Grand Central Station: Stay Awhile, Hidden Gems Inside
A trip to New York City isn’t complete without a visit to “the world’s loveliest station,” Grand Central Terminal, more affectionately known to most of us as Grand Central Station.
In fact, there is a very good chance, if you happened to be traveling in or out of the state of New York over the last 100 years, Grand Central might have been your first stopover in The Big Apple (the station just celebrated its 100th Anniversary!).
Located at 42nd Street and Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, this commuter train terminal is the largest such facility of its kind in the world by number of platforms, with 44 serving 67 tracks. Dubbed the “world’s sixth-most visited tourist attraction” by Travel + Leisure magazine, the station sees over 21 million visitors annually.
So why do some many people visit this station even if they are not traveling through? Well, historical attractions can be a lot more fun when you can squeeze a little shopping and dining into the visit.
Besides platforms (which are everywhere!), Grand Central features really cool restaurants and a ton of retail stores, including a very cool Apple Store that has taken up residence on the East Balcony and features a very spacious Genius Bar where you can get tech support for your iPhone (a necessity for many travelers). There are plenty of other major retailers located throughout the terminal including Banana Republic, Bobbi Brown and Kenneth Cole, as well as smaller, more local shops like Grand Central Optical.
At this time of year, Grand Central, which seems to always have some sort of event or exhibit going on (especially during its centennial year), is gearing up for its 14th Annual Holiday Fair. The only holiday market in the city to operate indoors, it kicks off in Vanderbilt Hall on November 18 and will stay open until Christmas Eve. The fair will feature all sorts of vendors selling hand-made gift items, apparel and artworks that would be the perfect gift for that special someone back home. Other holiday-themed events include the Centennial Holiday Light Show (kicks off November 21) and the New York Transit Museum’s 12th Annual Holiday Train Show, which will hit the tracks on November 16 and run through February 23, 2014.
As for dining, the Dining Concourse, located just below the Main Concourse is the home of the vaulted and much-loved Oyster Bar, the longest running restaurant located inside Grand Central. Just off the Main Concourse, you will find the The Campbell Apartment, a fancy cocktail lounge that was never an apartment at all. More modern dining options include Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C., Magnolia Bakery, Shake Shack and Starbucks.
Other services include watch and shoe repair as well as... wait for it... a tennis court. Yes, what was once a long-standing television studio for “What’s My Line?” is now a small sports facility featuring a single tennis court.
This “mini-city” in and under Manhattan is home to many other secrets, too, including a “secret room” known as “M42"; a sub-basement containing power converters used to supply the Terminal; a “secret platform” named 61 that was a direct passage to the Waldorf-Astoria hotel; and even a "secret door” that conceals a spiral staircase leading to the lower level information booth on the Main Concourse.
But, as you might guess, these and many other secrets are waiting for you at Grand Central Terminal. And you don’t even have to jump on a train.