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Crowds flock to Rockefeller Plaza as early as 2 pm to witness the spectacular Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Ceremony. Needless to say, waiting that long in the cold can be tiring. Some adjacent locations offer special parties that guarantee a view of the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting. We have tested such an event and want to share our review.
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Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting parties promise good food, an open bar and, most importantly, views of the Rockefeller Center Tree. As a VIP guest, you can go back and forth between the outdoor and indoor areas, depending on whether you want to stay warm or head outside to catch more of the ceremony. This is what’s included:
- views of the tree
- hors d’oeuvre
- open bar
- indoor and outdoor areas
- professional photographer
- DJ entertainment
Here’s how the evening looked like. However, please note that these times are all based on my own experience. The schedule may be changed slightly by the operator. The timeline should still give you a good idea of what to expect at a VIP Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting party.
- 9:00 am – 12:00 pm OR 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm: First things first; change your voucher into a ticket. The ticket pick-up is only possible during specific times during the day. What you’ll get is an envelope that includes a VIP badge as well as a letter with a confirmation and information. Do not lose your badge under any circumstances! It is what will help you get through the crowds and grant you admission to the event.
- 7:00 pm: I got there at 7 pm, just in case of heavy crowds along the way. The meeting point for the event was across the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, at the Atlas Statue. There were over 5 staff members to greet me. I didn’t have to look for anyone really. The signs were very clear. Upon arrival, I was guided into the lobby and waited there to be checked-in.
- 7:30 pm: Once I was checked in, it was time to join the party and enjoy the food, drink, performances, and festive atmosphere! In total, there were about 300 people at the event, taking advantage of both, the outdoor patio and the cozy indoor space. When I arrived I was greeted by my name! The gentleman who gave me the ticket earlier in the day had an incredible memory and made me feel very special. The performances can be watched on several monitors inside the place or on the large screens on Rockefeller Plaza. The outdoor patio is standing only whereas there are plenty of booths inside.
- 9:55 pm: After almost three hours, the tree was finally lit! A moment everyone was looking forward to. Even after the Rockefeller Center Tree Ceremony officially ended, guests stuck around to either marvel at the gorgeous tree or head inside to dance the night away. In total, the party went on for longer than noted on the booking.
Food & Drink
The hors d’oeuvre included sushi, sliders, shrimps, sliders, and more. Waiters walk around with trays, similar to a cocktail hour at a wedding, so you won’t ever have to look for food. The drink selection included all kinds of soft drinks, beer, wine, mimosas, and more. Because the tour does not include a full dinner but rather snack-sized bites, I recommend having a light dinner beforehand.
A special event has a dress code. On the booking confirmation, the recommended dress code was “dressed to impress” and described as business to elegant, whereas the invitation specifically asked to avoid jeans or t-shirts. In reality, it was very mixed. Some guests showed up wearing Ugg boots, others dressed up in their nicest dresses, reminding me of wedding guests. I wore black jeans and a blouse and was fine! In fact, as I headed right towards the outdoor patio area, I never even took off my coat. Even though you can spend your time inside too, I still recommend using some footwarmers for when you go outside to ensure you are the most comfortable you can be! The temperatures typically hover around freezing (32°F).
Is it worth it? My honest review
Were the promises kept? Let’s take a closer look! Let us start off by pointing out the pros and cons of attending a Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Party:
- guaranteed views of the tree
- unlimited food and drinks
- significantly shorter wait time
- staying warm
- celebrate in a relaxed atmosphere
Yes, the promises were kept. There was food, there were drinks, everyone had a view of the Tree Lighting, and there was a party! For many guests, seeing the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Ceremony was a dream come true. They attended the party and didn’t leave it to chance whether they would see the tree or not. The spots on the patio were on a first-come-first-served basis and I decided to secure a spot in the front and not bother with going inside because I wanted to get a great video for you! It would have been completely fine, however, to spend more time inside and head out right before the lighting. You could see the tree from any spot on the patio.
To be quite frank, I didn’t know what to expect of this experience and I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy myself. Yet, both the staff and other guests were very kind. The atmosphere was great throughout the whole evening. Despite attending the Tree Lighting Party all by myself, I ended up meeting many friendly visitors and enjoyed our conversations. Everyone was in a good mood and people were chatting, laughing and dancing (inside) throughout the evening.
- no direct view of performances
- no heaters in the patio area
A ticket to attend a Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Party can cost between $500-$800. It first shocked me but looking back at the experience get it.
I do understand now why people are paying so much to be there!
Though the amount of a ticket is quite high, I do have a better understanding of why people after attending the party. It wasn’t a snobby event. The crowd was a mix of people, many from within the country. Some were celebrating special occasions and for many, it was simply a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see the Lighting Ceremony with their own eyes. They decided that it was worth it for them. In the end, you have to decide whether this investment is worth it for you, too. Your decision comes down to 1) getting there at 2 or 3 pm vs getting there at 7 pm 2) staying warm vs enduring the cold 3) enjoy food, drinks, and a party vs. waiting in the crowd (which could be fun, too!). Is the comfort worth the money for you?
You won’t get to see the performances other than on a screen at the plaza or inside the restaurant. Only the earliest guests on the plaza will be able to see the performances. Most people won’t see them. Also, a few performances are pre-taped anyway! Because you wouldn’t normally see the performances anyway, it’s not really a con, yet something that would make the party even more perfect!
As I was standing outside freezing due to my lack of dressing warm enough, I wished there were heaters in the patio. I am not sure whether there is a particular reason for that or not, but it would have enhanced the experience for me personally as I tend to freeze easily. Again, however, you also wouldn’t have heaters on Rockefeller Plaza. It’s something that would have been highly appreciated it though.
*Tickets are only available starting late summer.
Other Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Parties
These types of events are by multiple restaurants in the area and are very similar experiences. Because not every restaurant in the area can offer such an event and their spaces are very limited, tickets are sold out almost as soon as they go online. If you want to attend a Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting Party, be sure to book your tickets asap!
*We will add the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Party Events once they are available again!
Can’t get through the crowds?
Don’t want to attend a VIP event or stand in the crowd for hours? Head to Rockefeller Plaza around 11 pm! Everyone pretty much leaves Rockefeller Plaza after the tree is lit around 10 pm and you’ll have the tree almost all to yourselves!
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I'm a true New York fan! Not only have I visited the city over 20 times but also have I spent several months here at a time. On this blog, I want to share everything I have learned and discovered, so you can have the best time in the greatest city in the world. By the way: Did you like my article? Then think about becoming a supporter of us on Patreon!