Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan is one of the most iconic developments in New York City.
And in this post we cover some of the top things to do, see, and eat at this legendary NYC location.
John. D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil and a philanthropist, had a vision of a “city within a city”.
His “city”, Rockefeller Center, would provide everything office workers would need near at hand and also be a hub of entertainment and the arts.
Built between 1930 and 1940, Rockefeller Center is a complex of 19 buildings spread across three city blocks.
Its modern and streamlined design exudes elegance.
Rich with history and public art, and one of the largest examples of Art Deco architecture in the world, its sculptures, geometric shapes, and decorative elements are all reflective of the Art Deco style.
If you’d like to visit this landmark Manhattan building, we have some tips for you below, in addition to information on tours, things to do, nearby attractions, and nearby hotels.
There are a couple of options when it comes to tours of Rockefeller center, one official and one led by Free Tours by Foot.
Official Guided Tour of Rockefeller Center
Follow an expert historian around the center and learn all about how this landmark became so historically significant.
This tour is offered once every 30 minutes from 1:30 AM to 7:00 PM, giving you plenty of time to explore 30 Rock and discover everything it has to offer.
- Ticket Price: $25 per person
- Availability: Daily every 30 minutes from 10 am - 7:30 pm.
- Duration: 60-90 minutes
- Click here to buy tickets
Free Tours By Foot Guided Tour
We may not work directly with the fine people at 30 Rock, but we certainly do our best to provide a similarly excellent experience at this wonderful landmark.
Join Free Tours By Foot on our Rockefeller Center Tour as we explore this beautiful complex inside and out, learning about its history and taking a closer look at the beautiful and intriguing artwork that permeates Rockefeller Center.
Our tour does not run in the winter, but we recommend taking along our self-guided version.
Sites we cover on the Rockefeller Center Tour include:
- Radio City Music Hall
- Atlas Statue
- St. Patrick's Cathedral
- Channel Gardens
- Prometheus Statue
- NBC Studios/Today Show
- Christie's Auction House
- 30 Rock/Main lobby
- Ice skating rink
- Rockefeller Christmas Tree
- Reservations: REQUIRED. Click here to reserve. For groups of 6 or more, visit our group page before booking.
- Where: 1250 Avenue of the Americas (6th Ave.) Look for your guide with the Free Tours by Foot logo on the East side of 6th Ave. between 49th and 50th Streets (map).
- Duration: The tour lasts approximately 1.5-2 hours and the distance is around 1.5 miles (2K)
- When: At 2 pm on Saturdays. Our tour is not available in the winter, though an amended version is included on our Midtown Manhattan Tour.
- Note: Tours go out rain or shine. Please dress appropriately for the weather.
- Cost: This tour is free to take, and you get to decide what, if anything, the tour was worth when it’s done. A name-your-own-price tour is a tour for any budget.
For more tips on saving money, check out our Guide to New York City on a Budget.
As you’d imagine, in a complex so large, there is plenty to do.
Below are some of the most popular stops on any visit to Rockefeller Center.
30 Rockefeller Plaza
This skyscraper sits at the center of Rockefeller Plaza and today houses the Rockefeller family offices, amongst others.
Top of the Rock
At the top of Rockefeller Center are three observation decks. Two, on the 67th and 69th floors, are indoors, and another, on the 70th floor is outdoors.
From these decks, visitors get a 360-degree view of Manhattan and beyond.
This is a great way to see some of the city's known landmarks such as the Empire State Building and Central Park.
There is also a restaurant and a gift shop, as well as the stunning 35-foot-tall waterfall Joie Chandelier, made up of 14,000 Swarovski crystals.
As this is one of the most visited sites in the city, it’s a good idea to pick up your tickets ahead of time. This means less time in line and more time viewing the magnificent skyline!
You can pick your timeslot (depending on availability) and even purchase a ticket that allows for flexible dates and a cancellation option.
- Ticket Prices: $40/Adults | $38/Seniors | $34/Kids
- Children under 5 are free
- Purchase flexible date tickets.
