After years of visiting Rockefeller Center for the shopping, tree viewing, checking out the NBC Today Show, and watching the ice skating, I finally became a true tourist and did the art and architecture tour with a trip to "Top of the Rock".
The tour has elements of kitsch to it and the guide was a little too hyped up for my liking (although I must confess I am not a tour person), however all things considered he did a good job given the variety of people from different countries and with different language barriers.
The best thing about the tour is that it takes you to parts of Rockefeller Center that you would not normally walk past and gives you a taste of the story behind the art and architecture. What I saw was stunning examples of art deco and it gave me a new historical perspective on the Rockefellers and the building of these remarkable buildings that make up the Center. It had me writing down artist names and googling for more information afterwards.
The trip to the Top of the Rock was excellent. I bypassed the line with the obligatory photo superimposed on the background and was disappointed that they had some great short documentary film options downstairs, but no ability to sit and really enjoy, as there are only bars to lean against whilst people walk past blocking the screen. However, once you get up to the top, the view itself is wonderful and in hindsight I was surprised I had not done it before. You can spend as long as you like, with indoor and outdoor viewing options (although after a snow storm, our outdoor options were somewhat restricted), and some seating areas to just sit and soak it all in.
I also never knew there were so many great food options within Rockefeller itself. Go into the main building and head downstairs - upmarket take out options and good restaurants too.
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