Nobody goes to New York and leave without visiting one of the city’s most iconic landmarks – the Rockefeller Center. Dubbed as the ‘city within the city” by its founder, John D. Rockefeller Jr., it is a destination where every visitor – locals and tourists, young and old, and regardless of interest – can find something to do and enjoy the hours or days spend in the Center. The giant Christmas tree that is illuminated during the holiday season, the Today Show and Saturday Night Live – these are just a few of the reasons why the Rockefeller Center is a must-visit landmark when you are in New York.
The Rockefeller Center is a complex that sits on an enormous property of 22 acres to accommodate its 19 commercial structures. It stretches from the 48th to 51st Streets and from Fifth to Sixth Avenues. There is a long list of reasons why a visit to this National Historic Landmark can make your trip to New York memorable.
Here are some of those reasons:
- At Its Most basic: The Rockefeller Center is an art complex consisting of 19 impressive buildings with an Art Deco architecture and artwork. It is the address to some of the prominent brands, television studios, dining and shopping options. The Art Deco is reflected in the inscriptions, carvings, and gilded sculptures adorning the structural buildings, fountains, lavish pathways, sculptures and floral displays. For instance, there’s this intricate Art Deco Theater in the Radio City Music Hall, home to the stars of the Christmas Spectacular, the Rockettes.
- The Complex that Arts Built: The complex contains some of the works of 30 great artists commissioned to create art around the theme “Man at the Crossroads Looks Uncertainly but Hopefully at the Future.” There’s the Prometheus and the Atlas by Paul Manship at the sunken plaza and in front of the International Building respectively; the News by Isamu Noguchi above the entry to the Associated Press Building; and at the entrance hall of the GE Building are the oil American Progress by José Maria Sert and the Intelligence Awakening Mankind, a mosaic mural by Barry Faulkner.
- 30 Rock: This is the Center’s first and the most distinguished structure. It is dubbed as the General Electric (GE) Building with address right at 30 Rockefeller Center. It is a 70-story high-rise landmark that used to house the private offices of the Rockefellers. Nowadays, it’s the hub of the complex, connecting all the commercial buildings by means of a 2-mile underground system called “the Concourse.” This is lined with restaurants, shops, and a subway station. 30 Rock is also the home of Saturday Night Live, The Meredith Vieira Show Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and The Today Show.
- Top of the Rock: Your day in the 30 GE Building, Rockefeller Center can’t be complete without taking the lift up to its crown – the 70th floor of the erstwhile Observation Deck, now called Top of the Rock. It has three viewing decks that offer the most spectacular unobstructed 360-degree views of the city skyline, including the lofty Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, the financial district of Lower Manhattan and the far-reaching green of the Central Park.
- Illuminating the Christmas Tree: The lighting of the giant Christmas tree just after the Thanksgiving at the Rockefeller ceremony is a look-forward-to event by the public, but it’s on a first-come, first-served basis. It has become a tradition, which started back in the 1930’s. The event is watched by tens of thousands crowd in the Rockefeller Center and hundreds of millions more from homes via a live telecast.
- Rockefeller Plaza: The Plaza can be reached by taking the plight of steps from the sunken plaza. There are seats here that will allow visitors to rest for a while. This is where the dazzling Christmas tree is put up and lit December after December. This massive outdoor promenade is brimming with granite pools, fountains, uniquely themed Channel Gardens, sculptures and other artistic works, such as the 8-foot Christmas Angels made up of sparkling white lights, aluminum and wire, and the 45-foot statue of the Greek Titan Atlas.
- The Rink: At the shadow of the Christmas tree and at the heart of the Rockefeller Center is the NYC’s most celebrated ice-skating rink. Exceptionally magical, it’s also irrefutably small (with a room for only 150 skaters at a time) and jam-packed with merrymakers. Watch or join the fun as you tie up your skates and whirl away. Go for the first skating period early at 8.30am to elude a long wait. If you’ll come in summer, the rink is transformed in a café.
- Radio City Music Hall: Watch a performance or simply enjoy a backstage tour of these magical theaters. If you are in New York on a festive Christmas season, you mustn’t miss the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, which is among its most popular shows. Though the tour is available throughout the year, Christmas is the most wondrous time of the year. The tour will let you explore the foremost attractions in the Rockefeller center, including the coveted art Deco interiors.
- Dining: After long hours of selfies, shopping and sightseeing, you need not look for another venue to satisfy your hunger. There are numerous snack bars, cafes and restaurants to offer a wide-array of mouth-watering food selections. If you are looking for that special ambiance, SixtyFive located at the Top of 30 Rockefeller Plaza is the place to be – stunning, elegant and flashy. It has a wraparound outdoor terrace that lets you see picturesque views of Manhattan and beyond. If you have a modest budget, check out Bill’s Bar & Burger, Pulse and Lenny’s, Summer Garden & Bar. For a sweet conclusion, head to La Maison du Chocolat on the Sixth Avenue side of the Center and Magnolia Bakery for desserts and sweets.
- Shopping: “Rockefeller Center is a premier shopping destination.” Shopaholics and shoppers will take a delight in the offerings of the 10-story Saks Fifth Avenue. It has high-end brand boutiques and the latest fashion in over 100 shops, such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Christian Louboutin. Artisanal bath and beauty products abound in the Center, and anything you can ever think of including artworks, jewelry, accessories, etc. Check out the list of the shops in this page.
To access a complete list of the activities in the Rockefeller Center, NYC, there are monthly NYC Tourists Events Calendar you can check for an updated list of things to see and do while in the city.