Inside Grand Central Terminal With Curious Traveler

Touring Grand Central With the Ambassador.

“When Grand Central opened, people were aghast! Simply aghast!”

If you can deliver that line with the best, most genuine New Yawker accent, with genuine enthusiasm and genuine dramatic arm flailings, you’ll begin to have an idea of what it’s like to spend the afternoon with the New York institution that is Grand Central Terminal’s Ambassador, Dan Brucker.

Dan is as much a part of iconic Grand Central as its clock. Well, there’s actually two iconic clocks, and only one Dan, but that’s as it should be. Dan has been interviewed on his knowledge of Grand Central’s Grand history on the Discovery Channel, History Channel, National Geographic Channel, the Today Show, and on my travel series, Curious Traveler, on PBS. He was just made for TV. So, let’s start our tour.

The world’s largest train station (or train terminal, as Dan will correct you), Grand Central, is known as the ‘Temple of Transportation’ for good reason. In 1869, the designers wrote that ‘People who come to New York should enter a palace at the end of their ride and not a shed’. And indeed, today, when you stand inside the cavernous and majestic main concourse, more than a 100 years later, you’ll look around and say, mission accomplished.

But it had to be an engineering marvel as well as a design marvel. Completed in 1913, with the purpose of creating an underground transportation hub that didn’t disturb that prime Manhattan real estate above. As Dan points out, with 700 trains and 750,000 visitors coming and going every day, you never see any trains! Everything is buried underground, so you have this almost spiritual moment as you enter the ‘temple’ above, and transition into your destination on foot. But why make a train station so Grand at all?


Related: The Campbell At Grand Central—Still A Treasure Sans The Apartment


Well, the Vanderbilts, who made their name and wealth from the railroad, wanted a magnificent symbol of America’s transportation might. As Dan put it, “To shout out to the world that America was the leader in transportation!” Grand Central was to be the central point, or the home hub of their railroad. So the Vanderbilts hired the best designers to create their Temple of Transportation.

Between 1903 and 1913, the old train station was torn down, and replaced by the architectural firms of Reed and Stem and Warren and Wetmore, in that breathtaking Beaux-Arts style. Just to emphasize how palatial and grand the influences were, did you know that Grand Central was inspired by the Paris Opera House?!? If you look at a side-by-side comparison, you’ll see how similar they are. Especially the staircases. Amazing.

But what’s even more interesting is this: this temple, this palace, as grand as it is, was built for the everyday, ordinary commuter. So unlike the Paris Opera House, meant to be enjoyed only by the elite, Grand Central’s design is a truly American concept: beauty for everyone to enjoy.

So let’s check out some of that beauty. First stop: a heavenly look 125 feet up at the main concourse ceiling. You will see the most gorgeous mural, covering a staggering 35,000 feet. It’s the night sky, by artist Paul Helieu, and shows all the zodiac signs and constellations, in all their splendor. The only problem is, he got it all backwards.



As Dan explains, “The truth is: the artist was looking down and then looking up when he painted, and he got a mirror image. And the Vanderbilts, when they heard about this, they came down and they saw that the ceiling was alit with stars, and instead of ripping it all out, they came up with a much better explanation: they said, oh yes we know. which they didn’t. they said they did it on purpose, which they didn’t. “

And so the story goes. The Vanderbilts and Helieu continued to claim that the view was meant to be from God’s vantage point, looking downwards. But hey, it looks beautiful either way, right? Dan agrees, “Exactly. How many people would still look beautiful if they were turned all around?”

And that famous ceiling has another, more recent secret. If you look carefully, you’ll see a small patch of dark brown on the carefully restored blue. That’s a reminder of all the layers of smoke and filth piling up before modern restoration. Hard to believe it ever got that bad.

Now look around the concourse, at the other historic details. Like the old ticket booth, the old ‘Campbell Apartment’ sign: Once New York’s largest ground floor apartment, now a restaurant. Just outside the apartment, look for another sign: Vanderbilt Avenue. Combine that with the Vanderbilt Hall back inside, toss in a few acorns, and you’ll start to see that the Vanderbilts really put their stamp on the place. Wait, acorns?

