HISTORY AROUND EVERY CORNER
Grand Central Terminal is one of the most-visited destination in New York City (behind only Times Square) for a reason—it’s packed with sights, history, architecture, dining, and shopping all under one magnificent roof.
MAIN CONCOURSE CEILING
The zodiac ceiling in the massive, cathedral-like Main Concourse features 12 constellations painted in gold leaf plus 2500 stars—59 of them illuminated by LEDs. Did you know this zodiac was painted backwards? No one knows for sure how the mix-up occurred, but Grand Central’s founder and benefactor Cornelius Vanderbilt claimed that it was no accident; the zodiac was intended to be viewed from a divine perspective, rather than a human one, inside his temple to transportation. Also—if you look up at the giant zodiac ceiling, next to Cancer, the crab, you’ll find a small, dark patch of brick. This brick reveals what the building’s ceiling looked like before it was cleaned during the restoration project in the 1990s. What made the brick so dirty? Although it was originally thought to be soot and debris from the trains. It was actually 70% nicotine and tar from cigarettes when smoking was permitted in the building!
INFORMATION BOOTH CLOCK
The crown jewel of Grand Central, this Main Concourse landmark has everyone saying, “meet me at the clock!” There, you will find a window where over 1000 questions per day are answered. The clock—like all clocks in the Terminal—is set by the atomic clock in the U.S. Naval Observatory in Bethesda, Maryland, and is accurate to within 1 second every 20 billion years! This famed opal clock above the Information Booth is valued at as much as $20 million.
The low ceramic arches featuring Guastavino tile next to the Oyster Bar & Restaurant create an acoustical phenomenon letting you talk to a friend in the opposite corner. Grab a friend, lean your heads into opposing corners, and test it out!
After your exploration of the Gallery, walk into the century-old Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant and slurp oysters and dine on clam chowder.
GRAND CENTRAL MARKET
Featuring 13 local vendors of fresh produce, gourmet ingredients, and treats, the Grand Central Market is a European-style food market sure to delight visitors and locals alike. The Market alone receives 10,000 visitors per day!
Grand Central Market is open daily. Enter east of the Main Concourse near Track 19, across from the 4/5/6 subway in the Lexington Passage, midway down the Graybar Passage, or from Lexington Ave at 43rd St.
Tiffany Clock &
Park Avenue Viaduct,
Head outside to 42nd Street and Park Avenue to view the second-most famous clock in Grand Central! Adorned with a statuary of the Greek Gods representing virtues of the railroad (speed [Mercury], strength [Hercules], and intellect [Minerva]), the Tiffany Clock is fourteen feet in diameter and is the largest example of Tiffany glass in the world. The 48-foot-high, 1500-ton statue, titled “Transportation,” took builders seven years to construct.
The Pershing Square Viaduct in front of Grand Central Terminal has been brilliantly illuminated with color-changing LED lighting to recognize various occasions and holidays throughout the year. The lighting serves as a beacon to pedestrians anywhere along 42nd Street to find their way to the Terminal.
The Campbell Bar
The Campbell Bar is a testament to the grandiosity of another era. Sip a cocktail in this spectacular room which was once an office and reception hall belonging to John W. Campbell, a Jazz Age financier on New York Central Railroad’s board of directors. Restored to its original grandeur most recently by The Gerber Group, The Campbell showcases many of the thirteenth-century Florentine-inspired design intricacies including soaring, 25-foot hand painted ceilings, a grand stone fireplace, Campbell’s personal steel safe, a century-old leaded glass window and original millwork.
Vanderbilt Tennis Club
A little-known space, called the Annex, houses a tennis court that is accessible to the public by taking the elevator on the Oyster Bar ramp to the 4th floor. This space once served as home to an art gallery, a TV studio for CBS, and even a 65-foot-long indoor ski slope. The likes of John McEnroe and the Williams sisters have played on this court that overlooks Park Avenue. The Club also features a junior tennis court, two practice lanes, and a fitness room.
Oak Leaf and Acorn Finishes
Oak leaves and acorn architectural details adorn the Terminal as symbols of the Vanderbilt family, who financed the construction of the building. “From an acorn grows a mighty oak.” Pay close attention to the light fixtures, the tip of the Information Booth Clock, and the elevators, and you will see these flourishes abound.
Exposed Light Bulbs
Have you noticed every light bulb in the Terminal is bare? In the age of electricity’s invention, the Vanderbilts wanted to show off this new electric power—and electric railroad – they had financed.
Other points of interest
If you have the time, make sure to check out these other points of interest on your visit:
- The Jackie Kennedy Onassis Foyer at 42nd St and Park Ave.
- Vanderbilt Hall, once the main waiting room, now an expansive event space with 5 stunning chandeliers
- Great Northern Food Hall—New York City’s only Danish food hall featuring 5 pavilions, a sit-down restaurant, and a bar in the West Side of Vanderbilt Hall.
- The Lower Level Dining Concourse featuring over 20 fast casual options for every craving.
- The New York Transit Museum Gallery and Annex for seasonal exhibits and a gift shop
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