Things to do at Rockefeller Center NYC 2021: Ice Skating, Observation Deck, Christmas Tree, and More
There aren’t many buildings in New York City as iconic as Rockefeller Center. Built during the Great Depression, the complex is considered one of the biggest building projects of the era. At one time, the project employed over 40,000 people and in many ways, Rockefeller Center encapsulates the reinvention of America as a global economic powerhouse.
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- Top of the Rock Observation Deck
- Rainbow Room
- Radio City Music Hall
- NBC Studios
- Christmas in Rockefeller Center
- Visiting the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting
- The Rink : Rockefeller Center Ice Skating
- Shop & Dine at Rockefeller Center
- Rockefeller Center Tour : Get a unique look
A trip to New York isn’t complete without visiting this icon of New York City and it is important to know a few things about the complex before you head over in order to get the most out of your trip.
Here are just a few Rockefeller Center facts to get started:
- Rockefeller Center is not actually one building. It comprises 19 different high-rise commercial buildings.
- The complex is located between Fifth and Sixth Avenues between 48th and 51st Streets
- It covers over 89,000 square meters of space.
- The space was leased from Columbia University in 1928. Development of the complex began in 1930 and the original 14 art-deco buildings were finished by 1939.
- Rockefeller Center was created by John D. Rockefeller Jr, lifelong philanthropist and son of John D. Rockefeller, the richest man in America.
1. Top of the Rock Observation Deck
One of the most popular things to do at Rockefeller Center is visit the Top of the Rock Observation Deck on the 70th floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. With unobstructed, 360 degree views across New York City, you really CAN’T beat the view from the Top of the Rock. From here, you can see the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, Central Park, and One World Trade as well as the neighborhoods, parks, and squares scattered throughout the city.
The observation deck is open from 10 am until 10 pm and if possible, try to time your trip around sunset when you can see the city lights come to life.
On your journey to the top, you will see a Swarovski chandelier made of 14,000 crystals, learn more about the history of Rockefeller Center in the Mezzanine Exhibit, recreate your own version of the iconic construction workers photos at the Beam Walk, and take a ride up 850 feet in the Sky Shuttle. Tickets cost $38 for adults and $32 for children and can be purchased on the Top of the Rock website.
2. Rainbow Room
This iconic event space originally opened in 1934 and has been wow-ing guests with its sophistication and glamour ever since. Countless Hollywood celebrities and New York socialites have rubbed shoulders there and interestingly, the Rainbow Room was even the birthplace of the Cosmpolitan, the cocktail immortalized by Carrie Bradshaw and friends in Sex and the City.
Although the main space is currently only open for private events, you can visit Bar SixtyFive*, an upscale cocktail lounge and restaurant on the 65th floor. Although the food is expensive (even by New York standards), the service is top-notch and the view is spectacular.
*At the time of writing, Bar SixtyFive is closed for a la carte reservations. However, restaurant service is expected to begin again soon.
3. Radio City Music Hall
When it opened in 1932, Radio City Music Hall quickly became one of the most beloved event venues in the world. The brainchild of John D. Rockefeller Jr and theater legend S.L “Roxy” Rothafeld, this art deco beauty was designed to be a “Palace of the People” – a place where ordinary people could see high-quality entertainment at a price that they could actually afford.
Since then, over 300 million people have come to Radio City and the music hall is currently home to the Rockettes and hosts a number of visiting musicians, comedians, plays, etc.
Fun Facts about Radio City Music Hall:
- Radio City is the largest indoor theater in the world.
- The auditorium is 160 feet from back to stage and the ceiling is an impressive 84 feet tall.
- The gold curtain on the stage is the largest curtain in the world.
- There are more than 25,000 lights in the music hall.
- The stage is equipped to create special effects like heavy rain, fog, and clouds.
- Over 700 movies have opened at Radio City since 1933.
- The theater has the capacity for 5,960 people.
There is a full line-up of events at Radio City Music Hall and although the Christmas Spectacular is one of the most popular things to see over the holidays, it is always worth checking the schedule on the Radio City Music Hall website to see what is happening!
