When William K. Vanderbilt, chairman of the New York Central Railroad, threw open the doors of his new 70-acre transportation palace at midnight on Feb. 1, 1913, nearly 150,000 people poured in to marvel at the Beaux Arts beauty that was as much an engineering triumph as an architectural wonder. A century on -- and thanks to a desperately needed $200 million renovation in the 1990s -- Grand Central Terminal is not only still the world's largest railway station (albeit now only for commuters), but once again the city's most vivacious and awe-inspiring interior, a must-see for tourists and a perennial favorite with locals. So make a point of stopping by sometime and wishing the Grand Dame of 42nd Street a happy 100th birthday.
NOW BOARDING Friday's daylong celebration gets rolling at 10 a.m. with a ceremony featuring songstress Melissa Manchester and preservationist Caroline Kennedy (whose mother was instrumental in saving the terminal from demolition in the 1970s), and the opening of "Grand by Design," a multimedia retrospective (open 8 a.m.-10 p.m. daily, through March 15) in Vanderbilt Hall, the original main waiting room. Anthony Robin's new commemorative pictorial history will be available for sale and a Grand Central Terminal centennial stamp will be unveiled by the U.S. Postal Service at noon. Live music and a public dance on the Main Concourse, continues until 9:30 p.m.
DOWN THE TRACKS Future commemorations include "On Time," contemporary artists depict and reimagine Grand Central moments, March 6-July 7 (New York Transit Museum Gallery, Shuttle Passage); "Keeping Time," poets from the newly relaunched Poetry in Motion program join performers from Music Under New York for an appreciation, April 10, at 7 p.m. (Vanderbilt Hall); Parade of Trains, historic trains, including the epoch-defining Twentieth Century Limited, and railroadiana exhibits (Vanderbilt Hall and selected platforms), May 10-12.
THE GRAND TOUR Daily docent-led walking tours will be offered later this year. In the meantime, there's still the popular audio tour, which takes about 50 minutes. Cost: $7 (can also be downloaded as an Android and iPhone app for $4.99). Pick up a headset at the special ticket window in the Main Concourse. Available 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m.-7:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.
THE DINING CAR On Friday various GCT food purveyors and retailers will be offering special centennial pricings on select items. But the gastronomic glory that was Grand Central can be savored all year at the original Oyster Bar and Restaurant (lower level, 212-490-6650, oysterbarny.com), with its domed dining room and separate raw bar. Almost as original, though it was not open to the public until 1999, is the elegant Campbell Apartment Cocktail Bar (15 Vanderbilt Ave., 212-953-0409), the former office of Roaring '20s financier and N.Y. Central board member John Campbell.
INFO For complete centennial event details, including evolving updates: grandcentralterminal.com