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It’s easy to just think of President’s Day as a day off, but this year, why not skip shopping at those blowout sales and take a step back in time? Instead, explore the homes and learn about the lives of America’s former presidents. Whether you’re a history buff or just want to pay tribute to America’s famous leaders, these National Park Service sites are a great way to discover more about our nation’s history. READ MORE

Reuters

Chinese New Year falls on Sunday, Feb. 10, but you don’t need to cross the ocean for the party. The most widely celebrated Chinese festival is a time to welcome longevity, wealth and prosperity into your life. Spot a dragon, the bearer of good luck, or set off some firecrackers to chase off evil spirits in one of these cities – our picks for the best cities to ring in the year of the snake! READ MORE

Photography by Katie Hards

Today marks the 100 year anniversary of an iconic New York City landmark — Grand Central Terminal. For the past century, it has served as a major hub of transportation for daily commuters coming or going to and from NYC. It also serves as a major tourist destination and is one of the top 10 most visited destinations in the world, according to Daniel Brucker, Manager of GCT Tours. Today, on its official birthday, the Guinness Book of World Records will bestow the building as “The Largest Station by Number of Platforms.” So, besides that, what’s so special about this train terminal?

The building is steeped in the history marked by its technological advancements in transportation, ingenuity in design and architecture and urban development that shaped NYC to be the metropolis we know today. Just think about the stories of the billions of commuters and travelers who have come and gone through the building over the years. Who knows how many hello and goodbye kisses and hugs have taken place within the confines of the building. And we’re sure that even the items in the station’s expansive lost and found room come with their own unsolved mysterious stories, including an urn of ashes or a basset hound that have both, somehow, been left behind. With nearly 700,000 people served daily, Grand Central also boasts an on-time performance of 98%, ensuring everyone arrives safely and promptly at their destinations.

Photography by Katie Hards

Before their centennial celebration, I was able to partake in a very special behind-the-scenes tour to understand what makes this building and its services so unique. From the lowest depths of the building — which is the deepest basement in all over New York City — I, along with other special guests, got a glimpse into the enormous electrical infrastructure, both that power the station.

Prior to 1913, the trains coming to and from Grand Central were powered by coal, making any property along the open air tracks dirty and undesirable. With the introduction of electrically powered trains, the tracks could be enclosed underground, and the land above it (Park Avenue) became ripe for development. This area became, and still is, some of the city’s most lucrative and expensive properties.

Photography by Katie Hards

Photography by Katie Hards

In the upper reaches of the building, we sidled past busy men and women sitting in the Metro North control room. They were guiding train traffic in and out of the station by overseeing blinking lights and numbers on two enormous screens — leaving me cross eyed from its complexity. Luckily, we ducked into a door behind them to scale a couple of rickety ladders that led us to a small room. We found ourselves faced with the most beautiful Tiffany glass clock, which is visible along 42nd street. The “6” on the clock opens up to reveal the street below and Park Avenue leading up to the station. It’s a great view from a unique vantage point. We got another great view from the upper glass catwalks. This perspective allowed us to see the wonderful beaux-arts features of the building and to gaze closely at the ornate constellations painted on the ceiling. Peering down, we gained a birds-eye view of the expansive main concourse to watch the commuters, travelers and visitors from above.

Photography by Katie Hards

Photography by Katie Hards

If you’re planning a trip to the Big Apple before March 15, put Grand Central Terminal on your must-see list. MTA Metro-North Railroad — which operates the Terminal — is celebrating the centennial with an informative exhibit highlighting the history of the building through photographs, architectural drawings and interactive exhibits. You can even download a special app that will guide you through the unique elements of this centenarian landmark. Though you won’t be scaling any ladders or peering down from the catwalks, you’ll gain historical insight and visit some of the other unique features of the building.

Photography by Katie Hards

See what other landmarks, events and cities are celebrating big birthdays this year in our Travel Anniversaries of 2013 slideshow.

- By Katie Hards

Picture this: 5 miles of wiring, draped around an 80-foot-tall Norway spruce – topped by a Swarokvski star. It all adds up to one very magical sight: the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting — tonight, in Rockefeller Plaza. READ MORE

In the neighborhood for the US Open?

The US Open attracts thousands of tennis fans to NYC every year. This year, the tournament started on Aug. 27, but the competition continues through Sept. 9, giving spectators a chance to see their favorite pros in action, including Serena Williams and Andy Murray, both recently back from the Olympics.

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MLB Trip Flip at Yankee Stadium

Ever wanted to tour one of the most historic ballparks in all of baseball? Tonight at 9|8c, watch as Trip Flip’s Bert Kreischer gives 2 vacationers the opportunity of a lifetime as he takes them on an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City – including a tour of Yankee Stadium led by former Major League Baseball star Harold Reynolds. READ MORE

Today’s Daily Escape is Belvedere Castle in New York, NY. More »

 

  Photograph by Thinkstock

If you’re anything like us, you were probably wondering where the Batcave is actually located (and if it’s a real place) as opposed to paying attention to the plot of Dark Knight Rises. We loved the movie, and we can’t help but be a little destination-obsessed here at Travel Channel. The Gotham City of Dark Knight was so obviously Chicago, that the new locations in Dark Knight Rises had us wondering, “Is that New York?” Turns out, most of it wasn’t.

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Space is one of those destinations that will always fascinate, regardless of whether we’ll ever be able to go or not. (If you happen to have $200K lying around, then start planning your trip now!) But you can explore the history of space travel here on earth. The display of NASA’s space shuttle Enterprise opened last week at Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York City.

In the Intrepid Museum’s Space Shuttle Pavilion, Enterprise — NASA’s very first space shuttle — is elevated 10 feet off the ground, so you can walk directly underneath it. An elevated viewing platform also allows you to get a better look. Intrepid Museum is one of the few places in the world to offer an up-close view of a space shuttle. READ MORE

Today’s Daily Escape is Niagara Falls, New York. More »

Photograph by Getty Images

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