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8 Hidden Secrets of Rockefeller Center

Updated: Mar 24, 2022

The backdrop to numerous blockbuster films, selfies, late-night television shows, and historic moments, Rockefeller Center is synonymous with all things New York City.

Looking up at beige building that features the artistic piece titled Wisdom located in Rockefeller Center, Midtown, New York City.

While the first image that your mind probably conjures up is the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, there’s so much more to Rockefeller Center’s campus than meets the eye.

If you’re interested in learning more about hidden gems related to Rockefeller Center’s evolution, go for a walk and enjoy our audio walking tour around the Center, featuring the designers, chefs, shop owners, and artists of Rockefeller Center themselves.

Year-round, this particular area of Midtown is a home to vibrant public art initiatives, iconic performances, and inventive cuisines, but that still only scratches the surface. As you’re walking through Midtown, keep an eye out for these eight hidden secrets of Rockefeller Center so you can travel like an insider:

Look closely for a colorful mosaic tucked behind The Tonight Show awning and you’ll find “Intelligence Awakening Mankind” by Barry Faulkner. It’s made up of over a million tiles of 250 different colors and symbolizes the power of media. The words near the figures clue you into this symbolism with each of the three figures representing Thought, Spoken Word, and Written Word.

A closeup of a mosaic under the sign for the tonight show starring Jimmy Fallon, titled “Intelligence Awakening Mankind” by Barry Faulkner. Featured in the mosaic are three figures in a cloudy, blue sky symbolizing thought, spoken word, and written word.

The dazzling neon lights of the Radio City Music Hall are sure to captivate, but also be sure to look to the side of Radio City where you’ll spot three circular roundels. Together, they represent Dance, Drama, and Song, a series by artist Hildreth Meiere.

Gazing upward at the Associated Press Building, search for a signature etched into the sculpture. This work, titled “News,” is by artist Isamu Noguchi, and each figure in the sculpture captures the sense of urgency to publish a news s​​tory, a reflection of the chaotic newsroom that once occupied the building.

A closeup of Isamu Noguchi's signature on a silver building that feature's his artwork titled News in Rockefeller Center, New York.

Step inside the International Building and soak in its amber light. The building’s name is appropriate given it used to be the home of a passport office, and the building’s rent used to be a mere $1 a year. Can you imagine? Travel advertisements used to cover the walls, but today you’ll find Michio Ihara’s “Light and Movement.”

Notice the glass displays as you walk. Throughout the year, Rockefeller Center and the Art Production Fund host a program called Art In Focus, which features unique pop-up installations by a different artist every few months.

Amber lights of the International building shining onto the featured artwork of Hiba Schahbaz, one of featured artists in 2021 and part of the Art in Focus program which is a series of pop-up art installations by Rockefeller Center and the Art Production Fund.

As you eventually make your way back outside, stop for a moment in the Channel Gardens. You’re walking through the space that was the site of the very first botanical garden in the United States.

A view of the Channel Gardens with the fountain in the middle surrounded by green plants and beige buildings of Rockefeller Center in the background.

Look up near the Rink and you’ll find dozens of flags, 193 to be exact, flying in the wind. The flagpoles were first installed in 1942, and the number of flagpoles represents each member of the United Nations.

The businesses that occupy Rockefeller Center are just as iconic as the Center itself. Take for example Eddie’s Shoe Repair. Peer through the windows of Eddie’s Shoe Repair and you’ll see their mission, to timelessly restore leather items, in action. The shop’s owner, Hugo Ardaix, believes tourists take just as many if not more photos of his shop than the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, with an estimate of 500 photos a day! You can hear more retail stories about Rockefeller Center here.


Want to discover more stories in New York City? Explore at your pace, on your schedule with Gesso - browse available tours!

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