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Rockefeller Christmas Tree 2017: Top Viewing Tips

Category Attractions

|by AnneLise Sorensen |

A tree glows in Midtown

It’s that time again: A tree glows in Midtown. The holidays in New York have become synonymous with one very tall icon of nature: the Rockefeller Christmas Tree. History has a lot to do with it: The first tree went up in 1931, and since then, it has become one of the city’s most popular holiday traditions. Size has a lot to do with it too: The majestic tree, typically a Norway Spruce, generally reaches 75 to 90 feet — the tallest measured 100 feet — and its heavy branches are decorated with more than five miles of twinkling lights. (A sign of the times: The lights are now environmentally friendly LEDs).


The Rockefeller Christmas Tree lights up Manhattan in 2014 (Photo: iStock)

The Rockefeller Christmas Tree lights up Manhattan in 2014 (Photo: iStock)

The details: On Wednesday, November 29, 2017, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree will light up in a dazzling ceremony from 7pm to 9pm. The beloved annual event is featured live and nationwide on NBC. The tree remains lit until January 7 at 9pm.

The tree: This year’s behemoth is from Pennsylvania, and has impressive stats: 75 feet tall and 50 feet in diameter, weighing in at 12-plus tons.

Viewing tips: The tree draws anywhere from 350,000 to 750,000 people — a day. That said, there’s a lot of movement, so be patient in working your way to the front, and you’ll be rewarded with screensaver-worthy snaps. Weekdays mornings are less crowded, but the glimmering lights will have less of an effect in daylight than at night. As you might expect, the more frigid the weather, the fewer number of people who are willing to brave the chill. Above all, don’t drive (which is good advice for most of New York City) — public transport is your dear companion. A variety of trains will get you to the action: B, D, F, V to 47-50th St. Rockefeller Center; N, R to 49th St., 1 to 50th St., 6 to 51st St.

The bonus: Of course, the tree may be the star (and is topped by one made of dazzling crystals), but the surrounding plaza is equally colorful: Toy soldiers and angels populate the walkways, holiday carols fill the air and Salvation Army volunteers jingle their bells. And, ice-skaters twirl on the famous rink, which is presided over by the gleaming, gold-leaf Prometheus statue. Brush up on your art knowledge by joining a Rockefeller Center Tour, which highlights the phenomenal public art, from Lee Lawrie’s mighty Atlas holding up a globe to Josep Maria Sert’s stunning mural, American Progress. The holiday cheer doesn’t stop at Rock Center. No – it kicks into high gear at nearby Radio City Music Hall, the grand home of the famous Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes.

The tree lives on: And what happens once the tree is stripped of its baubles? No, it’s not tossed onto the sidewalk like so many other withering New York City trees in the cold days of January. After its Rockefeller Center career is over, the tree will be milled into lumber for Habitat for Humanity projects.

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