The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is an iconic NYC holiday destination.  Photo courtesy of Rockefeller Center
The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is an iconic NYC holiday destination. Photo courtesy of Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center Tree in 2021: Tree Lighting and More Rockefeller Center Fun

It’s nearly that time of year again: The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is getting spruced up and ready to welcome visitors as one of the most popular attractions of the holiday season in New York City. With its dazzling lights, the Rockefeller Center tree overlooks the rink, producing a postcard-perfect sight worth seeing at least once. If you're feeling particularly intrepid, maybe this is the year to attend the Rockefeller Center tree lighting.

No matter when you decide to visit, we've done the legwork, providing you with everything you need to know about visiting the Rockefeller Center tree in 2021. Read on for the 411 and find all the seasonal highlights in our Guide to Christmas in NYC.

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When is the Rockefeller Center tree lighting in 2021?

The Rockefeller tree will be lit Wednesday, December 1, during the Christmas in Rockefeller Center tree-lighting ceremony. Before the big moment, the Rockefeller tree is wrapped with more than 50,000 multi-colored LED lights—that' more than five miles worth!—and topped with a star covered in 3 million Swarovski crystals.

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What hours is the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lit?

The tree at Rockefeller Center is lit daily from 6am-12am. On Christmas Day, the Rockefeller Center tree is lit for 24 hours, and on New Year’s Eve it is lit from 6am-9pm.

When is the best time to visit the Rockefeller Center tree in 2021?

Expect large crowds at Rockefeller Center as tourism ramps back up in the city. The least-crowded time to visit the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is on the weekday in the early morning or late at night, after 9pm. If you visit during Christmas week, expect plenty of company.

Where are the viewing areas for the tree in Rockefeller Center?

The tree can be viewed on 49th and 50th streets between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Based on experience, the crowds are slightly thinner when approaching the tree from Sixth Avenue versus Fifth Avenue with its many stores and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Stay tuned for more details about public access to the tree. In 2020, a virtual queue was used and access points were limited. We're awaiting the final word on the plan for this holiday season.

How long will the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree be on display?

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree will be on display to the public until Sunday, January 16, 2022.

Where did the 2021 Rockefeller Center tree come from?

The 12-ton, 79-foot Norway spruce was donated by the Price family of Elkton, Maryland. This is the first time the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree has hailed from the state; previous trees have come from New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio—and even Canada.

When did the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree tradition start?

The first time a Christmas tree was erected at Rockefeller Center was in 1931 when Rockefeller Center workers pooled their money to purchase a 20-foot balsam fir tree. The unlit tree was decorated with handmade garlands made by the workers’ families.

What else is there to do at Rockefeller Center?

Rockefeller Center bustles with activities all year long. After snapping photos with the tree, take a spin on the Ice Rink at Rockefeller Center. We recommend booking your reservation before visiting to avoid ridiculously long wait times. When you've had your fun on the ice, duck into the Rockefeller Center shops. Nintendo NY, the Lego Store Fifth Avenue, American Girl Place, and FAO Schwarz are major hits with kids of all ages—and you can snap a cool pic on the dancing piano with the tree as your backdrop!

We've got tons more ways to enjoy the amenity-packed destination and family-friendly eats nearby, too.

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