Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center

Christmas at Rockefeller Center

Christmas at Rockefeller Center is one of New York City’s holiday highlights. With the famous Christmas Tree, ice skating rink, lights, and decorations, it’s a holiday wonderland and definitely worth a visit.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

The world famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is one of the hallmarks of Christmas in New York City. Each year a tree is carefully chosen, cut down, and brought to New York City’s Rockefeller Center in early November.

Tree Lighting Ceremony

The annual lighting ceremony for the Christmas tree takes place in Rockefeller Center starting at 7 pm on the Wednesday after Thanksgiving. The tree is then lit from 5:30 am – midnight every day through the first week of January.

The ceremony is always a big event featuring well-known musical performers. It is free and open to the public. If you plan on showing up, be sure to arrive at least several hours early and expect huge crowds. The tree lighting is also televised so you can watch it even if you’re not in NYC (or unwilling to deal with the crowds).

The Journey of a Future Christmas Tree

How does a massive tree get to the middle of Rockefeller Center?

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
On the back of a flatbed tractor trailer!

Once in position next to the Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink, the tree spends some time “getting fancy”. It is covered in scaffolding so that electricians can string the tree with five miles of wire holding 30,000 energy-efficient LED lights.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
Workers fix up the world’s most famous Christmas Tree

Holiday Season Bragging Rights

Think there’s a tree in your yard that might measure up?

It’s not easy to qualify as one of the world’s most famous Christmas trees. The minimum size requirements are 65 feet tall and 35 feet wide, but of course bigger is better. No compensation is offered for the tree but you can’t beat the bragging rights!

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in Numbers

  • 40,000 – Number of multicolored LED lights illuminating the tree.
  • 5 – Miles of lights stringing the tree.
  • 1931 – The year the first Christmas Tree was set up in Rockefeller Center, by workers building the complex.

Rockefeller Center Ice Skating

When it comes to Christmas in New York City, few activities are as dreamy and magical as ice skating in Rockefeller Center.

The Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink is located in the heart of Rockefeller Center. Skaters glide and twirl alongside the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and the bronze-gilded statue of Prometheus.

Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink
Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink. The Christmas tree and decorations make Rockefeller Center feel almost magical at the holidays.

The 30 Rock building towers high (very high) above. Even if you choose not to skate, standing above the rink and watching the action below is great entertainment.

Set below the rest of Rockefeller Center on the Lower Plaza, the rink is surrounded by Christmas decorations. Christmas music plays loudly and the whole scene is very festive. It’s hard to beat the holiday ambiance!

The Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink
The Rockefeller Center Ice Skating Rink on the Lower Plaza is one of the city’s most famous skating rinks

The skating rink is limited to 150 skaters at one time and since many people want to go ice skating in Rockefeller Center, you many have to wait in a long line. And there’s no hiding from an embarrassing fall. The rink is surrounded at all times by crowds of spectators!

Is It Worth It?

It’s true that this rink is more effort and expense than a lot of other Christmas activities. But it’s hard to beat the fun atmosphere and the neat perspective of Rockefeller Center. Each group of skaters has an hour and a half on the rink which is plenty of time to take it all in.

We’ve been once and we recommend it to others for the unique experience. Even with a long line and high prices, we consider this memorable event worthwhile.

Essential Visiting Information


  • The rink is open daily from mid-October to early April.
  • The hours are 8:30 am to midnight.

Admission – For complete pricing information, see the skating rink’s Holiday Brochure.

Location – The skating rink is located in the middle of Rockefeller Center near Fifth Avenue, between 49th and 50th Streets.

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