- Get 10% off each ticket with CitySights. You must use promo code SAVE10.
Note that you can also get free admission with every discount pass in New York.
For a list of other observation decks in New York City, visit our post.
Radio City Music Hall
This was the first building to open in Rockefeller Center in 1932 and at that time, was the largest indoor theater in the world with 6,200 seats in its audience.
It is known worldwide for its exquisite Art Deco interior and well as symbolic exterior artwork.
But, it is also the home of the famous precision dance team, the Radio City Rockettes, and their Christmas Spectacular.
Originally, Radio City opened as a grand variety house that featured famous dancers as well as symphonies, movies, newsreels, and a whole array of other entertainment.
Today it is still the largest and most famous theater in America and is primarily used for big-name concerts as well as other events such as the Tony Awards, the NFL draft picks, and of course the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes.
It is possible to take a tour, which is called Radio City Music Hall Stage Tour.
Stage Door Tour
- Adult: $31.00
- Children (12 & under): $27
- Students (with valid ID) and Seniors (65 and older): $27
- Hours: Tours run daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and depart approximately every half hour.
- Free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance
- More information or to book.
Television fans will recognize much around NBC studios.
In fact, NBC’s history in the building dates all the way back to 1933, when television was just in its infancy!
As far as activities go, you can see everything behind the scenes with an NBC Studios tour.
NOTE: As of August 2022, the NBC Studio Tour is still paused until further notice and there is no indication of when this tour will be offered once again.
- $33 for Adults | $29 for Children/Seniors
- Mon-Thur Availability: 8:20 am – 2:20 pm
- Friday Availability: 8:20 am – 5:00 pm
- Weekend Availability: 8:20 am – 6:00 pm
- Duration: Between 60-75 minutes
- Location: Rockefeller Center
- Purchase tickets or learn more.
You can also stand across 49th St. at The Today Show studio and wave to the cameras.
If you’re lucky, you might be there during one of the free outdoor concerts.
These take place Friday mornings during the summer and usually attract some big-name performers.
To remember the experience, you might want to stop by the NBC Experience Store.
This is where you’ll find t-shirts, mugs, hats, and more, all branded with the names of some of your favorite shows.
Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live, which is filmed at 30 Rockefeller Center, is a sketch comedy show that’s been on American TV’ssince 1975.
Each week there is a new guest host on the show. It can be anyone well-known including movie stars, musicians, comedians, politicians… just about anyone in the public eye. There’s also a musical guest, most well known but for others, an appearance on the show can shoot their name into the public consciousness.
Some of the regular actors on the show have gone on to greater heights of fame after leaving, people such as Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Billy Crystal, Chris Rock, Mike Meyers, Maya Rudolph, Adam Sandler, Tina Fey, and many more.
As you can imagine, getting tickets to the show (which are free) involves some fierce competition. It basically comes down to luck, as audience members are chosen randomly via an email lottery. There is also a chance for standby tickets.
Visit our post on How to Get Tickets to Saturday Night Live for more information on the process, and to find out how to see cast members leave after the show.
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
One of the Saturday Night Live alums whose gone on to bigger things is Jimmy Fallon, host of the Tonight Show, one of America’s most popular late-night talk shows.
You can expect to find a host monologue on current issues, comedy sketches, interviews with famous folks, and lots of great music.
The Tonight Show has been running since 1954! Various men have hosted the show, with Jimmy Fallon taking over in 2015. He moved the show from California to New York and the GE Building at Rockefeller Plaza.
To get tickets to the show, you’ll need to request them through a website. They are released about a month in advance. There are also options for standby tickets and rehearsal tickets.
Our post on how to get tickets to the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon will walk you through the process.
This garden, which runs along a Rockefeller Center promenade, is made of pools, sculptural fountains, and loads of gorgeous bushes and plants.
This pedestrian promenade leads from 5th Ave towards the heart of the main plaza and is a great place for window shopping.
