Rockefeller Center

December 15, 2022

A Holiday Guide to one of NYC's most iconic holiday attractions. Dinner, Ice Skating, toys, and the tree

Rockefeller Center

The Tree

There's no place quite as magical as New York City during Christmastime, and there’s nothing more iconic than the tree at Rockefeller Center. They have been decorating and lighting a massive tree every holiday season for the past 90 years! 

In 1931, workers at Rockefeller Center pooled their money together to buy a Christmas tree. The men decorated the 20-foot-high balsam fir with handmade garlands made by their families. Two years later, in 1933, Rockefeller Center decided to make the Christmas Tree an annual tradition, and held the very first tree lighting ceremony.

For more than eight decades, the Tree has stood as a holiday beacon for New Yorkers and visitors alike. While the lights, decorations, and stars have changed through the years, visiting the Tree remains a quintessential New York experience. This year’s tree stands over 80 feet tall weighing in at 14 tons and will incorporate over five miles of lights.

The Rink

Quite possibly one of the most romantic holiday-themed things to do in the city is ice skate beneath the Rockefeller Tree. There’s even skate school on select weekend mornings for anyone looking to learn the fundamentals or private lessons with a professional instructor. Just don’t forget to make reservations and buy your tickets ahead of time to avoid waiting in the cold. 

Legend has it that the idea for The Rink was inspired by a Depression-era skate salesman who demonstrated his product by skating on the frozen water of the Rockefeller Center fountain. The Rink was the perfect fit for the sunken plaza, which was struggling to attract shoppers to the high-end retailers in the underground concourse. The Rink, or “skating pond” as it was first known, officially opened on Christmas Day 1936. Originally planned as a temporary exhibit, The Rink was so popular it became a permanent addition.

FAO Schwartz

With over three floors, their flagship store in Rockefeller is more than just a toy store; it's a magical and cherished experience for young and old alike. They're the oldest toy store retailer in the United States and their wonderfully curated collection has thousands of toys, games, stuffed animals, and collectibles to browse. 

The founder Frederick August Otto Schwarz dreamed of a marvelous emporium full of extraordinary, one-of-a-kind toys from all over the world and in 1862 that dream became a reality. FAO Schwartz has been capturing the imaginations of countless generations since.

Some of the store’s in-person interactive experiences include: a Build a Bear workshop, Sesame Street Elmo Factory, Build your own Remote Control Race Car, Funko Monster Factory, Barbie Styled by You where you can create your own personalized doll. You can even take a behind-the-scenes tour with your very own toy soldier!  Be sure to check out the large floor piano on the top floor - you can play songs using your feet and movie lovers might recognize it from Tom Hank's movie, Big (1988). 

Nobody quite emulates the holiday spirit like FAO Schwartz. After all, they were the first store to have a live Santa for children to visit!

Jupiter

Nothing tastes better after an hour of ice skating in the NYC winter than pasta and wine (except maybe hot chocolate). Jupiter is the newest Italian restaurant in the Rockefeller Center area. Launched by the same all-women team behind King (an Italian restaurant located in Hudson Yards), Jupiter has a strong emphasis on pasta, wine, and a relaxing and artful atmosphere. Swing by for  a glass of wine and warm up with their signature ALFABETO IN BRODO (alphabet soup that spells out Jupiter!)

If you're making a day out of it, a 15-minute walk will bring you to Bryant Park, where you can get some holiday shopping done and visit the New York Public Libary. 

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