Yes, that’s a little Grand Central secret. You’ll see acorns atop of the four-faced clock in the main concourse, and in the relief carvings over many of the doorways. They’re hidden like little Easter Eggs all over the terminal. Why acorns? Well, the story goes that since the Vanderbilts were self-made, they had no family crest. So, they chose the acorn, saying that, ‘From little acorns, mighty oak trees grow’. How wonderfully American is that?



And dangling from the branches of that mighty oak tree that is Grand Central, you’ll see those iconic chandeliers. When they were first created in 1913, they were dipped in 24-carat gold. Typical over-the-top Vanderbilt style, right? But look closely and you’ll see plain old light bulbs there too. Why plain light bulbs? Well, this was also a symbol of America’s might. Remember at the time, most people didn’t have electricity in their homes, so these chandeliers were more Grand symbols of America’s technological advances.

Here, you’ll also see another powerful American symbol: Grand Central’s iconic American Flag, hung here in the Main Concourse since 9/11.

Now look down at that famous four-faced opal clock in the center. It’s also full of secrets. Urban legend has it that the faces are made of pure opal, with an estimated value between ten and twenty million. Actually, they’re made of opalescent glass. But they’re still pretty.

Now, to cap off our tour, Dan takes us up a hidden secret passageway high above the terminal. It’s between the walls, over a glass catwalk, with the most amazing view out a tiny hidden window. In the picture below, we were at the top of the arch of the middle window. See us? We’re waving! Hi!

Then, we climbed higher still, up some rickety, rusty old ladders (how long have they been here?) – to hang out with Roman gods. I mean, what’s a temple without some Roman gods?

If you’re outside, looking up at the 42nd Street façade, you’ll see Grand Central’s iconic clock. It’s the world’s largest Tiffany glass clock, 13 feet in diameter, and has marked time for New Yorkers for a century. And we just climbed inside it, to get a better view. How great is this?

Above the clock are the powerful symbols of the mighty American railroad: The gods of transportation. As Dan explains: “Mercury is in the center, for speed, for industry. On Mercury’s right, there’s Hercules, for strength. And on Mercury’s left, there’s Minerva, the goddess of intellectualism, of thought, of contemplation. It takes all of this to make a mighty railroad. And it sure did. ”

The artist was Jules Felix Coutan, and when it was unveiled in 1914, it was considered the largest sculptural group in the world. And today it still stands as a mighty symbol of the great railroad.

For our last little Grand Central secret, look at the number VI on the clock. It’s actually a little window. And if you’re lucky enough to get a private tour of the Temple of Transportation from the Ambassador of Grand Central, he might let you lean out that window, and hail a cab. What could be more New York than that?

But before we take a cab or a train out of this New York icon, Dan has some final thoughts to share, to remember when you’re in a rush to get from place to place, and cross through his palace: “There are many elements about Grand Central Terminal which make it the symbol of New York and the center of New York. It’s the world’s largest, it’s the world’s busiest, it’s a center of commerce, of people rushing to get someplace, but even more than that, it’s a symbol. New Yorkers get to come here everyday, and feel for themselves, a sense of rebirth, of Renaissance, knowing that you too can be as re-engineered and renewed and grand and Grand Central. It’s a great way to start the day, it’s a great way to end the day. Every single day.”

This article was originally published on Pursuitist. Republished by permission. 

Sounds of Summer: 8 Outdoor Amphitheaters To Visit This Summer

Ah, summer. The season of BBQs, baseball and the beach. Give those summertime soirees their due, but few things can compare to live music at a beautiful outdoor venue with the warm summer breeze wafting through your hair and a cold drink in hand.

For some, the experience has a historical aspect to it; open-air events were enjoyed in Ancient Greece and Rome and many outdoor venues have National Historic Landmark status or have a special place in music history. For others, it’s the thrill of standing under an open sky, taking in the views while the music surrounds you. These concert goers purchase tickets every summer no matter the lineup or how high the service charge is.

