Rockefeller Center is an essential stop for any visitor to New York City. This midtown Manhattan landmark is anchored by the iconic 30 Rockefeller Plaza building (home of NBC Studios and inspiration for the popular television show 30 Rock), but it’s also famous for its Top of the Rock Observation Deck, ice skating rink, Radio City Music Hall, and host of on-site amenities.
History of Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Center was the brainchild of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who conceived of the sprawling project as a sort of “city within New York City,” and a means to revitalize midtown Manhattan in the wake of the catastrophic 1929 stock market crash. Work began on Rockefeller Center in 1931, with the majority of the construction wrapping up by the end of the decade. Most of the buildings that make up Rockefeller Center were designed in the popular Art Deco style, and were embellished with elaborate works of art throughout their structures. As a result, Rockefeller Center was named a National Historic Landmark in 1987.
Today, the 19 buildings that comprise Rockefeller Center encompass roughly 20 acres of land, and the complex draws businesses and visitors from all over the world. NBC’s Today show is filmed here, and plenty of other New York City attractions are located just a few blocks away.
What’s at Rockefeller Center
There’s so much to see and do at Rockefeller Center that you’ll have a hard time deciding where to begin your adventure. Many visitors flock to Rockefeller Center for its Top of the Rock Observation Deck. Consisting of three distinctive decks some 70 floors above street level, Top of the Rock Observation Deck provides stunning views of New York City in numerous directions.
Multiple tours of Rockefeller Center are given each day, and they’re terrific opportunities to get a glimpse behind the scenes of this New York institution. Part of the charm of Rockefeller Center is the way in which, no matter where you seem to look, it’s full of artistic flourishes. A guided tour will help you notice all the nooks and crannies where murals, sculptures, and paintings have been placed.
If you’re in New York City during the winter months, then you’ll not want to miss The Rink at Rockefeller Center. This ice staking rink, set in the shadow of the stately Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, is one of New York City’s true holiday landmarks. And, no matter the season, Radio City Music Hall is worth checking out.
Visitors to Rockefeller Center will be spoiled for dining options. It won’t matter if you’re in the mood for something from a popular local brewing company or the hot new gastropub, or you’d prefer to stick with a tried-and-true major chain brand name. Regardless, you’ll find it here at Rockefeller Center, where you can choose from Italian, sushi, bagels, burgers, pizza, and more. There’s plenty of fine dining in the neighborhood, too.
Of course, a trip to Rockefeller Center will also put you squarely in the midst of some quality shopping. Whatever your interests or needs, shopping-wise, you’re more than likely to find a store here that fulfills them. Beloved New York City boutiques, world-famous brands, popular salons, even florists and barbers and a whole bunch more: you name it, Rockefeller Center quite likely has it.
Tips for Visiting Rockefeller Center
- Rockefeller Center Tours are included on several money saving tourist passes including the New York Pass, Go NY All-Inclusive Pass, NY Explorer Pass, and TurboPass New York.
- If you’re confident that you want to experience Top of the Rock Observation Deck, purchase your tickets in advance. The line to buy tickets for Top of the Rock can get really long during peak times, but if you already have your tickets in hand, you can bypass the crowds and head straight for the elevator.
- If you’re schedule is flexible, and you’d like to avoid the crowds as much as possible, consider visiting Rockefeller Center during the week. Weekends are fine, too, but they do tend to be a fair deal busier here.
- Rockefeller Center’s prominent location in midtown Manhattan means there’s an incredible amount to see and do. As you plan your Rockefeller Center outing, look at a map and note what other New York City attractions you’ve had your eye on are nearby. You might be able to combine Rockefeller Center with a stop at a place like the Museum of Modern Art or Madame Tussauds.
- Whether it consists of live music, an art show, a wine tasting, or a pop-up obstacle course for the kids, there’s always some sort of special event taking place at Rockefeller Center. Be certain to check out their calendar of events to see what might be taking place when you’re scheduled to visit.