While the Empire State Building won the “Race into the Sky” during the early 1930’s (and it is an impressive building) I think the sheer size of the Rockefeller Center is just as amazing since the original 14 Art Deco buildings span the area between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and contain the famous large sunken square.
In 1928, the site’s then-owner, Columbia University, leased the land to John D. Rockefeller Jr., who envisioned it as the site for a new Metropolitan Opera building, but the Met could not afford to move to the proposed building. Various new plans and uses were discussed before the current one was approved in 1932. The first buildings opened in 1933 and the core of the complex was completed by 1939.
Now a days Rockefeller Center has two parts: the original center and the later International-style buildings. The original center has several sections: Radio City, for RCA’s radio-related enterprises such as the Music Hall and 30 Rockefeller Plaza; the International Complex, for foreign tenants; and the remainder of the original complex, which originally hosted printed media as well as Eastern Air Lines.
Rockefeller Center is noted for the large quantities of art present in almost all of its Art Deco buildings and this is the part I find most fascinating. For about $30 you can take an hour long tour explaining the history of the center through the original artwork build into the complex. You can check out the website here.
Other things you can look for are free tickets to watch the taping of several TV shows including Saturday Night Live and various late night comedian shows. If this is something you would like to do try to do visit the NBC Studio store and see in the morning and see if they are filming that day.
During the winter Rockefeller Center is also known for the ice-skating rink and the famous lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.