4. NBC Studios
The NBC Studios are one of the most important television studios in the United States and many of the country’s most popular TV shows are filmed here.
On an NBC Studios tour, you can see where shows like Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and the NBC Nightly News are filmed. You will also get exclusive access to 30 Rockefeller Plaza and learn more about the TV production process. You can even produce your own show to share with your friends and family. Tours cost $33 for adults and $29 for children and can be purchased on the NBC Studio Tours website.
If you are flexible with time or are planning your trip to New York well in advance, it is even possible to watch a free live taping of many people TV shows including:
- America’s Got Talent
- American Ninja Warrior
- Late Night with Seth Meyers
- Little Big Shots
- The Tour of NBC Studios – New York
- Saturday Night Live
- The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
- The Voice
You can book your free tickets in advance or try your luck with same-day tickets by going directly to the box office at Rockefeller Center. The ticketing process for each show differs slightly so make sure to check out the NBC Studios website for more information. Most of the shows are filmed in the afternoon in order to air that evening so make sure to plan your schedule accordingly!
5. Christmas in Rockefeller Center
Christmas in Rockefeller Center is a time of pure magic. From the chill in the air to the sound of the Rockettes’ tap shoes as they take the stage at Radio City Music Hall, Christmas in Rockefeller Center is a very special time. During December, the amount of visitors to Rockefeller Center soars as people come to get a glimpse of the famous Christmas tree, lace up their skates for a spin around the Rockefeller Center skating rink, or spend a few hours enthralled by the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall.
6. Visiting the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting is one of the most important events of the year. Although the dates for 2021 haven’t yet been announced, the tree is generally lit up in the beginning of December and stays up until just after the New Year. For example, in 2020 the tree arrived on Nov 14th and the tree lighting ceremony was on Dec 2nd. The tree remained up for viewing until Jan 2nd.
Fun Facts about the Rockefeller Christmas Tree:
- In 2020, the tree measured an impressive 75 feet tall and 45 feet wide and weighed 11 tons.
- 50,000 multicolored LED lights were used to light up the tree.
- The Swarovski star at the top of the tree weighs nearly 900 pounds and has three million crystals.
7. The Rink : Rockefeller Center Ice Skating
There is nothing that puts you in the holiday spirit more than a spin around the rink at Rockefeller Center! During the summer, the rink is just another plaza (albeit with a stunning gold statue of Prometheus) but in the winter, it turns into one of the most famous ice skating rinks in the world. The rink has been featured in countless TV shows and movies and it is high on many visitor’s wishlists.
In 2020, it cost anywhere between $25 and $35 for a 50-minute timed ice skating session at Rockefeller Center. If you want to save a bit of money, there are discounted prices for the first and last skates of the day and the skating rink is open from 9 am – midnight daily. Skate rental is available if needed and costs $15.
8. Shop & Dine at Rockefeller Center
From Quality Bistro at Opentable
Rockefeller Center has a plethora of shopping and dining options. Many of the most well-known restaurant chains in America have outlets here including Dean & DeLuca, Ben & Jerry’s, Chipotle, and Hale & Hearty as well as some higher-end dining options. There are also a number of up-and-coming local brands that are great to check out.
If you don’t find anything that strikes your fancy, there are also a number of restaurants around Rockefeller Center to meet all budgets and tastes.
If you are in need of some retail therapy, you have access to great brands like Ann Taylor, Anthropologie, FAO Schwarz, and many more. This is also a great place to pick up a souvenir of your NYC trip.
Rockefeller Center Tour : Get a unique look
One of the best ways to learn more about Rockefeller Center is to take a tour of this historic area. Tours focus on the history of Rockefeller Center and on the artwork and statues found within the complex as a historian takes you through the many magnificent buildings, gardens, and public spaces of Rockefeller Center. Tours are held Thursday – Sunday at 2:30, 4:30, and 6:30. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased on the Rockefeller Center website.