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Inside the Candy Cottage of Christmas Magic, the Newest Holiday Experience at Rockefeller Center

By Emmie MurphyNov 15 2023
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A new immersive experience has come to Rockefeller Center, turning the center of the holidays even more festive as the season approaches. The Candy Cottage of Christmas Magic, open from 10am to 8pm through January 4, invites guests of all ages into a world of holiday cheer. Visitors will find themselves inside the trunk of a Christmas tree, the wood walls lined with sweet treats from gumdrops and candy canes to lollipops and chocolate. After enjoying their fill of candy (yes, eat all you want!), they’ll set off on an enchanted scavenger hunt throughout Rockefeller Center before ending back at the cottage for a personalized send-off.

The first project from We Are Smile Studio, an immersive experience company co-founded by creative producers Vance Garrett and Arielle Tepper, The Candy Cottage of Christmas Magic is inviting a new spin on Christmas to campus. Working in tandem with other iconic holiday experiences at Rockefeller Center –  like the world-famous Tree, The Rink, and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular – the Cottage rounds out these beloved seasonal events by bringing something new to the suite of offerings.

“We fell in love with the idea of creating something special for the holidays for families, something magical with an emotional tie,” Tepper tells The Center Magazine. “There really isn’t a more perfect place than Rockefeller Center – it’s where Christmas begins and ends in New York.”

To bring the project to life, both Tepper and Vance drew on their background in theater. This theatrical sensibility helps to usher audiences into a fully-formed world, one where elves greet you at the door and candy grows inside the hollow of a Christmas tree.

And yet, unlike Broadway, the experience is changeable. “We don’t have to freeze the show,” explains Garrett. “It’s a conversation; we’ll hear feedback and we can integrate it immediately and then implement. We can continue to work on things until it’s as magical as possible.”

One element that is in motion is the scavenger hunt, a guided romp through the Rockefeller Center campus that takes guests to various vendors and landmarks. Participating storefronts will change over time, and no hunt will be the same. “We came up with the idea of the scavenger hunt to create community,” explains Tepper. “We love that idea, and it’s been so wonderful to work with all the different partners here.” This includes iconic brands like FAO Schwarz as well as stops under the world-famous Radio City Music Hall marquee and a final destination of The Rink, a well-loved winter destination.

“With the experience as a whole, we felt like we could allow everyone a different lens into the city, to be able to see it through that childlike vantage,” says Garrett. “We asked ourselves, ‘How can we extend that feeling to everyone and invite them to see something that’s in their own backyard through that wide-eyed wonder of a child on Christmas morning?’”

The result is an experience that allows visitors of all ages to engage with the city in an entirely new way, to look through the hustle and bustle of Rockefeller Center and see it in a fresh light. Much like a character arc in a play, guests get to be the hero of their own adventure – a personal touch that can be elusive at other pop-ups.

“It was really important to us to create an experience where people went home feeling like they had a bit of magic in their hearts,” says Tepper. “I think this place allows for that more than anywhere else in New York.”

The Candy Cottage of Christmas Magic is now open at 610 5th Avenue in the Channel Gardens, and tickets can be purchased here.

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