There’s nothing like New York City in December. From the holiday markets, ice skating rinks, and window displays to the legendary Radio City Christmas Spectacular, it’s a great time to be in the Big Apple.
Right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of midtown is Rockefeller Center, which officially kicks into high holiday gear with its famed Christmas tree lighting—one of the signature events on the city’s calendar—on November 29. From there, the 22-acre stretch bounded by 51st and 48th Streets to the north and south and 5th and 6th Avenues to the east and west becomes a veritable winter wonderland, full of opportunities for spreading holiday cheer. Whether you’re in the mood for a photoshoot with the legendary Christmas tree, a romantic ice skating session, or some last-minute shopping, there are plenty of wonderful winter sights at Rockefeller Center all month long.
Read on to get all the details on what’s happening at Rockefeller Center this holiday season.
Visit the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
It’s one of the most iconic events of the holiday season. So exactly when is the tree lighting at Rockefeller Center? Starting Nov. 29, you’ll be able to see the world’s most famous Christmas tree lit up in all its holiday glory from 5 a.m. to midnight most nights through January 13, 2024. A tradition since 1933, it doesn’t really feel like Christmas until you’ve braved the crowds and snapped a pic of this iconic 80-foot-tall Norway Spruce decked out with more than 50,000 twinkling lights. The Tree is free to view without a ticket after the lighting, or you can book a photo package to mark the occasion, from $40. If you can’t score a coveted ticket to the tree lighting ceremony, tune in to Christmas in Rockefeller Center on NBC or Peacock on Nov. 29 at 8pm E.T/7pm C.T.. to see Kelly Clarkson host the festivities, along with special guests like Cher, Darlene Love, Keke Palmer, and Barry Manilow.
Go Ice Skating at The Rink at Rockefeller Center
To view the tree from below, head to The Rink at Rockefeller Center for a 50-minute spin on the ice. A VIP option grants you an extended 90-minute session and includes skate rental, hot cocoa, a cookie, and 20% off Gift Shop purchases. General admission varies by time of day and costs $21–$73 per adult, $21–$73 per child (ages 6–12), and $11–$37 (ages 5 and under). Add $11 more per person for skate rental. VIP tickets range from $47–$125 per person. The Rink is open daily from 9 a.m. to midnight through March 2024.
Relax in a Chic Après-Skate Chalet
If Après-skate is more your style, reserve a rink-side winter chalet, where you and up to five friends can warm up with lite bites from 21 Greenpoint and enjoy seasonal libations from Other Half Brewery. Book your spot online—or ask if walk-ins are being accepted—then take in views of The Rink and the Christmas Tree as you imbibe. Après-skate chalets are open daily through Jan. 1, 2024, from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. in November and from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. in December.
Visit Hero, a New Immersive Art Experience
Now through Jan. 1, 2024, you can view The Liminal, an immersive exhibit that’s part of Hero, a new 12,000-square-foot sound, light, and technology experience located on the Rink level. Stroll through seven unique zones, each designed to tell a story and make you feel like you’re far from the busy NYC streets above you. Visit from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday or from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Tickets start at $30 for adults, $25 for veterans, and $20 for children.
Enjoy the view from the Top of the Rock
The Top of the Rock Observation Deck overlooks Rockefeller Center from the 70th floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, providing incredible views of Central Park and other noteworthy NYC buildings like the Chrysler Building, Flatiron Building, Empire State Building, and One World Trade Center. Choose from general admission ($40 for adults, $38 for seniors ages 62 and up, and $34 for children ages 6–12) or the Express Pass ($85 per person), which offer different line-skipping options. Either way, the observation deck is open daily from 9 a.m. to midnight, with the last entry at 11:10 p.m.
Take a Behind-the-Scenes Tour
Learn all about the Christmas Tree on a guided history and architecture tour of Rockefeller Center, offered several times daily between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. The kid-friendly version, Rockefeller Center Tour Jr., runs on weekends at 10:30 a.m. Tours cost $27 per person; upgrading to the Rock Pass also gives you access to the Observation Deck, for $56 per person. For an even more exclusive behind-the-scenes tour, the VIP Rock Pass starts with a tour and a trip to the observation deck, then provides a sneak peek of the building’s secret rooftop garden, private elevator access and quicker entry, and 20% discounts at the Gift Shop. You’ll also get The Photo Pass, including all your pictures with Santa and the Tree, from $250 per person.
Delight Your Senses
Visit Rockefeller Center at 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 10, 2023, to celebrate Tuba Christmas, a tradition since 1974, with musicians performing all your favorite holiday hits. Check out The Candy Cottage of Christmas Magic, a deliciously sweet immersive scavenger hunt (tickets from $25–$45, now through Jan. 3, 2024), and have your picture taken with the man himself at the Santa Photo Experience (Nov. 24–Dec. 31, 2023; prices and times vary).
Pick Up Some Last-Minute Gifts
Still searching for the perfect present? There’s a plethora of stores in Rockefeller Center to snag gifts for everyone on your list. Swing by FAO Schwarz, the ultimate toy store, or Hill House Home for high-caliber home goods (plus in-store events throughout December, including custom gift tag making with a professional calligrapher on Dec. 2 and 3). Don’t miss McNally Jackson, one of NYC’s best bookstores; Apotheke for fragrant soaps and candles; or the Corkcicle pop-up for any wine-related finds.
LOCATION & ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
All activities in this article are located at:
More information: rockefellercenter.com
Reserve timed tickets whenever possible.