the Great Depression with spirit and determination"

Our daughter with Kanani, a Hawaiian-American character
Just a very tiny portion of all the accessories at American Girl Place

Lots of American Girl dolls -- and a Filipino-American Girl!!!



After we ate our dinner and made a couple little purchases (accessories) at  American Girl Place, we proceeded northward on foot a short distance to Rockefeller Center.  Rockefeller Center is a historical landmark and a huge complex of commercial buildings covering 22 acres (89,000 square meters) between 48th and 51st Streets and 5th and 6th Avenues in mid-town Manhattan.  Like the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Center is a masterpiece of the Art Deco style of the late 1920's and early 1930's, and was built by John D. Rockefeller for the unheard of sum of $250 million starting in 1930, which would be worth at least $4 billion U.S. today (not even accounting for the labor, materials, and craftsmanship which could never be replicated today).  It was the largest private building project ever undertaken in modern times, and ironically, during the darkest years of the Great Depression. We stopped to take a rest there, took photographs of the tallest building in Rockefeller Center, the G.E. Building (formerly known as the RCA Building), and the famous statue "Promethesus Bringing Fire to Mankind", then we looked around a bit inside of some of the buildings.  The G.E. building is well known for housing the headquarters of NBC and the New York facilities of NBC Studios, and the comedy show "Saturday Night Live" and the morning show "The Today Show" have their studios inside the building.  The architecture and craftsmanship of Rockefeller Center is really amazing, for instance the "Wisdom and Knowledge" frieze shown below... we were all profoundly impressed and in awe at both the artistry and the monumental scale of this place. 

Family photo at Rockefeller Center Plaza

Base of the General Electric (G.E.) Building and Prometheus Statue, Rockefeller Center

Famous G.E. Building (formerly RCA building) and awesome statue, Rockefeller Center

"Prometheus Bringing Fire to Mankind" statue, Rockefeller Center, NYC

Awesome Art Deco Prometheus statue, Rockefeller Center

Base of G.E. Building and Prometheus, Rockefeller Center
"Wisdom and Knowledge" Art Deco frieze from G.E. Building, Rockefeller Center

"Prometheus Bringing Fire to Mankind"


Memorial to John D. Rockefeller, we are sitting facing the Prometheus statue and fountains at the base of the G.E. building
Admiring the G.E. Building in awe - contemplating the beauty of Rockefeller Plaza





   
Next, we walked a few blocks away to take in the sounds and sights of the famous Times Square, and all of its magical lights (and more recently, gigantic LCD screens) just before sundown.  An exciting place with all the lights, and tourist/family friendly.  It didn't used to be that way -- just a few years back, Times Square was pretty "sleazy" with a lot of adults-only businesses.  Mayor Bloomberg (present mayor) in particular cleaned up a lot of that and turned Times Square into a much more family-friendly and tourist-friendly place.   At this point in time the crowd was busy but fairly light... definitely a place you want to have a tight grip on your child/children. 




Family photo at Times Square, NYC
The lights and LCD screens of Times Square - looking towards where the New Year's ball drops
Hershey's chocolate store, Times Square
Sundown, Times Square
Sundown, Times Square, and all the lights and huge LCD screens
Broadway show advertisements in lights, Times Square
Bleacher seats at Times Square; Broadway shows advertising on huge screens in background

Bleacher seating at Times Square

Hershey's chocolate store on corner of W. 48th Street, Times Square

Enormous LCD screen with live shot of the crowd at Times Square
Enormous LCD screen with live shot of the crowd at Times Square



Taxis going past Times Square
Enjoying the sights and sounds of Times Square



 Finally, before returning to our hotel for the night, we walked past the renowned and historic Radio City Music Hall, another Art Deco crown jewel of New York, got some snacks, and took some photos of the exterior, which has gorgeous old-style neon lights pretty much the same as it was in the 1930's.  Actually, Radio City Music Hall is still part of Rockefeller Center.   Next time we're in Manhattan, we all want to go inside and see its Art Deco architectural splendor, as well as see a show of the Rockettes.  

Including my last post was about it for our first day in Manhattan... we covered a lot of territory in only one, and it was an exciting day.   My next post will cover at least part of what we did on day 2 in NYC...  TO BE CONTINUED!! 

