A guide to fully enjoying Rockefeller Center during the holidays

No one does the holiday season better than New York City – literally millions of people come from all over the world each year just to enjoy our holiday spirit. And Rockefeller Center is at the center of it all.

There’s the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, of course, which has lit up the Midtown plaza for over 80 years, with the iconic ice skating rink below. Complementing it all is the Christmas Light Show presented by Saks Fifth Avenue just across the way, which in recent years has become its own attraction, all adding to the large crowds at the historic art deco complex.

Rock Center has also made a big push to up its food and drink game recently, adding a bunch of upscale fast casual spots to the concourse, as well as an impressive number of exciting (and even trendy!) new restaurants from some of the best chefs in the city.

Whether you’re a New Yorker or just visiting, here’s a comprehensive guide to making the most of this New York City treasure during the holiday season.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree

rockefeller center tree
Rockefeller Center Tree in 2020 (Scott Lynch)

Tree 2022 arrived on schedule before dawn on November 12, and the ritual of removing it from the flatbed truck, driving the spike into the trunk, and then hoisting the magnificent Norway spruce onto its stand drew a larger crowd of usual to this little-publicized show, probably due to the unusually warm weather.

This year’s tree is a gift from the Liebowitz family and comes from Queensbury, New York. It is 82 feet high, 50 feet wide, and weighs about 14 tons. The fir was between 85 and 90 years old when it was felled for its role as the world’s most famous Christmas tree. And as far as anyone could tell, there were no owls. still nestled in its branches when he got to the big city. However, there was an owl mascot available for the festivities.

Roxy the Owl greets the viewers.  In 2020, an eagle owl was found hiding in the branches of the tree.
Roxy the Owl greets the viewers. In 2020, an eagle owl was found hiding in the branches of the tree. (Scott Lynch)
The 82-foot tall Norway spruce arrived on November 12.
The 82-foot-tall Norway spruce arrived on November 12 (Scott Lynch)
A crowd watches the arrival of the 82-foot-tall Norway spruce on November 12
A crowd watches the arrival of the 82-foot-tall Norway spruce on November 12. (Scott Lynch)

The tree lighting extravaganza takes place on the evening of November 30, but before that, the fir tree is decorated with more than 50,000 multi-colored LED lights strung on five miles of wire, powered in part by hundreds of solar panels on the roof of one of the Rock Center Buildings. To top it off, there’s a 900-pound shining star, a three-dimensional wonder with 70 points covered in three million Swarovski crystals.

There will be large crowds at the lighting ceremony, but you can enjoy the final result in a slightly less hectic environment between December 1 and mid-January, every day from 6 am to midnight, 24 hours a day. of Christmas.

Saks Fifth Avenue Christmas Light Show

The Christmas window displays at all the high-end stores along this part of Fifth Avenue have long been a big draw for holiday sentiment seekers, but in 2004 Saks Fifth Avenue really upped the ante with its spectacular Christmas Show. Christmas lights, which has become a repeat. three and a half minute performance that involved hundreds of thousands of LED lights dancing across the entire facade of the department store.

Saks Fifth Avenue window
The Saks Fifth Avenue Christmas facade in 2020 (Getty for Saks Fifth Avenue)

Located right across the street from the Rockefeller Center tree and featuring an incredibly loud seasonal soundtrack, the Holiday Light Show really solidifies this place as New York’s Christmas Central. The show runs once every ten minutes between 5 pm and 11 pm every night, beginning November 22 through New Years.


Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink
Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink (Scott Lynch)

The Rockefeller Center rink is open during the season, which means you can go skating here anytime until early April. But the best time to take a few laps around this iconic patch of ice is during the holidays, when the tree is glowing, the music is upbeat and bright, and it’s easy to feel like you’re right in the middle of Christmas at its best. city ​​in the world.

Advance tickets are now available for hour-long sessions through the New Year, and they are selling out fast.

Rockefeller Center’s Best Fast Casual Dining Spots

Samesa Chicken Shawarma
Samesa Chicken Shawarma (Scott Lynch)

One of the most surprising developments in the New York restaurant scene in recent years has been the sudden rise of Rockefeller Center as a royal dining destination.

On the casual side of counter service, start with same, Eli and Max Sussman’s superb Mediterranean spot starring one of the best chicken shawarmas in town. There are also many vegan and vegetarian options here.

Another very good option for something hearty and healthy is chef JJ Johnson’s restaurant. Study tripan outpost of his harlem coup which highlights rice-based dishes from different cultures around the world.

