Rockefeller Center has become a Christmas icon for Americans through its appearance in movies and on television. While many buildings make up the complex, it is the Plaza, the ice rink and the Christmas tree that are the symbols of the holiday that excite the imagination of millions of visitors.
My first visit to Rockefeller Center was on a brisk, cloudy day in December. My guide took me through the underground concourse that is nearly a city of its own. This small town boy was overwhelmed by the people, the motion and the sheer variety of sights and sounds. The best was to come.
We ended up at a restaurant that overlooks the ice rink for lunch. Afterward, we walked through the Plaza, looking at the enormous Christmas tree and the many lit holiday decorations.
The rink was enchanting. It was crowded but unlike the streets around it, there was no pushing and shoving. The skaters each moved at their own pace, circling the rink. A parent with a small child moved slowly along the edge at the speed of the tiny tot. A businessman in an overcoat and suit smoothing circled the rink, perhaps enjoying his lunch hour. In the center, there was a lone young woman whirling and gliding to the music with skill and grace.
Christmas carols played over loudspeakers. A small crowd stood around the rim of the rink, which is lower than ground level, watching the skaters.
The next stop was the legendary Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. This year’s tree is 74 feet high and will bear nearly five miles of lights. It will be lit November 30.
The tree I saw seemed made of solid light, and even from a distance its size and beauty were astounding. I tried to capture the tree on film but it was so large I could not do it justice.
Lastly, we wandered along the Plaza. The lit decorations were amazing. Huge angels, blowing trumpets, flags and trees. It was a Christmas wonderland.
This multi-building area is home to some impressive works of art that are not Christmas related, too. A gilded statue of Prometheus overlooks the ice rink. A massive statue of Atlas faces Fifth Avenue. Nearly all the buildings have some sort of art work on their sides.
A trip to Rockefeller Center at Christmas time will be among the most memorable Christmases for anyone. New Yorkers may make the tree lighting ceremony a family tradition. Out of towners might strive to repeat Kevin McCallister’s wondrous visit in Home Alone II: Lost in New York. The lights, the music, ice skating and that magnificent Christmas tree make this a must-see for everyone at Christmas.