The design of the gardens changes according to the season, holiday, or event. You might find palm trees and flowers at one time of year, and illuminated angels and pine branches at another.
Rockefeller Art Work
Inside the main entrance to Rockefeller Center's centerpiece building are some impossible-to-ignore murals and frescoes.
The surrounding artwork is by Spanish artist Jose Maria Sert who used powerful imagery to depict scenes of the past contrasted with images of industry, believed by some to be the path to a better future.
The mural directly behind the information desk opposite the entrance is called "American Progress" and includes the images of Abraham Lincoln- a man of action- and Ralph Waldo Emerson- a man of thought.
It replaces an original painting called “Man at the Crossroads” which had been painted by Diego Rivera and was believed to be "too anti-capitalist" in tone.
There are also granite decorations celebrating Vaudeville, gilded lions representing the British monarchy, stone carvings symbolizing the best aspects of modern civilization, and much more on the outside of the building.
To learn more about the artwork inside and out, you might enjoy one of the walking tours of Rockefeller Center.
In front of the main entrance to the GE building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza is what’s known as the Lower Plaza. The Lower Plaza is where you'll find the city's most famous ice skating rink from October through March
Above the Lower Plaza is Prometheus a gilded statue by Paul Manship considered to be among the top four most famous statues in America.
Prometheus was a Titan in Greek mythology who defied Zeus by giving mankind the gift of fire.
Here we see Prometheus descending from the heavens, as suggested by the astrological symbols surrounding him, with a ball of fire in his hand.
The backdrop for the statue at this viewpoint will depend on the season. From late November to early January the world-famous Rockefeller Christmas Tree, one of NYC's most popular traditions stands directly behind Prometheus.
On Fifth Avenue, just across from St. Patrick's Cathedral, stands a massive bronze statue.
This is Atlas, an ancient greek Titan, half-man, half-god, condemned by Zeus to hold up "the heavens" for eternity.
There he stands, with the celestial spheres above his head exemplifying enduring strength. The symbols on the spheres are those of Earth, Mars, Venus, Mercury, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, and the Moon. There are symbols for 12 constellations (the zodiac).
The Art Deco-style statue was created by sculptors Lee Lawrie and Rene Paul Chambellan.
At 45 feet tall and weighing around 14,000 lbs, it can't be missed.
In fact, it is probably one of the most recognizable statues in the city. It is often shown in TV shows and movies when a scene flashes to New York City.
When it’s cold in New York, there’s still plenty to see and do.
Rockefeller Center in particular has become a hub of holiday-related traditions, and folks come from far and wide to take part in them.
Just a few of thing winter activities you can find in the area are:
Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
Each year a massive Christmas tree, one up to 100 feet tall, is erected in the middle of the Rockefeller Center complex.
The tree, usually a Norwegian Spruce, is then decorated with around 5 miles of multicolored lights.
The lighting of the Christmas tree takes place each year on the Wednesday following Thanksgiving.
There are live performances that often involve dancing and singing as well.
The event is so popular that it not only draws thousands to Rockefeller Center, but millions watch it on TV.
The tree is located between West 48th and 51st Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Click here for Google Maps directions.
For more information about the tree and for tips about attending the lighting ceremony, visit our post on the Rockefeller Christmas tree.
Ice Skating Rink
The picture-perfect moment on any holiday trip to New York is skating at the rink at Rockefeller Center.
In late November the iconic Christmas Tree is lit, giving the rink that extra special holiday feeling.
- Location: In front of 30 Rockefeller Plaza (map).
- Schedule: Nov 5th, 2022 - March 19, 2023
- Time: 9 am-11 pm.
- Session Length: 40-60 minutes long
- Time slots: every 10 minutes from 9 am until 10:30 pm and a final session each day at 11 pm
- General Admission Prices:
- Adult (Ages 13 and Over): $20
- Child (Ages 6 to 12): $20
- Tot (Ages 5 and Under): $11
- Skate Rental: $10 (or bring your own for free)
- Lockers: Available free of charge
Read our post about Ice Skating Rinks in New York City to find more places to skate.
Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes
The magnificent and high-kicking Rockettes put on an annual holiday show at Radio City Music Hall.
Visiting the show is an annual tradition for some families, and is enjoyed by folks of all ages.
There are synchronized dance routines, attractive holiday costumes, stunning sets, and music.
Regarding tickets, the price you pay depends on the day of the week, the time of the performance, and of course, seat location.
For example, those on sale through StubHub will usually run from $50 for mezzanine seating during a midweek show to nearly $200 for most of the month of November for premium seating.
After Thanksgiving, a Saturday 1:30 pm show will cost between $80 - $599.
For tips and information about tickets and available discounts, visit our post: Radio City Christmas Spectacular Discount.
Some of the most well-known landmarks in Manhattan are just blocks from Rockefeller Center.
It’s close to bars and restaurants as well as a number of entertainment options as well.
St. Patricks Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the most recognizable cathedral in New York, if not the world.
In fact, it is the largest neo-Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral in the United States.
It is a must-visit for those who love architecture and history, those who worship, and those who simply enjoy seeing a place of pure beauty.
Best of all, the cathedral is just across the Street from Rockefeller Center and it’s free to enter. For information on visiting, read our post, St. Patrick’s Cathedral Tours.
Saks Fifth Avenue
Saks Fifth Avenue is a New York institution. It’s been around since 1924.
If you’re looking for some high-end creations by design houses such as Chanel, Prada, and Gucci you can find them here. It’s just a few minutes walk from Rockefeller Center to their flagship store on 5th Avenue.
During the holiday season, usually starting at some point in late November, there is a stunning Saks Fifth Avenue Holiday Light Show at the 5th Avenue flagship store.
Folks come into the city just to see hundreds of thousands of LED lights projected onto the side of the building, synchronized to holiday music. The show takes place every ten minutes from 5 pm to 11 pm.
Times Square is a destination for just about every visitor to New York City.
This is where the ball drops on New Year’s Eve with a million people packed into the square in celebration.
This is where to go if you want to feel the energy of a city filled with lights and people and noise.
Nearby you’ll find Broadway shows, Madam Tussauds Wax Museum, and loads of bars and restaurants.
Our post 24 Things to do in Times Square will give you plenty of things to keep you busy.
Times Square is just about an 8-minute walk from Rockefeller Center.
Once described as the lungs of the city, Central Park brings a breath of fresh air to New York's crowded urban terrain.
What started out as the rocky and desolate northern fringes of a rapidly expanding city is today among the world's most famous and beloved public parks.
With over 843 acres (400 hectares) of meadows, hills, ball fields, bodies of water, impressive views of Manhattan, and winding paths it's impossible not to find something to enjoy there.
Central Park is just about an 11-minute walk from Rockefeller Center. If you’re interested in taking a tour of this beloved park, read our post on Central Park Tours.
Empire State Building
Much like the Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building is an iconic New York City landmark and an example of Art Deco architecture.
It’s the 7th tallest building in the city and the top is often illuminated to reflect holidays, sporting events, and important moments in history.
The Empire State Building has three observation decks, on the 80th, 86th, and 102nd floors.
For tips on discounts, help with which deck to visit, and how to avoid long lines visit our post How to Get Empire State Building Tickets.
Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
MOMA is one of the largest and most respected modern and contemporary art museums in the world.
They house over 200,000 works of art in all manner of mediums.
You’ll find works by such masters as Picasso, van Gogh, Pollock, Dali, Lichtenstein, and more.
MOMA is just a 7-minute walk from Rockefeller Center. For more information about planning a trip, read our post Free Friday MOMA and Other Ticket Discounts.
Grand Central Terminal
For over 100 years, the Beaux-Arts beauty officially known as Grand Central Terminal (a.k.a Grand Central Station), has been a testament to the ingenuity and ambition of a great city.
It’s just a ten-minute walk from Rockefeller Center. For more information on touring this incredible station read our post: Grand Central Station Tours.
