Shhhhh…Grand Central Terminal Has A Secret: The Whispering Gallery

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The Whispering Gallery at Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central is a cordial hostess. Like any good hostess, she is welcoming and hospitable. For more than 100 years she has sent off countless travelers to their homes and filled her many visitors’ eyes and minds with the food and drink of her beauty. Celebrities, businessmen, soldiers, ordinary joes and josies, presidents, holiday revelers, suburban families, tipsy sailors, the shoeless and the well-heeled have all drunk from her cup.

Even good hostesses, however, have their secrets and Madame Grand Central is no exception. She keeps certain things to herself, sharing them only with those who take the time to know her. One of her secrets is the Whispering Gallery, an acoustic archway located between the upper and lower levels. Only a fraction of people passing through the station know about it.

Grand Central’s acoustic arch allows someone standing in one of its corners to whisper softly and be heard as clearly as if talking on the telephone by someone standing in an opposite corner. During rush hour, you may have to speak above a whisper to be heard, but come early in the morning or later in the evening and you’ll see (or hear, rather) that a soft whisper will do.

Over the past century, inside jokes, apologies, intimate goodbyes, confessions, marriage proposals, indecent proposals, poetry, adolescent gossip and secrets of a secret nature have lofted from one side of the arch to waiting ears on the other. Now it’s your turn.

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A New York City visitor stands in one of the Whispering Gallery’s four corners. By facing one of the Whispering Gallery’s corners, you can speak softly and be heard easily by someone standing diagonally on the other side of the gallery.

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The Whispering Gallery is a fun, free, educational and interesting stop to make during your New York City visit. Located between the upper and lower levels of Manhattan’s Grand Central Terminal, it is a fascinating and hands-on demonstration of acoustical principles.

Where is Grand Central Terminal’s Whispering Gallery?

To reach the Whispering Gallery:

1. Go to the round information booth in the middle of Grand Central and ask for directions to the Oyster Bar restaurant. The Whispering Gallery is directly in front of the restaurant.

or

2. From the clock in the middle of the terminal, walk toward the double staircase that has “West Balcony” written on it. Be sure to walk toward the West Balcony and not toward the similar-looking East Balcony at the other end of the terminal.

The West Balcony staircase looks like this:

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Photo taken in front of the Grand Central clock facing the West Balcony.

Walk toward the staircase, but do not go up or down the staircase.  You will walk through the arched passageway to the left of the West Balcony staircase, shown here:

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The arched passageway to the left of the West Balcony staircase in New York’s Grand Central Terminal

Walk to the end of the passageway and make a left and then another immediate left. You’ll see a long, inclined ramp leading to the lower level. The Whispering Gallery is at the bottom of that ramp in front of the Oyster Bar restaurant. The ramp looks like this:

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Grand Central Terminal’s “Whispering Gallery” is located at the bottom of this ramp, directly in front of the Oyster Bar restaurant. The gallery is located under the arch you see in the background of this picture.

Best time to visit the Whispering Gallery?

The best time to visit Grand Central’s Whispering Gallery is before 9 a.m. or after 9 p.m. Grand Central is open from 6AM to 2AM and is located at 42nd Street and Park Ave in Manhattan. If we had to choose between visiting in the morning and visiting at night, we would choose nighttime.

Which trains go to Grand Central?

You can reach Grand Central by taking the following subways: 4, 5, 6, 7  or  Times Square Shuttle (S train) to the stop called “42nd Street-Grand Central Terminal.” Metro-North trains on the Hudson, Harlem and New Haven lines also arrive at Grand Central Terminal.

How do I whisper in the Whispering Gallery?

Stand facing the wall in one of the Whispering Gallery’s four corners. Your face should be as close to the wall as possible without touching it. Your whispering partner should be in a corner diagonal to you.

I enjoy learning about architecture, what kind of arch is used by the Whispering Gallery?

The Whispering Gallery uses the Gustavino tile system. You can learn a bit about Gustavino tile here.

What is the science behind the Whispering Gallery?

Read all about Whispering Gallery waves here.

If you found this post helpful, please consider sharing it through your favorite social media. Thanks for visiting and happy whispering.

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