Continue reading

3 Top Travel Backpacks for Adventurers On-the-Go

When it comes to travel, having the perfect backpack can make all the difference. It’s essential to find a backpack that combines functionality, durability, comfort and style for a seamless journey. Whether you’re embarking on a weekend city break or a long-term backpacking adventure, we’ve got you covered with options to suit different budgets and preferences.


Osprey Farpoint 55—$179.95


The Osprey Farpoint 55 is a highly regarded choice among travelers due to its versatility and durability. This backpack offers a spacious main compartment with a detachable daypack, providing ample storage space for all your essentials. The zip-away harness and hip belt system ensure a comfortable fit and easy transportation. The Farpoint 55 features a sturdy frame, making it suitable for extended trips and rugged adventures. Additionally, the backpack is equipped with lockable zippers, providing an extra layer of security. With its sleek design and high-quality materials, the Osprey Farpoint 55 is a reliable companion for any travel enthusiast.


Nomatic Travel Pack—$259.99


The Nomatic Travel Pack is a sleek and innovative backpack that caters to the needs of modern travelers. Its minimalistic design maximizes functionality, featuring versatile compartments and organization pockets to keep your belongings tidy and easily accessible. With a capacity of 20 to 30 liters, it meets most airlines’ carry-on requirements. The Travel Pack also boasts a water-resistant exterior, making it ideal for outdoor adventures. Its innovative strap system allows for comfortable carrying in various configurations. Although the Nomatic Travel Pack is relatively more expensive, its attention to detail and well-thought-out design make it a top choice for frequent travelers and digital nomads seeking a premium experience.

Patagonia Black Hole 25L—$129.00


The Patagonia Black Hole 25L backpack is a compact yet highly durable option for travelers. Made from recycled materials, this backpack exemplifies Patagonia’s commitment to sustainability. The Black Hole 25L offers a spacious main compartment with multiple pockets for efficient organization. It features a water-resistant exterior, ensuring your belongings stay dry even in challenging weather conditions. The padded shoulder straps and back panel provide excellent comfort, making it suitable for all-day use. With its rugged construction and dependable performance, the Patagonia Black Hole 25L is a reliable companion for day trips or as a carry-on. Plus, with a more affordable price compared to other premium options, it offers excellent value for money.


Finding the best travel backpack for your adventures is crucial for a comfortable and organized journey. The Osprey Farpoint 55 stands out with its versatility and durable design, making it a popular choice among travelers. The Nomatic Travel Pack offers a sleek and innovative design, perfect for tech-savvy nomads who require maximum functionality. For those seeking a more affordable option, the Patagonia Black Hole 25L combines durability and sustainability at a competitive price point. Ultimately, the best travel backpack is the one that meets your specific needs and preferences. Consider factors such as storage capacity, comfort, durability, and price to make an informed decision and embark on your travels with confidence.

18 Beautiful Bars Across America

Looking to explore your favorite restaurant from a new vantage point, or maybe ease your way into a spot you’d like to try? Pull up a bar stool and experience all the atmosphere has to offer with a delicious drink in hand. Whether you’re ordering cocktails, snacks or going all out with a full meal, these beautiful bars are a great spot to take a seat and enjoy. Continue reading

Inside NYC’s “Ultra-Luxurious Billionaires’ Row Sky Palace” at One57

Want to know what the inside of a 45-million-dollar penthouse in New York City looks like? Take a look inside One57 Penthouse 88 with Ryan Serhant (of Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing New York) and Talia McKinney of luxury real estate brokerage firm SERHANT. The 6,200+ square foot mansion in the sky features 5 bedrooms, and 5 bathrooms over a full floor, with 360-degree views.


Thomas Juul-Hansen Designed


Ultra-Luxurious Billionaires’ Row Sky Palace at One57 was designed by Thomas Juul-Hansen, and features designer finishes throughout the apartment. White oak floors, natural light, and floor-to-ceiling windows are just a few of the many details. A private elevator entry gets you to the crown jewel apartment on the 99th floor, 880 feet in the sky, and a grand foyer is a blank canvas for the next owner.