New York Public Library
The Beaux-Arts style marble building housing the main branch of the New York Public Library sits on the edge of Bryant Park.
You’ll recognize it by the two marble lions, Patience and Fortitude, that sit out front.
Inside you’ll find 75 miles of bookshelves, with another 84 miles beneath Bryant Park, housing millions upon millions of books.
A Guttenberg bible lives here as do works by Shakespeare. There is also a map collection, a theatre, a reading gallery, a children’s center, and more, all housed in a stunning building with murals, carvings, and massive windows.
The library is just a ten-minute walk down 5th Avenue from Rockefeller Center. For information on touring this space, visit our post: New York City Public Library.
This beautiful skyscraper, for a very brief time the tallest building in the world, and still the tallest brick building in the world was once the home of the Chrysler Corporation.
Its design incorporated the aesthetic of Chrysler automobiles; on the outside of the building, you’ll find silver winged ornaments and replicas of eagle hood ornaments.
Inside the Art Deco lobby is a mural by Edward Trumball entitled “Transport and Human Endeavor” and the world’s first digital clock.
No tickets are needed to visit. You may enter the lobby anytime the building is open, 8:00 am to 6 pm on weekdays.
The building is a 14-minute walk from Rockefeller Center. For more interesting facts about the building, read our post How to Visit the Chrysler Building.
To learn more about this artwork
Whether you take a tour or not, there is plenty to do at the United Nations.
The lobby and atrium are open for visits and you can see their permanent and changing exhibits.
You can also dine alongside UN delegates at the Delegates Dining Room after making a reservation by calling 1-917-367-3314. Or you can eat at the casual Visitor’s Café in the Visitor’s Center.
The United Nations is a 20-minute walk from Rockefeller Center. For information on tours, read our post Tours of the United Nations Building in New York.
There are dozens and dozens of shops in Rockefeller Center. You won't even need to leave the complex to find what you're looking for.
Inside are stores focused on men’s fashion, women’s fashion, children, jewelry, home goods, flower arrangements, stationery, and more.
For kids, you won’t want to miss FAO Schwarz, the iconic and oldest toy store in the US. Their original 5th Avenue store, the one seen in the movie Big closed, but in 2018 this new location opened in Rockefeller Center.
If you’re in need of a caffeine fix, there are plenty of places to stop in for coffee.
On the Rink Level of 30 Rockefeller Plaza you’ll find the following places to buy coffee:
Blue Bottle Coffee - this sustainable coffee company focuses on organic ingredients. They have espresso, iced coffee, yogurt parfait, pastries, granola, and more.
Dunkin Donuts - at what is called "the world's leading baked goods and coffee chain", you’ll find coffee, of course, along with donuts, bagels, and breakfast sandwiches.
Starbucks - the largest coffeehouse chain in the world has a store in Rockefeller Center. It serves all sorts of hot and cold coffees and teas in addition to breakfast foods, sandwiches, snacks and sweets.
Amazon Go - you’ll find coffee, espresso, sandwiches, salads, wraps, a hot breakfast, and more here. You just need the mobile app to check out because there are no cashiers (or lines).
If coffee doesn’t hit the spot, there is another option. At Juice Press they have cold-pressed juices, smoothies, hot soups, raw foods, and raw desserts.
And outside (so not on Rink Level) you'll find Ralph’s Coffee Truck - as in Ralph Lauren's pop up coffee truck. It serves up espresso, coffee, tea, cookies, and muffins. Seating can be found in Atlas Court on 5th Ave.
As you might imagine, you won't have to go far to find food in and around Rockefeller Center. We've suggested a few options below.
Dining In Rockefeller Center
When it comes to dining options in the Rockefeller Center complex, there are plenty of them. If you want sandwiches, sushi, ice cream, or an elegant sit-down dinner, it’s all here.
