First Night in NYC – Rockefeller, Rainbow Room and Radio City

Rockefeller Centre, Photo by Ann Massey

So we stepped out of the warmth and seclusion of our hotel into the crisp, January, New York night. Not knowing exactly where we were going, we jumped into a yellow and black stalwart of NYC culture to take us to our first proper interaction with New York City at night.

Pedestrians were few and far between, no doubt seeking shelter in one of the many cosy bars and restaurants we passed en route to 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

I gave a sharp intake of breath and it wasn’t against an icy cold winter’s night. My senses were overwhelmed taking in the 66 floor icon of New York culture and home to NBC studios and the Rainbow Room.

30 Rock as it is affectionately known, is the jewel in the Rockefeller crown and NBC have a whopping 35 studios in the lower part of the building, made possible by the lack of windows over 16 floors. Two floors at the top were set by for a dining area which became The Rainbow Room.

The Rainbow Room opened its doors in 1934 and after a slow start became the hit of NY nightlife for the social elite. The most prestigious families of the era would hold charity events and stars of stage and screen were regulars at the black tie Grill and supper club. It has however, had a rocky (pun intended) path to the place we were dining tonight. Falling out of fashion, lease costs rising and economic downturn have seen it close, be reinvented and reopen on more than one occasion.

Bar SixtyFive at The Rainbow Room is New York’s highest terrace bar, bistro style dining and an apparent cocktail utopia. Stylishly designed and keeping true to its classic origins, the location has a triple aspect vista across Manhattan including a first class view of the Empire State Building.

View of the Empire State Building from the Rainbow Room, Photo by Ann Massey

We had actually called ahead to bring forward our reservation to 9pm and I was surprised at the pleasant and warm manner in which we were accommodated for such an establishment.

Black elegance was clearly the uniform of the employees and the Thursday evening bar counter was filled with city slickers sipping on cocktails and trying to outdo one another in the attention stakes.

A wonderful place to people watch, I continued to judge books by covers as I saw what was clearly a table of importance and wealth with our waitress practically joining them, so much was the attention she was giving.

When in Rome, so I ordered a Manhattan cocktail and Dominic ordered a Brooklyn Beer. He found it a tad hoppy and my own was mediocre. Our waitress took our order with a side order of you’re beneath my tip grade and both opted for the signature SixtyFive Bar burger with triple cooked fries. The burger was pleasant enough, but make it fancy as you like, it’s still a burger. The fries were a bit sallow and triple cooked does not mean crispy it would seem.

Dominic unimpressed by the clientele of the Rainbow Room, Photo by Ann Massey

Feeling distinctly out of place, we decided to wrap things up and finally got the attention of our waitress. Looking down her perfectly powdered nose she whisked away Dominic’s credit card and was gone for some time.

Having tracked her to the table of wealth, I politely informed her she was causing a security concern having our credit card away for so long and was preventing us leaving. After showing her true colours which were most definitely not elegant black, I left a tip – a handwritten one on the docket giving her sage advice on how to earn one.

Stepping out of the elevator we walked out into the fresh air and had a good look at Radio City Music Hall, one of the first projects of the Rockefeller Center.

Photo by Ann Massey

The ‘Showplace for the Nation’ is HQ for the dance troop The Rockettes, who have been performing here since 1932 and were founded as rivals to the UK Tiller Girls. Known for their Christmas Spectacular and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, they continue to wow New York audiences to this day.

It is not just the Rockettes who put on a show – artists of every persuasion including Massive Attack and King Crimson perform here. If you just want to see a piece of entertainment history, you can take a behind the scenes tour including a meet and greet with a Rockette!

Finally it was time to return to our hotel after a very busy first evening in New York City, after all tomorrow would be a day chocked full of new experiences in what was already becoming my favourite city in the world.

All Photos Copyright Ann Massey. 2019

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