Rockefeller Center

sights / Architecture

Rockefeller Center information

New York City , USA
Fifth to Sixth Aves & 48th to 51st Sts
Getting there
Subway: B/D/F/M to 47th-50th Sts-Rockefeller Center
More information
Opening hours
24hr, times vary for individual businesses
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This 22-acre 'city within a city' debuted at the height of the Great Depression. Taking nine years to build, it was America's first multiuse retail, entertainment and office space – a modernist sprawl of 19 buildings (14 of which are the original art deco structures), outdoor plazas and big-name tenants. Developer John D Rockefeller Jr may have sweated over the cost (a mere $100 million), but it was all worth it, the Center declared a National Landmark in 1987.

There are views, and then there is the view from the Top of the Rock . Crowning the GE Building, 70 stories above Midtown, its jaw-dropping vista includes one icon that you won't see from atop the Empire State Building – the Empire State Building. The Chrysler Building, however, is partially obscured. Heading up to watch the sun set over the city is worth the price hike.

Rockefeller Center is graced with the creations of 30 great artists, commissioned around the punchy theme ‘Man at the Crossroads Looks Uncertainly But Hopefully at the Future.’ Paul Manship contributed Prometheus, overlooking the sunken plaza, and Atlas, in front of the International Building (630 Fifth Ave). Isamu Noguchi's News sits above the entrance to the Associated Press Building (50 Rockefeller Plaza), while José Maria Sert's oil American Progress awaits in the lobby of the GE Building. The latter work replaced Mexican artist Diego Rivera's original painting, rejected by the Rockefellers for containing ‘communist imagery.’

TV comedy 30 Rock gets its name from the GE Building, and the tower is the real-life home of NBC TV. NBC Studio Tours leave from inside the NBC Experience Store every 15 minutes, and includes a sneak peak of the legendary Saturday Night Live set. Tours last 70 minutes, and there's a strict ‘no bathrooms, policy ’ so empty your bladder beforehand! Advanced phone bookings are strongly recommended. Across 49th St, opposite the plaza, is the glass-enclosed NBC Today show studio, broadcasting live, 7am to 10am daily.

Come the festive season, Rockefeller Plaza is where you'll find New York's most famous Christmas tree. Ceremoniously lit just after Thanksgiving, it's a tradition that dates back to the 1930s, when construction workers set up a small tree on the site. In its shadow, Rink at Rockefeller Center is the city's most famous ice-skating rink. Incomparably magical, it's also undeniably small and crowded. Opt for the first skating period (8.30am) to avoid a long wait. Come summer, the rink becomes a cafe.