Radio City Music Hall at night



Radio City Music Hall







Thursday, August 30, 2012

Grand Central Terminal and The Empire State Building, New York City

On the first of August, we started our family vacation, an overland trip by car, to the northeastern part of the U.S. to visit my brother and his family, and to visit several points of interest in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.  I will be putting up a series of blog posts about this in the near future, but for now I decided to start somewhat in the middle of our road trip, in New York City, and at least cover part of our first day there... we did so much in slightly over 2 days in NYC there that it's difficult to put it all in one blog post!   

It's highly advisable for tourists visiting The Big Apple to leave the car behind, because driving there is hectic, parking spaces are almost  nonexistent and parking garages are very expensive, and a car  practically becomes more of a liability than a convenience.  So we started our day early on a Friday and drove to New Haven, Connecticut, where we parked our car at Union Station, brought our bags for 2 nights' stay, and then hopped aboard the Metro North train for a 2-hour trip with a destination in the heart of Manhattan.    


Beautiful old train station at Union Station, New Haven, Connecticut

That final destination of our Metro North train was the famous Grand Central Station, aka Grand Central Terminal (GCT), which has been featured in many movies and is truly a sight to behold and quite an experience.  Covering an area of 48 acres (19 hectares) and a masterpiece of the early 1900's Beaux-Arts style of architecture, GCT was completed in 1913 after 10 years of construction and excavation.  It is the world's #6 most visited tourist spot according to  Travel  Leisure magazine, and is the largest train station in the world in terms of the number of platforms.  While some major changes have taken place in the platforms etc. in the conversion from using steam locomotives to modern-day trains, the main concourse looks much the same as it did in 1913.  Wish we could've seen GCT and experienced its sights and sounds back when those lumbering behemoth steam locomotives plied the tracks of America.  
Arrival - ready for adventure in New York - Grand Central Station!

Beautiful clock at Grand Central Terminal



Main concourse of Grand Central Terminal


Bustling crowd in the main concourse of Grand Central

These cashiers' windows probably haven't changed at all since 1913








We next made our way to our hotel, Hampton Inn Manhattan Chelsea, which was in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, just on the southwestern fringe of Mid-town near the intersection of 6th Ave. with 24th St.  It was a nice place, and we enjoyed staying there.  We dropped off our bags since we were too early to check into our room, and since we wanted to make the most of our day. 

Our next stop was the Empire State Building, a 1,453 foot (443 meter) tall Art Deco masterpiece finished in 1931 and prominently featured in the 1933 classic film King Kong and many other movies. Going up to the observation deck on the 86th floor (about 1,050 feet/320 meters high) entails a considerable wait (at least on a beautiful sunny weekend in the summer) to get through the line:   you have to go through security and buy a ticket (if you haven't bought one already), then wait in line for the elevators.  The rather lengthy wait was well worth it, though, for the view from the observation deck on the 86th floor about 1,050 feet (320 meters) up above Manhattan is amazing.  Needless to say, on a clear day you can see all over the place.  The sounds of the bustling megalopolis below can be heard, too, especially the many fire trucks and ambulances that are on a run at any given moment... pretty exciting! A kindly native New Yorker security guard on the 86th floor observation deck took our photo and even let our daughter wear his cool hat for the photo... we told him it was a real honor!  The lobby of the Empire State Building is pretty awesome too, with amazing an Art Deco aluminum relief of the skyscraper on a marble background, above a map of the area surrounding New York City and an awesome looking clock.  There's a photo below of our daughter posing in front of this lobby art work and the information desk.   It amazes me that some of the most spectacular and extravagant Art Deco architecture was built during the economically darkest days of the Great Depression.   

To be continued - I've only gotten through about half of our first day in New York City!


Glowing in Art Deco splendor - lobby of Empire State Building
Map of region around NYC topped by relief sculpture of the building
Honored to wear the kind Empire State Building security guard's hat 

(Pinay-) American Girl on the 86th floor of Empire State Building
The 3 Stooges - anyone recognize the logo on my hat?
On the 86th Floor Observation Deck, Empire State Building

View to the south including Flatiron Building and One World Trade Center (Freedom Tower)

Looking north toward Central Park (far in the background)
Looking East toward the Chrysler Building and the East River

View of spire of Empire State Building from 86th flr. observation deck - can you believe they originally wanted to tie up a blimp to this and then disembark passengers?!!










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