Rock Center now has great pizza too, in ace, the Williamsburg-based parlor specializing in thick, cheesy, and generously covered Detroit-style pies for one, two, or an entire crew. There’s also a black seed down here, tossing in Dianna Daoheung’s wildly popular Montreal-style bagels covered or stuffed in all sorts of crowd-pleasing shapes.

ace pizza
Ace’s Pizza (Scott Lynch)
Half Pepperoni, Half Buffalo Chicken, from Ace's Pizza
Half pepperoni, half Buffalo chicken, from Ace’s Pizza (Scott Lynch)
The New York Pretzel, in the brand new Rockefeller Center Breads Bakery
The New York Pretzel, at the new Rockefeller Center Breads Bakery (Scott Lynch)
The New York Pretzel, in the brand new Rockefeller Center Breads Bakery
The New York Pretzel, at the new Rockefeller Center Breads Bakery (Scott Lynch)

All of the above, and many other fast-casual spots, are located on the concourse level of the complex, just off The Rink. But another fabulous dining option has just opened on Sixth Avenue, a new location for the big Bakery Bakery mini-chain. In addition to all the usual Breads assortment of top-notch baked goods, both sweet and savory, the new spot features two Rock Center exclusives: an updated take on the iconic New York pretzel, made with rye sourdough and served with mustard. ; and “Pockets of Sunshine Babka,” a citrus-infused collaboration with the “Mayor of 30 Rock,” Al Roker.

New and exciting full-service restaurants

The acclaimed Lodi coffee by Ignacio Mattos
The acclaimed Lodi Cafe by Ignacio Mattos (Scott Lynch)
Chocolate and Girella Croissant with Lemon and Lodi Poppy
Lodi Poppyseed Lemon Girella Chocolate Croissant (Scott Lynch)

The first of the new generation of upscale restaurants to open here was the acclaimed Bakery-Café. I gave it by Ignacio Mattos, landing in the south square in the summer of 2021. This place has everything from soups, porchetta panini, and one of the best chocolate croissants you’ll ever eat (it’s shaped like a mini loaf of bread) to cocktails. and elegant wines served at casual dining.

The rock
Le Rock (Scott Lynch)

Speaking of acclaimed, The rocklocated in the complex’s north plaza, it just garnered a rare three-star review from the New York TimesSo don’t expect to be able to walk in and get a table during prime time. But definitely try to eat here soon; Run by the team behind the scenes Frenchette in Tribeca, this is instantly one of New York’s must-see restaurants.

21 green point
21 Green Dot (Scott Lynch)
Crab Toast at 21 Greenpoint
Crab toast at 21 Greenpoint (Scott Lynch)

Even the cool places in Brooklyn are coming to Midtown now!

Currently in soft-open mode, the new 21 green point on the esplanade level has a limited menu of delicious dishes like their open-faced crab tostada, crispy broccoli salad, and delicious ceviche.

The brand new tasting menu of the Naro restaurant, by the owners of Atomix
The brand new tasting menu of the Naro restaurant, from the owners of Atomix (Scott Lynch)

The elegant and sophisticated naro also opened recently, by Junghyun “JP” and Ellia Park, the couple behind the acclaimed Atomix. Located right near The Rink, Naro offers a 12-course Korean-inspired $195 tasting menu for dinner.

Coming soon, hopefully by the time the tree lights up: five acresa “vegetable” spot of greg baxtromwhose other restaurants, Olmstead, Maison Yaki and Patti Ann’s, all within blocks of each other in Prospects Heights, are among the best in Brooklyn.

And then there’s the elegant, 145-seat Jupitera pasta and wine joint from beloved King in Hudson Square owners Jess Shadbolt, Annie Shi and Clare de Boer.

Jupiter, from the team behind the beloved King
Jupiter, from the team behind the beloved King (Scott Lynch)
Quaint Pebble Bar sits atop Magnolia Bakery
The quaint Pebble Bar sits atop Magnolia Bakery (Scott Lynch)

If you just want to hang out and get in the Christmas spirit, Rockefeller Center has you covered. city ​​winery it has a clever open-air “Winter Domes” setup; The other half brewery, with entrance on Fifth Avenue, sells lots of different canned beers; and the pebble bar is a trendy cocktail place located in that historic house at the corner of Sixth Avenue, the only holdout from when the area was demolished in the 1930s, and where Hurley kept it for more than a century.

And remember, the easiest way to get to the center of it all is via the MTA, with multiple subway lines putting you within a block or two of the complex, including the B, D, F, and M trains to the 47 – 50 Street station, the E train to 5th Avenue-53 Street, the 1 train to 50th Street, and the N, Q, R, W to 49th Street. The M1, M2, M3 and M4 buses also stop right on Fifth Avenue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *