How to Successfully Attend the Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting

As I’ve already discussed, the holidays have very much begun in New York City!

This evening was the Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting and I wanted to attend. Say I did it and then never have to do it again. But I couldn’t find any helpful tips on how to manage the madness! None of my local informants (people in my office), had any advice either because none of them had gone (I guess the locals don’t go too much). 

So- after braving the masses, I have decided to write my tips on how to successfully attend the Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting.

  1. Take public transportation. This is so obvious but so necessary. Even with masses coming in and masses coming out, the trains don’t get that crowded! It is the only way to go.
  2. As soon as you arrive at Rockefeller Plaza, befriend a cop. They know everything and aren’t giving out information freely but will give it to you if you ask. 
  3. Go to the entrance areas as advised by the cops. This year there were two entrances (I assume this is probably normal) on 47th and on 50th. Most everyone was going to the 47th because that was the first one. Unless there is no crowd at all, shoot for the 50th St. entrance. It will be less crowded. We lucked out getting one of the last locations where you could actually spot the tree (arriving at 5:30 when the events started officially at 7:00)

    The view from our location. Tree on the left. Big screen on the right.

  4. Prepare yourselves with entertainment, food, coffee, layers of clothing and a very open and calm mind. I brought a back pack with extra gloves, hats, scarves, and Catch Phrase. Laura brought coffee, bagels and extra socks. While the Catch Phrase never made an appearance, the ability to listen to music through our phones was crucial since the party scrunched next to us thought it would be okay to sing carols in operatic voices for a solid hour. The open mind was very necessary when I was constantly getting poked and  slightly molested  by the bags held by the people behind me. They were shopping bags too. Sharp edges. But with the open mind I waited it out and when one group crumbled, we quickly moved out of shopping bag reach. 

    Thank you Beyonce for helping us maintain sanity with the carolers!

  5. Have coffee, but not too much coffee– there is no peeing allowed and no way to get out. If you do get out, there is  no way to get back in. Bladders must be controlled. 
  6. The way out is much easier than the way in (that is what she said… gross Lauren)– gates are moved so there is more access. I advise skipping over the closest subway stop and walking to the next one to avoid additional crowds. You might just be lucky enough to run into Jack McBrayer (aka Kenneth Parcell)!!!

Overall, it was a magical event. For some reason a few of the performances were done twice. Not sure what the point of that was- will be interesting to see it from the TV perspective. I was obsessed with all of the logistics involved- cops, security, city ordinances, celebrity entrances, moving Al Roker from location to location… eh, it is the event planner in me.

And although I stood for 4 hours and listened to the amateur carolers next to me, watched Justin Bieber perform 4 times (including the most horrific new rendition of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” WITH Mariah Carey), the sound of Tony Bennett  and Carol King singing (even if they were just seen on the screen) and the actual lighting of the tree was so worth it. Completely magical. One of those, pinch me- I’m-standing-in-the-gorgeous-Rockefeller-Plaza-watching-the-famous-Christmas-Tree-Lighting-with-Justin-Bieber moments. It might even be worth doing again!

Laura and the lit tree!

The picture in no way does the sight justice either


82 thoughts on “How to Successfully Attend the Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting

    • It was definitely an experience to remember! And with no cable at home… it was the only way how!! Next year I’m going to befriend all the people that were partying in the overlooking offices!

  1. Oh, thank you so much for sharing your experience and your photos!! I’ve always wanted to go to NYC for the lighting of the Christmas tree, but have always been cautious because of all the carolers…I guess I should bring Beyonce with me as well, huh? ;)

    Lovely post and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    • Thank you! Unless you feel like your carolers can beat their carolers, beware! Also- while the view might not have been as good as others, being between the buildings definitely helped on the wind chill! I’m sure to be posting more holiday activities! Hope maybe someday you can experience them too!


  2. It’s been so long that I left a comment, that I logged in with my log info/blog. My correct info is on this one. Again, congrats! The 7TH FLOOR is proud of

  3. I visited NY for the first time earlier this year and one of the things I wanted to do was get back for this ceremony. I didn’t make that trip, but I want to thank you for letting me live vicariously through your blog. Appreciate the photos! :)

    • Yeah I meant to mention more about the Beliebers…. thank goodness they weren’t near me! All of the crazy ones got there at 10AM or something crazy and were near the stage. But every time they said his name it was crazy screeching!! That is when I took that chance to yell just to exert the annoyance from the bag pokers! haha

  4. Great tips – I’ll definitely come back to them if I get a chance to be there in the future! Great photos too :) Thanks for sharing and congrats on being freshly pressed!

