A Rockette’s Favorite Iconic Things to Do in New York
Gracing the Great Stage of Radio City Music Hall since the early 1930s, the Rockettes are about as "Iconic New York" as the top of the Chrysler Building or the dizzying lights of Times Square. The high-kicking dance company even plays off their status as a Big Apple institution on stage, most recently in their New York Spring Spectacular (March 12–May 3, 2015). As this show is a theatrical tour of some of the city's most famous landmarks, it only seemed appropriate to consult the Rockettes—namely, dancer Morgan Hartley—on their favorite things to do in New York City.
Take a Ferry to the Statue of Liberty
Dedicated to the city as a gift from France in 1886, Lady Liberty has watched over both new and temporary New Yorkers for more than 125 years. “[She’s] an emblem of New York City,” Morgan says. No tourist’s trip to New York would be complete without paying homage to the Grande Dame, which can be reached via ferry departing from Battery Park.
Morgan’s even more familiar with the statue now that she’s shared the stage with a 26-foot-tall animatronic version of it, voiced by New York native Whoopi Goldberg.
Visit the Top of the Empire State Building—or Inspect It from the Ground
The glistening art deco triumph makes for one of the city’s most romantic landmarks, even if you’re not Cary Grant or Meg Ryan. At 1,250 feet tall, the observation deck at the top gives visitors an unparalleled view of Midtown.
Morgan still revisits the iconic building, finding it to be “a nice reminder of how many people are below you, and how many people and artists [are there] … It just makes you fall in love with New York City all over again.” The view from the ground can be just as satisfying, since “you get to see all the different colors [reflected in it]—and each day the colors at the top of the building change.”
Climb the Alice in Wonderland Statue in Central Park
Morgan’s favorite thing to see in Central Park is officially dedicated to a younger crowd: the children of New York. Cast in bronze, the park’s Alice in Wonderland statue depicts Lewis Carroll’s heroine sitting atop a fat mushroom, flanked by the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter. The subject matter, however, is just one part of the sculpture's appeal to the young; the main draw is that kids are encouraged to climb all over it. Morgan points out that it's such a popular piece of playground equipment, that “over the years, children’s hands have actually polished the statue.”
The appeal of Wonderland is not lost on Radio City Music Hall. The production represents the entire statue with elaborate puppets, with Disney star Bella Thorne providing the voice of Alice. While “there are people actually controlling every move that [Alice] makes,” Morgan seldom gets to see this work of technological magic. “We are either off stage or dancing, so I haven’t personally had a chance to see [it] actually work!”
Go to Grand Central Terminal, and Look Up
We might be well past the days when most people traveled by rail, but that doesn’t mean Grand Central Station isn’t still a stop on most tourists’ lists. Built by infamous railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1903, the station’s elegant interior makes it a worthwhile destination even if you’re not departing from it. A regal four-faced clock and the ceiling’s astrological mural, which was restored in 1998, lend a sense of Old-World charm to the Main Concourse.
Morgan knows that “from there you can go anywhere,” and her favorite number in the Spring Spectacular—the opening—actually uses Grand Central as its backdrop. As Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York” plays, the Rockettes’ famous kicks give the audience a hearty welcome right in front of that clock.
See a Show at Radio City Music Hall
“No matter how old I get,” Morgan says, “if I leave the city and come back, I will always think of Radio City Music Hall as my home in New York.” On a less sentimental note, the world’s largest indoor theater—its stage framed by a 60-foot-tall arch with more than 25,000 lights—could also be called “the showplace of the nation.” It was home to Hollywood elite during cinema’s Golden Age, and still continues to bring in thousands of visitors, most of whom arrive to see the Rockettes.
Photo courtesy of MSG Entertainment