Sometimes just walking around a railroad station is as satisfying as going to a museum. I can’t think of a better place to people watch or just walk around than Manhattan’s two railroad stations. On a cold or rainy day, there are ample shops and restaurants to keep most people busy even locals not traveling.
Grand Central Station. This is by far America’s most noted railroad station. It is almost synonymous with romantic partings or arrivals and the golden age of passenger travel. GCS has been on several movies, most important to me the 1945 Hitchcock thriller Spellbound. Each day upwards of 500,000 people walk through the main concourse. Built in 1913 in Beaux Arts style, Grand Central Station is one of our country’s greatest architectural works. One thing is missing from prior days. Right next to the station was the Commodore Hotel. The Grand Central and the Commodore seemed like sisters. The Hyatt Recency, built shortly after the the demolition of the Commodore, does not have the same appeal.
Penn Station. This all underground terminal takes passengers all the way to Florida or California. The shorter lines go to Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. At one time, Pennsylvania Railroad owned the hotel of the same name right across 7th Avenue. Like Grand Central, this station has ample shops and restaurants. The Pennsylvania Hotel originally had that name now it’s gone right back with the first title. It was the Statler Hilton, the Ramada Inn, and The Penta.