Visiting the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree


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The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is an iconic symbol of the holidays in New York City. Nestled in one of the most famous corners in town—and the world—it stands almost as tall as the skyscrapers themselves, casting a shadow over the jolly ice skaters below. Manhattan wouldn't be nearly as magical around the holidays without its famous tree.

Best of all, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is one of many free things to do and see in the city during the holiday season. Even the televised, star-studded lighting ceremony is free and open to the public. Needless to say, this festive decoration is a must-see for anyone visiting New York City during December.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
TripSavvy / Ashley Nicole DeLeon

The Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony

The ceremony during which the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is lit is one of the biggest events in New York City. People by the thousands flood into the free event to see popular musicians singing carols and the Radio City Rockettes perform their high kicks. Ice skaters also perform routines at the Rockefeller Ice Rink.

The streets around Rockefeller Center are typically blocked off by late afternoon, and by the time they are, you can bet they'll be packed with people. The tree is visible from the ice rink area and the pedestrian walkway in the Channel Gardens. Another small area is between 49th and 50th Streets on 5th Avenue.

Performances occur in front of the Prometheus Statue in the lower concourse square. For the best view, get there mid-day and try to get in the first several rows along the perimeter of the ice rink.

The 2022 Tree Lighting Ceremony will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 30. The tree will remain lit and on display on the plaza between West 48th and 51st streets and Fifth and Sixth avenues until the beginning of January.

What Time Will the Tree Be Lit?

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is illuminated from 6 a.m. until midnight daily, except on Christmas and New Year's Eve. On December 25, the tree is illuminated for 24 hours, and on New Year's Eve, the lights are turned off at 9 p.m. On the last day, the tree will be lit until 9 p.m.

How Do I Get to Rockefeller Center?

Rockefeller Center is located in the center of a complex of buildings between 47th and 50th streets and 5th and 7th avenues. The closest subway trains to Rockefeller Center are the B, D, F, and M trains, which stop at 47-50 Streets/Rockefeller Center, or the 6, which goes to 51st Street/Lexington Avenue.

The History of the Rockefeller Center Trees

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is a tradition that dates back to 1931, when Depression-era construction workers erected the first tree on the center plaza block. These days, it stands up to 90 feet tall and is almost always a Norway spruce. It's required to be at least 75 feet tall and have a minimum diameter of 45 feet.

The Norway spruce that grow in the forest don't typically reach these proportions, which means the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree usually to come from private property. The tree donor is not compensated but receives the pride of providing New York City with its most famous tree. Although it's loaded with five miles of lights, the tree is never adorned with traditional ornaments. At the top sits a massive glowing star.

Prior to 2007, the tree had been recycled each January and donated to the Boy Scouts of America (for mulch) and the U.S. Equestrian Team in New Jersey (who would use the largest part of the trunk as an obstacle jump). Now, after the season ends, the tree is milled, treated, and made into lumber that Habitat for Humanity uses for building homes.

What Is There to Do Around Rockefeller Center?

Once you visit the tree, you may want to grab a bite to eat. There are plenty of nearby places to grab a quick sandwich or you could sit down and enjoy a cocktail with a view at Bar SixtyFive at the Rainbow Room (located on the 65th floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza). With windows soaring 10 feet high and 30-mile views in almost every direction, Bar SixtyFive provides a bird's-eye view of Manhattan. There's plenty to do, see, and eat in the Rockefeller Center neighborhood.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • Where is Rockefeller Center?

    Rockefeller Center is located in the center of a complex of buildings between 47th and 50th streets and 5th and 7th avenues.

  • When is the tree lighting ceremony in 2022?

    The 2022 Tree Lighting Ceremony will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 30.

  • How many lights are on the tree?

    According to the Rockefeller Center website, there are more than 50,000 LED lights on each tree.

  • Can I watch the tree lighting from home?

    Yes! The ceremony has been broadcasted live on NBC since 1997.

  • How tall was the tallest tree?

    The largest Rockefeller Center tree was 100 feet tall and was up during the Christmas of 1999.

  • How big is the star on the tree?

    The current star, designed by Daniel Libeskind in 2018, is approximately 900 pounds and is covered in 3 million crystals.