6 Things to Do in NY Rockefeller Center in Christmas

Christmas in New York is a world apart. If you're lucky enough to visit the Big Apple at this magical time of year, Rockefeller Center will be the epicentre of your Christmas.

Cecilia Gaitán

Cecilia Gaitán

5 min read

6 Things to Do in NY Rockefeller Center in Christmas

Enjoying the Christmas lights of Rockefeller Center | ©Johnell Pannell

One of the essential things to see and do in New York at Christmas is to visit Rockefeller Center. It's a privilege to be able to see its majestic tree, its lights, ice skating on the rink...

I'll tell you a little more in detail what you'll find at Rockefeller Center if you go at Christmas so you can feel the magic of one of the most awaited times of the year by New Yorkers. Get your camera ready!

1. Dive into The Rockettes' show

The Rockettes| ©iStock
The Rockettes| ©iStock

New York offers many Christmas attractions and traditions. One of them is going to see The Rockettes show at Radio City Music Hall in Rockefeller Center.

The Rockettes is a troupe of dancers who have been putting on a 90-minute Christmas show, the "Radio City Christmas Spectacular", since 1933. This is the quintessential New York Christmas show and you can't miss it.

I recommend you buy tickets to the Rockettes at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular in advance on Hellotickets, as demand is very high.

Useful information to make sure you don't miss it

Book your guided tour of the Radio City Stage

2. Climb to the Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock| ©iStock
Top of the Rock| ©iStock

If you're visiting New York at Christmas and you're touring the Rockefeller Center area, you should book a trip to the Top of the Rock to see Manhattan from above and, if you're lucky, covered in snow.

You can even go up to the Top of the Rock at night to see the Big Apple light up from the top of Midtown. Sounds good, doesn't it?

I also recommend reading this guide to the best places to eat near the Top of the Rock to warm up and recharge your batteries before or after the climb.

Book your ticket to the Top of the Rock

3. Ice skating at Rockefeller Center

The ice rink| ©Tim Hufner
The ice rink| ©Tim Hufner

Another signature attraction of the holiday season is Rockefeller Center's famous ice skating rink, "The Rink".

The Rink is very busy and at Christmas time there are often long lines. So I advise you to buy your Rockefeller Center ice rink ticket in advance.

The huge ice rink, at the foot of the giant tree, with Christmas carols playing over the loudspeakers.

Opening hours of The Rink

The Rink is open from the first week of December until the end of April the following year. It is open from 9am until midnight.

The best time of day to go ice skating at Rockefeller Center is first thing in the morning. It won't be crowded yet and tickets are the cheapest.

How much does it cost to ice skate at The Rink?

  • Adults (13 years and older): from 17 € to 47 €.
  • Children (6 - 12 years): €17 - €47
  • Children under 6 years: from 7 € to 19 €.
  • Skate rental: about €8.70 (10 USD) and the ticket office is free.
  • Access as a spectator: you can buy a "Chaperone" ticket for free and it is valid as an adult accompanying the skater.

4. Enjoy the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree| ©Elías Andrés José
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree| ©Elías Andrés José

Touring Manhattan at Christmas time is a spectacle. And one of the icons you can't miss this season is the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

Every year, in mid-November, the assembly of this tree, which has already won the hearts of all New Yorkers and visitors, begins. It is decorated with more than 50,000 multi-coloured LED lights and crowned with a star covered in more than 3 million Swarovski crystals.

The lights are officially switched on the Wednesday of the week following Thanksgiving and the tree is lit from 6am until midnight. On Christmas Day, the tree is lit 24 hours a day and on New Year's Eve from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm.

Origin of the tree

The tradition of installing a Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center began back in 1931. The workers who were working on the construction of the building complex decided to put up a fir tree and decorate it with ornaments made by their own families.

This initiative was the genesis of what is now one of the **city'**s major tourist attractions. And in 1933, the first lighting ceremony was held, which today draws crowds.

The anecdote: the solidarity tree

Since 2007, once the festive season is over and the decorations are taken down, the tree has been donated to the Habitat for Humanity foundation. This organisation burns the wood and uses it to build and restore homes for families without resources.

Without losing sight of the environment, Rockefeller Center selects fir trees in their last life cycle, so that they can be used for this charitable purpose.

5. Go wild at the lighting of the lights ceremony

The Lighting Ceremony| ©iStock
The Lighting Ceremony| ©iStock

One of the most anticipated and exciting moments of Christmas in the Big Apple is the lighting of the lights on the Rockefeller Center tree. This ceremony is known as the Christmas Tree Lightning and is a spectacular show with giant screens and live music.

Every year different celebrities perform, such as Mariah Carey, John Legend and Diana Ross, among others.

If you want to attend this ceremony, I recommend arriving 3 or 4 hours early to find a good spot.

Useful information

  • When: First Wednesday after Thanksgiving.
  • Price: Free of charge.
  • Where: Rockefeller Center Plaza.
  • Hours: between 7:00 PM/20:00 PM and 9:00 PM/22:00 PM
  • How late can I see the lights: early December to early January, from 6 AM to midnight.
  • Other options: If you can't make it or want to see what it's all about, NBC broadcasts the ceremony live every year.

6. Stroll through Rockefeller Center's Channel Gardens at Christmas time

Rockefeller's Christmas Decorations| ©Freestocks
Rockefeller's Christmas Decorations| ©Freestocks

Another attraction that Rockefeller Center prepares around the holidays is the decoration of its gardens.

The Channel Gardens are decorated with luminous statues of angels playing the trumpet, nutcrackers, giant balls and various figures full of lights. You won't get tired of taking pictures!

Christmas in New York is magical and special, especially in the Rockefeller Center area. That's why I recommend you also walk around and admire the shop windows, streets, buildings and all the staging that the city puts on for this emotional date.

Cecilia's Traveller Tip

The Saks Fifth Avenue shop is famous for the Christmas decorations they prepare every year and the images they project on their façade, exciting!