  5. Looks truly fabulous. Will have to look on You-Tube. On a much smaller scale, I was at a light installation festival, (Lumiere) in my local city Durham recently. The spectacle was amazing but there were definite crowd control issues and I ended the evening with a black eye! (no-one else at fault but me) Glutton for punishment, I’m going back there tomorrow for the Christmas Festival.
    Congrats on FP

  6. After doing NYE in Times Square (just so I could say I did it and never have to do it again!) I am quite averse to manic crowds (Herald Square Macy’s, forget it!) But it would be nice to attend the Rockefeller tree lighting. One comment: those pretty blue trees in your photo look nicer than the actual tree! :P

  7. Oh how fun! I lucked out and had a conference in Manhattan one December and happened to be there on the right day!!! Bonus – hotel overlooking Times Square equals no need for public transport! Cup of hot chocolate in hand, I too stood there for many hours to watch the excitement build as they lit the famous tree! Totally worth the cold and crowds! I was so unprepared – no camera! Thanks for sharing your tips and photos! I can feel the excitement! Oh, I love Christmas decorations – and strolling down Fifth Ave to see all the store displays and lights – it gives me shivers!

  8. Very Cute!!….I was once a local, and worked on the ground floor of a bank, in “Rocky Fellar Center”, that upon this hallowed day, could hardly get its front door open so that us employees could get out! Lol


  9. My husband and I were in New York in 2005 for New Year’s Eve. That was insane! But also one of the most memorable, experiences of my life. I couldn’t believe that that many people could congregate in one place so peacefully. It was great. We saw the Rockefeller Tree and wondered what kind of spectacle it would be to see it lit up. Thanks for the tips — one day I’ll have to come and see it lit.
    Congrats on being FP’d!

  10. I was once at a rock concert in NYC. The crowds were so huge that policemen on horseback were sent in to control the crowds. I’ll never forget the frightening feeling of being squashed to the side without any possibility to break free from the gobs of people pressing on me in every direction. Ever since that experience I have avoided all crowds.


    • Ugh! I can imagine!! They were very smart about this and sectioned the areas off. So instead of 1 huge crowd, there were “pens” of smaller crowds. Made it much nicer and safer!

  11. Great point about “a little coffee but not too much coffee” i made that mistake last year. Then again, I was not the only person jumping up and down in place. It seemed to be quite common. LOL. Great blogging. Great tips. Keep it up!

  12. I’ve been to New York twice and both times I’ve missed the Rockefeller Tree Lighting by a couple of days. That was probably my major disappointment, because it always looks like it could be a great experience.

  13. haha thanks for this, we visited NYC, in 2008, in fact this time in 2008 we had our first whole day in New York after arriving on the 1st december, and seeing new york and sunset over manhattan at around 3.50pm from the empire state.

    that particular year rockerfellar turned their tree on on the wednesday, crowds? oh yes, we didnt stay and watch it (an nypd blue told me politely to get my self off the bench i was standing on oops lol) we headed for starbucks and returned the following day.

    you got to have the nypd blues there, one old guy (when i say old he must have been 70) got removed from by our side near the rockerfellar for pickpocketing, thankfully we still had our pockets full. I would love to see the tree being switched on. well done to you and love the pictures (jealous of everything but bieber)

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  15. I love that you provided these tips because you couldn’t find them anywhere–I do that too (I just wrote a post about a much less exciting holiday event, Christmas Town at Busch Gardens, for exactly that reason–because I wish I’d known things beforehand!)

    And speaking of knowing things beforehand–thanks for this post. I contemplated going to see the tree lighting, but now I know that I can never do that. Rule #5 wouldn’t work for me. I don’t care how ‘not allowed’ it is, there’s no way I’d be able to stand for four hours and NOT pee. Yeah. I guess I can add this to my list of ‘things I can never do in NYC’. The other thing on the list is, obviously, Times Square for New Year’s Eve.

  16. Ugh, the Biebs. He totally ripped that song apart, didn’t he? I contemplated going to the lighting of the tree, but chickened out at the thought of the crowd. I made it there last night, though, and the crowd was still brutal!

  17. Great job capturing the event for the rest of us, Lauren! Congrats on your debut on Freshly Pressed and here’s to future appearances. Proud of you!

  18. Uuummm…

    (1).”Rockefeller” is a name I associate with the “dark government-in-waiting” operating covertly in the U.S. waiting for it’s chance to overthrow the elected government.(It just about caught it’s train after 9/11)

    (2).”Christmas” is a word that gives me a migraine. Christians are such a lot of naifs and hypocrites. Their little “Jesus is born” holiday is so tawdry, crass and commercial, I refuse to have anything to do with it.

    (3)Christmas trees are once-alive trees, now sentenced to death, after being loaded down with all kinds of tacky, stupid shiny stuff to be ogled by more-money-than-brains shopping bag people.

    (4) I wouldn’t go anywhere near NYC’s nutty shopping crowds. I have a life to live.

  19. It’s a dream of mine to see NY at Xmas. Maybe next year…thanks maybe it’ll make me work harder next year to get there-meanwhile it’s stinking hot down here in Oz. Cheers

  20. Am turning green with envy. We watch it every year on TV down under and always want to experience this one year. I think I’ll even brace the arm-shoving and the out-of-tune crowds just to see Michael Buble and the lighting of the tree.

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  23. Hiya!

    I’m going to New York this year and before we knew the lighting ceremony would be on 28th November 2012, our travel agent booked us to go to ‘Top of the Rock’ on the same day. Will this still be possible???

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