The 57- foot great room features custom tray ceilings, elegant chandeliers, and prime views of the entirety of Central Park. Through pocket doors, the open concept family room and the kitchen feature custom built-ins, an eat-in island, sleek black stone countertops, a high-capacity Sub-Zero wine cooler, and integrated high-end Miele appliances.




The primary bedroom suite is located in its own private wing and covers a full corner, with the space for a seating area. A 22-foot-long walk-in closet and a master bath with walk-in showers, enclosed toilets, Jack0and-Jill wetroom, and a  soaking tub and wall caved from a singular block of marble make this one of the most unique bathrooms.


The second and third bedrooms have large reach-in closets and full en-suite bathrooms, while the remaining two bedrooms share access to a windowed full bathroom with a large linen closet and walk-in shower. A laundry room with a utility sink and a side-by-side washer/dryer completes the home.


More ammenities


Other amenities for residents of One57 include valet parking, a private fitness center, dining, and entertaining rooms, a screening and performance room, a pet spa, a library and billiards room, package delivery, dry cleaning, and access to Park Hyatt amenities like a state-of-the-art health club, pool, and spa, a business center, and attentive housekeeping service.

Tour the apartment here:


The Musts of the Modern Man

What makes the modern man; what are the constituent parts? The equation, if you will. It can be a heavily loaded question and, of course, the ideal changes with the idealist, but there have to be a few fundamental basics. Matt Moore, singer-songwriter, entrepreneur and author of “Have Her Over for Dinner: A Gentleman’s Guide to Classic, Simple Meals“, and the Double R. Ranch take on the weighty matter of what it takes to be a modern, post-Millennial man. The answers may be something of a surprise Continue reading

The Best of Bond

No Time to Die, featuring Daniel Craig as James Bond, and the 25th Bond film produced by Eon Productions, goes live in Theaters Oct. 8

The first James Bond film, Dr. No, was released 59 years ago this month. It was mocked by many critics following its debut on October 5th, 1962 at the London Pavilion. Time Magazine described Sean Connery as “a great, big, hairy marshmallow.” Then the Vatican decried its sexual content and the Kremlin declared 007 the embodiment of capitalist evil. Continue reading

Track Traditions

The Kentucky Derby is steeped in 145 years of tradition, much of it booze and hat related. So much tradition surrounds the Derby that the race itself might have become secondary to the ceremony if spectators didn’t have tens of millions of dollars riding on the outcome. So, what traditions lure racing fans away from the track?

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Frank Family Vineyards Donates Portion of Chardonnay Sales To Autism Speaks

Coronavirus has gripped our country and the world like nothing we have ever seen or could imagine. To say that vanquishing it through social distancing and other measures is the most important thing in most of our lives right now seems like a safe bet. From a philanthropic standpoint it should rightfully be a priority for most who can afford to give. But there are other causes that still need our attention even in the deepest depths of the coronavirus pandemic. One of these causes is Autism awareness. April, after all, is Autism awareness month.


Frank Family Vineyards, founded in 1992 by former Disney Studios president Rich Frank—and one of my favorite wineries in Napa Valley—is a champion of this cause. Throughout the month of April, the winery will donate 15% of all proceeds from direct sales of its 2018 Carneros Chardonnay ($38) as well as from “Frank for a Cause” packages ($55) featuring a limited-edition blue t-shirt and bottle of Chardonnay. Autism Speaks is the nation’s largest autism advocacy organization and this donation will help fund the organization’s vital programs that increase global understanding, advance breakthroughs in autism research, expand early childhood screening and improve transition to adulthood. Those interested in supporting the cause may do so via the Frank Family Vineyards website.


“The outbreak of the coronavirus has had an unprecedented impact on the world, with the fast-changing environment requiring navigation through uncertain times. During a time like this, we want to make sure non-profit organizations are not overlooked and are therefore continuing with our plan to support Autism Speaks during the month of April,” says Rich Frank.


