Well, it isn’t your parents’ kitchen on Thanksgiving, so it must be Grand Central Station. Though in deference to the grande dame and centenarian (you did it, old girl!), we should call her by her official name, Grand Central Terminal. Or GCT, if you’re racing to catch the 12:37 to Stamford and are short of breath.
Details: Grand Central Terminal centennial
Grand Central wakes up in the morning to help transport commuters between midtown Manhattan and the northern suburbs of New York and Connecticut. But the city’s second-most-popular attraction, which draws 750,000 people a day, is also a cultural and historical touchstone. Holden Caulfield, as you may recall from English class, stashed his bags in a locker here, and Cary Grant, in “North by Northwest,” attempted to dodge his pursuers by purchasing a ticket at what is now window No. 6. “Saturday Night Live” flashes a replica of the terminal’s famous clock in its opening sequence, and Justin Timberlake professes his love to Mila Kunis on the sweeping staircase. (C’mon, now. I saw “Friends With Benefits” on a plane.)
This is Grand Central’s year: her 100th birthday, which she is celebrating like a doyenne of advanced age and elegant taste. Through March 15, Vanderbilt Hall is hosting “Grand by Design: A Centennial Celebration of Grand Central Terminal,” a comprehensive exhibit arranged by the New York Transit Museum. Other special events will follow, such as an art installation by Nick Cave and an evening performance of poetic odes to the Beaux-Arts beaut.
The Municipal Art Society has also created the Official MTA Metro-North Grand Central Terminal tour, a daily exploration of the building from top to bottom, inside and out. The guided tour complements the 22-stop audio tour available since 2010. How to decide between the two? Price, perhaps, or time commitment, or preference for live vs. taped voice. Or sometimes you won’t have a choice: The tour on Presidents’ Day sold out.
Our group of 60, which was split into two pods, convened at Platform 29. A more fitting rendezvous spot, though, would have been at the brass clock. As in, “I’ll meet you under the clock.”
“This is the most iconic meeting place in New York,” said docent Cliff Cohen, referring to the round Tiffany clock with the four-sided opal face. “It’s a symbol of the city.”
The timepiece, he continued, occupies an even greater place in history than helping Bobby find Sally in the crowds.
Before the rise of railroads in the 19th century, cities set their own local time based on the sun’s position at high noon, which meant that Boston was a few minutes ahead of New York. To synchronize train schedules across the country, the railroad barons created four time zones. Now, if you’re late, you can’t blame Galileo. In addition, all the clocks in the station are now adjusted to the atomic clock at the Naval Observatory in the District. So synchronize your watches, people.