Ah, Rockefeller Center. For most visitors to New York City it is the place where the famous Rockefeller Christmas Tree stands ever year. It is also the location of the famous and beautiful ice skating rink. For most New Yorkers, if not a place of work, it is a place to avoid because of the crowds and the prices. But I love Rockefeller Center because of the amazing art that can be seen throughout and the history of the place, something I like sharing with my oldest when we visit there and will continue to do with my youngest as they grow.
And now I had another reason to venture to midtown Manhattan and visit Rockefeller Center. We had an out-of-town visitor and though I refused to do 80% of the touristy things during his stay (just because it was so short and I felt like there were so many better places to visit), I did feel that taking this first-time visitor to New York City and show him Rockefeller Center was something that could not be missed.
In the warmer months, there is no tall evergreen to be seen, the ice skating rink is now a warm, dry spot filled with tables and chairs that serve as out door seating for the posh eateries. However, the tourists still flock to the site to take pictures with the Statue of Prometheus as a backdrop.
Across the street on Fifth Avenue is St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and all the famous department stores and shops that tourists love so much, and of which New Yorkers are so proud of.
And I pointed it all to our visitor. We squeezed past tourists taking flashing photos of all these incredibly recognizable and beautiful New York City sites and landmarks.
But after all of that, I wanted to show him a place that most tourists don’t even know about or care to visit. Right there, in the midst of all the other wonderful art and architecture and inside the lobby of the GE Building is the breathtaking mural titled American Progress, painted by Catalan artist Jose Maria Sert. But even more wonderful than the mural one finds there today is the history of the one it replaces. And that is the mural, Man at the Cross Roads, originally painted by one of my favorite Mexican artists, Diego Rivera, which was destroyed due to Nelson Rockefeller’s protest of its depiction of Lenin and other communist leaders. And though the mural that is there is quite wonderful, and though I never saw Diego Rivera’s mural while it was in place, I can’t help but think of him as I also admires Jose Maria Sert’s work. Diego Rivera was able to send in his assistant who snuck in a camera and photographed the mural before it was destroyed. He later reproduced it and it is currently on display in Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes.
When it comes to walking around with little kids in this area, just know that it can be hard. It’s too much of a hassle, it’s too crowded, and not easy to navigate through with a stroller. But if this is your only visit to New York City, it’s worth to take the trip, and now, you know that you can escape the crowds by entering the GE Building to admire the mural, and go down the escalator for restaurants, cafes (they have a Starbucks down there) and even restrooms.
It’s easy to get lost in all the hustle and bustle around you, and it’s very easy to become overwhelmed. As a matter of fact, my visitor did, a few times. So my advice is to slow down, drink a latte or a glass a wine at one of the eateries, and really look around. Rockefeller Center is an adventure surrounded by art and beauty, and deserve a better look than one given by just rushing through.