The inspiration behind Frank Family’s 2020 fundraising campaign is Jennifer Higgins, who has been a vital part of the Frank Family team as Retail Operations Administrative Assistant for the past 12 years.


She graciously shared her family’s experience with Autism: “Every parent stresses out and worries about their kids. For us, our concerns are just different. We love our son Owen for all that he is and want to see a world where people with autism can discover their true potential,” she says. “I hope this campaign, along with all the work this charity does throughout the year, helps to create a kinder, more inclusive world.”


This year Autism Speaks is celebrating its 15th anniversary as an organization and will be launching a commitment to make 2020 the “Year of Kindness.” The goal of the “Year of Kindness” is to make both the online and offline worlds kinder while increasing acceptance of individuals with autism and their families. Since the organization’s founding in 2005, its core mission remains the same: to enhance lives today and accelerate a spectrum of solutions for tomorrow.


“We have an amazing community of wine buyers at Frank Family, many of whom have supported our fundraising campaigns in the past. Through our “Frank Fights Hunger” campaign last November, we were able to raise $20,000 for Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization,” says Leslie Frank. “We’re grateful that our winery’s ethos of giving back has been embraced by our customers. We look forward to raising funds for Autism Speaks this April.”

Supporters of Frank Family’s April campaign on social media should use #FrankForACause.

The New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show

With December flying at us at lightning speed – I think it caught everyone by surprise this year – and families scrambling to squeeze in favorite Christmas traditions and past times, don’t forget to go to the New York Botanical Garden’s annual Holiday Train Show.


We go to the train show (located in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory) every year. It’s always a beautiful show, with meticulously crafted trains, tracks, landmarks and other sites, all made out of bark, leaves, pine cones and other natural materials – a true “wonder” of a site; the artistry behind it is amazing. My mom, who was born and raised in New York, loves going to this show every year just to marvel at all the famous landmark miniatures, taking in the history of the city as she wanders around from track to track. And the kids, well of course this is train heaven for them! And this year, with the added space and almost a ½ mile of tracks to explore, there are a lot of trains for the young ones to watch mesmerizingly, waiting for the next one to zip by.












There are 150 Landmarks to see – from Rockefeller Center to the Brooklyn Bridge to (the original) Penn Station to Yankee Stadium to the Empire State Building. This year’s exhibition features 3,000 square feet of additional exhibition space, making room for dozens of new trains, bridges, and tracks; a captivating short film of the show’s behind-the-scenes magic; and a stunning multisensory finale of light and sound. It’s a stunning show, and fascinating for all ages. If you can’t make it this month, no worries! – it’s open until mid January. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for kids ages 2-12 (under 2 free) during the week days, and $30 for adults, $18 for kids ages 2-12 during weekends. For Members, which we are, the show is free. Might I add that if you’re not a member and live in the area, you may want to consider purchasing a membership, which is almost the same price. Also, it’s best to reserve tickets in advance online to avoid potentially long lines.


Finally, don’t forget to hit the Gift Shop on your way out. It’s a fabulous shop, especially this time of year, with delicious looking holiday décor, and a great kids section. It’s one of my favorites. Whether you’re in your 80’s or in your toddler years, the NYBG’s Holiday Train Show will not disappoint!


Train show facts:

— All displays can be seen from 360 degrees
— 25 large scale model railway trains and trolleys
— Some trains are 2 feet long and weigh as much as 10 pounds
— More than 150 replicas in the train show
— Finale includes sound and light display in the Reflecting Pool in the Palms of the World Gallery


New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Blvd., Bronx, New York, 10458

Best Hotel Holiday Pop Ups

From rooftop terraces transformed into enchanting winter wonderlands to charming, artisan markets selling handcrafted novelties and gifts, hotels from Vancouver to London are pulling out all the stops to offer one-of-a-kind holiday pop-ups to guests and locals alike this winter. Here are the most festive holiday pop-up experiences at luxury hotels around the world. Continue reading

6 Jazz Joints To Hit This Summer

If you’re a music lover, spending a balmy summer evening tucked away at your own table, drink in hand and listening to the blues, is a treat for all the senses. We’ve covered six different cities in hopes of finding you the perfect venue and have stamped the below jazz clubs with a GLR seal of approval. Continue reading

In With the Old—Why Antiques Can Be a Great Investment

Looking for an alternative investment? Antiques can be some of the safest. 

