Starting this Thursday, December 3, if you want a chance to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree for five minutes (yep, there’s a time limit), you’ll need to reserve advance tickets. In his press conference today, Mayor de Blasio outlined the new system, which includes closing 49th and 50th Streets between 6th and 7th Avenues to vehicular traffic and setting up four-person “pods” where guests will be directed to see the tree. “This is going to be a challenging holiday season in a lot of ways, but it’s still going to be a beautiful one,” said the mayor.
First and foremost, the mayor advocated that people enjoy the tree via the live televised lighting that will air this Wednesday, December 2. “That’s the best way to see it. To feel that moment that we cherish every year when the lights go on and it’s another reminder of the beauty of the holiday season,” said the mayor. The event, which is not open to the public this year, will air on NBC from 8-10pm and will feature performances by the Radio City Rockettes, Dolly Parton, Kelly Clarkson, Jimmy Fallon, Pentatonix, Gwen Stefani, Meghan Trainor, and more.
For those who do want to go in person, the city’s timed and socially distant approach is as follows:
- 49th and 50th Streets between 6th and 7th Avenues closed to vehicular traffic
- Tree viewing entrances on 49th and 50th Streets at 5th and 6th Avenues ONLY
- 5-minute tree viewing limit
- Guests directed to pods; no more than 4 people in one pod
- Virtual queueing activated; guests can scan QR code to see wait times
This is the second year that the city expanded pedestrian space around Rockefeller Center during the holiday season, though last year the intent was to accommodate the massive crowds that visit the tree each year.
Mayor de Blasio first mentioned a ticketed system for the tree in his Sunday press conference, during which he said that his team had been working with the state on the approach. You’ll be able to reserve your tickets on the Rockefeller Center website, though this feature has not yet been made live.
This year’s tree is a 75-foot tall, 11-ton Norway Spruce from Oneonta, N.Y. It will be adorned with 50,000 multi-colored LED lights strung on nearly five miles of wire and will be topped with a 900-pound Swarovski crystal star designed by architect Daniel Libeskind in 2018.
For those interested in skating on the adjacent ice rink, it opened a month later than usual on November 21 to give more time to restaurants currently using the plaza for outdoor dining, and it will close several months early on January 17 to begin work on a major revamp. You can buy tickets here.
The first Christmas tree went up in Rockefeller Center in 1931 when construction workers on the massive development site pooled their wages to buy a tree that they decorated with handmade garland from their families. It’s been lit every year since 1933 and broadcast live on television every year since 1951.
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Neighborhoods : Midtown