One of my favorite parts of working in the travel industry is discovering companies who are doing cool, modern things to keep the industry alive. I feel like the travel industry is either seen as old and outdated (travel agents, cruises, fancy tours that younger people can’t afford and that are mostly geared towards retired people) or really young backpackers or travel bloggers who advocate traveling long term for as little money as possible, which is also sometimes polarizing in its own way. So I like finding companies who appeal to a broad audience and people of many different travel interests and budgets, and Untapped Cities is one of them.
I think by now I’ve made it clear that Grand Central Terminal is one of my favorite places in New York. I pass through it everyday on my commute to work and walking around the corner to see that beautiful turquoise ceiling every morning never gets old, even if I haven’t had my coffee yet/am still grumpy.
I’d been wanting to do a behind the scenes tour of Grand Central for a while and last Sunday I finally got the chance. I found Untapped Cities’ Secrets of Grand Central Tour because of something they posted on Twitter (Twitter is just where I find all my friends and new interests now, pretty much) and I was essentially a kid in a candy store.
Our tour guide first gave us some historical background on the building, and then she got to the juicy part: the fun facts. I’ll share a couple of them here but I’m not going to relate every single thing I wrote down because, you know, I don’t want to steal the tour’s thunder.In the statue on top of the building, there’s a clock. This clock is the world’s largest example of Tiffany glass — it’s 14 feet in diameter! It does NOT look that big when you are standing outside looking up at it. Not ashamed to admit that I did the thing where you cover the clock with your thumb to marvel at how something so large can look so small. I am but human.
When they were renovating the station after it officially became a historical landmark, they tried power-washing the interior walls but that didn’t take away all of the dirt. Gross? So then they essentially gave the walls a facial: they put clay all over them, let it dry, then peeled it off, and the dirt came off with it. Also kind of puts facials in a whole new perspective for me.
750,000 people pass through Grand Central Terminal everyday… which is roughly the population of San Francisco.
Most people know this one: the constellations painted on that beautiful turquoise ceiling I love so much are actually painted backwards. So next time you mess up on something at work, just be glad you didn’t accidentally paint an entire ceiling backwards. Also, that little black thing is a hole… you’ll hear that story if you take the tour, it’s a pretty good one (involves a missile, as most good stories do).
And one of my favorite parts… the secret tennis court! I had heard rumors of this secret tennis court and I was so excited that we got to see it during the tour. Not telling any of you where it is (but maybe if you’re visiting and you ask nicely, I’ll show you).
Not related to the tour, just a side note: Grand Central is all decorated for the holidays right now and it’s delightful.
If you’re passing through New York and want to learn even more fun facts about this magical place, Untapped Cities is giving another tour in January. They also post great articles about Paris, San Francisco, London, LA, and more, and they offer tours for other cool places in New York (like the Woolworth Building) and beyond!
*Untapped Cities offered me a discounted rate as a member of the travel industry, because being in the travel industry is the best.