Just some of the options are:
Jupiter - this Italian restaurant has a strong focus on pasta and wine. You'll find menu items such as slow chargrilled beef filet, tortellini with ricotta and spinach, cooked pork shoulder, and pasta stuffed with slow-cooked rabbit. It can be found at Rink Level of 620 Fifth Avenue.
Le Rock - this French restaurant serves up such fare as grilled scallops, steak hache, steak au poivre, and some fantastic desserts. It can be found at 45 Rockefeller Center.
Bill’s Bar & Burger - a reasonably priced casual restaurant serving American cuisine. Large burgers and shakes are on the menu, and service is fast.
City Winery Rockefeller Center - this outdoor pop-up wine garden serves locally crafted wines and has a Mediterranean-inspired menu. It's open seven days a week all year long, and has umbrellas during warm months and heated domes during the winter.
You'll also find Magnolia Bakery, Ben and Jerry's, Black Seed Bagels, Chipotle, Fuku, and many other restaurants. Click here for the full list.
Dining Outside Rockefeller Center
Most of the restaurants near Rockefeller Center tend to be a bit more high-end, although more casual restaurants can be found within walking distance.
Mastro’s Steakhouse - a well-reviewed and upscale seafood and steak house with a dress code. Live music. Great food although service can be slow.
Casa Limone - a joyous, unpretentious, and modern restaurant that gets raves for its food and decor. Southern Italian fare is served (on hand-painted plates).
Monterey - the word glamorous is used to describe this brasserie that hosts velvet booths, a raw bar, martini carts, and a speakeasy. Seafood, steaks, and fabulous cocktails can be had.
Oceana - a sleek and modern restaurant that caters to crowds heading for Broadway shows. Staff are attentive, and the food and service are well-reviewed. It is, however, rather pricey.
There are a handful of bars inside or close to Rockefeller Center, all of which serve food.
Pebble Bar - an intimate and upscale bar covering three floors of a historic townhouse. Regulars at the building used included David Letterman, Jack Kerouac, and Johnny Carson. Reservations are needed for food on the third floor.
Other Half Brewing - a smallish taproom + beer garden on the south side of Rockefeller Center. It gets great reviews for its beer options.
Reilly’s Plates and Pours - a cozy and quiet Irish pub at Rockefeller Center. The staff get good reviews, as do the drinks (beer, wine cocktails) and food dishes. A great place to people watch and prices are reasonable.
Valerie - a cocktail bar with a cool ambiance, open for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. Dollar oysters and loads of other food options. Sophisticated cocktails and fast service.
Rink Level - this is underground and you'll also find many restaurants there.
Top of the Rock: there are restrooms on the 66th floor, accessible by elevator from the 67th floor
In fact, you'll find the bathroom attendant of the future in all public restrooms there.
If you're out and about, this map of every single public restroom in Manhattan might come in handy.
There are almost 700 hotels in New York City, with a third of them in Manhattan. If you’re looking for hotels near Rockefeller Center, we have a few suggestions.
The Jewel Hotel - This four-star hotel sits across the street from Rockefeller Center. It includes a fitness and business center, as well as laundry and concierge services.
Lotte New York Palace - This five-star hotel, called a landmark and luxury retreat, is a five-minute walk from Rockefeller Center, just past Saks Fifth Avenue and Burberry. It includes a fitness and business center, as well as laundry and concierge services.
Hotel Elysee by Library Hotel Collection - This four-star hotel with a relaxed atmosphere and homey European style, gets raves over its staff. It includes a clubroom, lounge, complimentary refreshments, a business center, a library, and laundry service. There is also a bar and a Greek restaurant in the building.
The Muse New York - This 4-star hotel calls itself “The Socialite of Midtown Manhattan Hotels” and also gets raves over its staff. It includes spacious rooms, a 24-hour fitness center, a business lounge, laundry service, and a bar onsite.
New York Hilton Midtown - This 4-stay modern hotel sports 2 bars, a restaurant, spa services, a business center, and a great view.
There are plenty of other hotels within walking distance as well. You might find our post Where to Stay in New York of interest as we include recommendations broken down by neighborhood and price range.