Grand Central Terminal is one of my favorite buildings in all of New York City. And during the holiday season, it sparkles just a little bit brighter. There’s something about walking through the main concourse with the steady flow of commuters rushing by that always gives me a jolt of inspiration — especially at this time of year.
I recently sat down with Beth to chat about this legendary train station and what makes it so special to New Yorkers and visitors alike.
How did your passion develop for Grand Central Terminal that led you to be a tour guide of such an iconic landmark?
In 2001, I started a job in what was then called the Lincoln Building (now One Grand Central Place) across 42nd Street from the Terminal. Like tens of thousands of other people, I was in and out of the building all the time, usually on a mission to pick something up from one of the shops there or simply to use the subway, giving little thought to the building itself. It wasn’t until December 2020, in the middle of the COVID pandemic, that one of our prominent tour guides, Joe Svehlak, gave a comprehensive tour of the oddly quiet terminal. Joe really clued us into the building’s macro beauty and its more subtle and fascinating innovations, plus its many little secrets. It was then my love for Grand Central Terminal was kindled, and I knew it was something I had to share with others.
What is your favorite thing about Grand Central during the holidays?
While the interior decorations there are more subtle than other city landmarks, they still reflect the warmth of the season and are especially welcoming. Grand Central really doesn’t need much to elicit joy, of course — its Beaux-Arts design inspires and uplifts throughout the year. The holiday fair in Vanderbilt Hall is a bonus that offers visitors lots of options for seasonal gift shopping – indoors!
Where is your favorite place for taking photos in the terminal?
An obvious photography location is to capture most of the concourse, including the singular painted ceiling, from the top of the staircase at either end. However, a favorite spot is from the ramps leading down to the lower concourse. The slope offers an interesting perspective and it’s possible to include the gold electroliers gracing the south side of the terminal. If you know where to look, you can also get a creative peek of the concourse ceiling. Whitney Warren of Warren and Wetmore, one of the designers, really thought of everything.
And of course, Grand Central is now known as a foodie and shopping destination — it does have a giant Apple Store after all. Do you have any favorite places to eat, grab a coffee or shop in the terminal in between tours?
In the wake of the pandemic, the food court in the Lower Concourse was pretty empty but more and more vendors are returning now. I like Tartinery for a bite to eat or for a pastry. Of course, there’s always the historic Oyster Bar — I recommend the clam chowder. Also downstairs is Donut Plant for creative donut flavors. After a tour, I like to run to Eli’s in Grand Central Market for the big meringue shells I enjoy for dessert. The Market offers a variety of food vendors, from fish to spices to fresh produce. Next door in the Lexington Passage is a sort of mini-mall with all kinds of mostly high-end shopping options.
It was so much fun talking about Grand Central with you, Beth!
What about you, reader? Do you want to take a tour of Grand Central this winter to discover its secrets and hidden corners?
Take the Glorious Grand Central Terminal Tour with Beth