The erratic volatility in today’s markets could make any trader, however skilled, want to throw up his hands, cut his losses and toss his remaining money into a commode. A commode, of course, being a chest of drawers from France, circa 1750.

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New York’s Transit Museum

When people think about the New York City museums they love to take their kids to, usually the same places come up: the Museum of Natural History, the Met, MoMA, the Children’s Museum. Indeed, my girls love all these too. What’s not to love. But one of our favorite museums, one that’s smaller and not as well known, is the New York Transit Museum. Located in Downtown Brooklyn, it is off the beaten path, away from the tourists and crowds. Which in many ways is a good thing, because almost every time we’ve been there we’ve practically felt like we’ve had the place to ourselves. No crowds = happy kids.

The Transit Museum is located in what used to be an old subway station. In fact, finding the museum for the first time can be difficult – I literally did think the entrance was a subway entrance and not the museum itself. I hear that’s common. Once you enter it, however, you’re taken into the underground world of everything transit, including old subway trains, buses, and trolleys. Kids love to run around and try their hand at “driving” one of the buses or hopping on and walking up and down one of the trains. There are many of them actually, making the museum deceivingly much larger than one would think upon entering. In fact, it is the largest museum in the United States devoted to urban public transportation history. Who knew?







The museum has a variety of exhibits, including a popular one on the building of the 100 year-old NYC subway system, as well as highly interactive exhibits, such as “On the Streets”, which focuses on NYC’s trolleys and buses. With all the interactive activities the museum offers, there is plenty for the kids to do. What child does not like trains, trolleys and buses? It is also, simply, a place to take your children on a rainy day (the last two days in the New York area saw rain and clouds straight through, which prompted me to write this) and let them walk and run around. Though I probably shouldn’t say “run”, as they discourage that, but you get the point. An interesting place where your kids will both learn something as well as stretch their legs on a day you would otherwise be cooped up inside. And the parents love it just as much.

The New York Transit Museum is a really neat, under the radar museum, not to mention with an awesome gift shop! We love it there so much that we even had my older daughter’s birthday party there years back. And at $7 for adults and $5 for kids 2+, it’s a no-brainer. Next time the weather is not cooperating and you need to entertain your little ones, you know where to go.


This article was originally published on fifi + hop (Travel and Adventure, with Kids)  and has been republished by GoodLife Report by permission of fifi + hop.

Nautical By Nature

The nautical theme is all the rage again this season and now you can master the look in a legitimate way. Ella Vickers, Second Wind Sails and Sea Bags are all making stylish tote bags from recycled and reclaimed sails. Continue reading

The Business of Cards

Business cards are not created equal. Whether it’s a standard 3.5 inch by 2 inch piece of paper or an origami fold-out that reveals your company name in reverse print, business cards showcase you and your company’s personality. Continue reading

You’ve Come to the Rijks Place

Will Ferrell recently visited Amsterdam in character as Ron Burgundy. In a series of sketches filmed for the MTV Europe Music Awards, the egotistical reporter from the Anchorman movies toured the city’s seedier side. Burgundy biked around De Wallen with Daft Punk, found himself in a window in the Red Light District and made the mistake of ordering a brownie in one of Amsterdam’s most famous coffee shops. Continue reading

A Perfect Fit

In May, menswear retailer Bonobos opened their second guideshop in New York City at 35 Crosby St (the online retailer has additional outposts in Austin, Bethesda, Boston, Chicago, Georgetown and San Francisco). Continue reading