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How to Spend the Perfect December Day at Rockefeller Center

By Paulina Cajigal & Emmie MurphyDec 5 2022
Arts & Culture
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What to Do in New York City in December 2021

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A Thank You Note to New York City

There’s no shortage of things to do in New York City, especially during the winter months. But between 48th and 51st Streets in Midtown Manhattan, there are 22 acres of festive fun. From famous retailers to iconic attractions and restaurants, Rockefeller Center offers a long list of one-of-a-kind experiences — all within walking distance of each other.

We’ve taken out the stress of planning a trip to the city by creating a detailed itinerary of things to do and see. Here’s how to spend the perfect December day at Rockefeller Center.

10 am: Grab a cup of coffee at Café Grumpy

Find it on The Rink level of 30 Rockefeller Plaza

Start your day without a fresh cup of joe? Not when you have a full itinerary ahead of you. Café Grumpy recently made its way to Rockefeller Center — and it’s the perfect place to begin. You can pair your morning coffee with small bites like muffins and croissants (we recommend the almond croissant) — and even grab a bag or two of fresh beans for the coffee lover in your life.

Now it’s time to get your legs moving…

10:15 am: Take a scenic walk with Gesso

Make your way to 6th Avenue

With your coffee and croissant in hand and earphones snugly in place, you can discover hidden gems at Rockefeller Center. The landmark teamed up with New York-based storytelling collective Gesso to create a free, self-guided audio tour that takes listeners through its rich history and unique architecture. Filled with fun facts and rare anecdotes, the immersive tour feels like a friend sharing secrets (and navigational tips) that only you get to hear.

The free Gesso app is available for download on the App Store and Google Play.

If you worked up an appetite...

12 pm: Fill up with a midday meal at Jupiter

Head to 30 Rockefeller Plaza’s newly reimagined Rink Level

The owners of downtown’s King restaurant have taken their talents to midtown with the newly-opened Jupiter. With Gaz Herbert, formerly of London’s River Cafe, at the helm as executive chef, Jupiter serves up delicious Italian fare that draws on inspiration from all regions of the country. Round out the delicious pasta and meat selections with some of Italy’s finest wines.

In case you want something sweet, too...

1:30 pm: Sip on a cup of hot chocolate from Breads

Breads is located at 1230 Avenue of the Americas, between 48th and 49th Streets

There’s nothing more comforting on a chilly day than a warm drink and Breads’ rich, housemade hot chocolate makes for the perfect afternoon pick-me-up. But if that still isn’t enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, try some of the beloved bakery’s famous babkas, croissants, and cookies — baked fresh in small batches every day.

To make the most out of that energy boost…

2 pm: Go ice skating at The Rink

The Rink at Rockefeller Center presented by Coach is located between 49th and 50th Streets, right in front of 30 Rock

You spent your morning working up an appetite, so spend your afternoon working off some sweet treats with a round at The Rink. There’s nothing like ice skating under the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree to get you into the holiday spirit — it’s a classic winter must-do. You can also make the most of your time on the ice with memberships and skating lessons at the Skate School.

To add to the cheer and make your holiday shopping easier, Coach has set up a small shop right next to The Rink — so once your skates are off, you can pop on over there, too. If you need a place to warm up post-skating, the Après Skate Chalets on the South Esplanade are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The Rink Lounge is also open to all skaters, but VIP ticket holders receive priority service and a complimentary hot beverage. Both the Chalets and Lounge serve drinks and light bites from Smith & Mills.

Before the day is over...

4:30 pm: Experience a golden hour view at Top of the Rock

Find it a block over on 50th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues

The sun is setting earlier and earlier, but that only means you don’t have to stay out late to enjoy the best sights the city has to offer. Top of the Rock is the only place with sweeping, 360-degree views of New York. With both indoor and outdoor observation decks, you can still enjoy the view while staying warm and cozy. Make your visit even more memorable by snapping a photo with Santa Claus himself. He’ll be visiting Top of the Rock every day through December 24.

Before you go…

5:30 pm: Pick up some scents at Apotheke

Apotheke is located right across from Ace’s Pizza on The Rink level of 30 Rockefeller Plaza

Grab some gifts or treat yourself to Apotheke’s luxurious candles and soaps, all made by hand at their Brooklyn factory. Founded by Chrissy Ficthl in 2011, Apotheke seeks to elevate our spaces through thoughtfully blended fragrances. Whether you’re looking for a subscription box of candles, a lavender bar soap, or an aromatic diffuser, their store at Rockefeller Center has you covered. For easy holiday gifting, Apotheke also has a special offer: three mini tin candles for just $25.

Hungry again? We know just the place...

6 pm: Enjoy a meal at 21 Greenpoint

21 Greenpoint is on The Rink level of 30 Rockefeller Plaza

Manhattan received a special treat when chef and owner Homer Murray brought his Brooklyn bistro 21 Greenpoint to Rockefeller Center this year. The menu changes seasonally, but our current favorites are the Open Faced Crab Toast and Big Chef Sandwich. 21 Greenpoint has a happy hour every day from 5-7 pm, which also makes it the perfect place for end-of-the-day sips.

One last thing…

7:30 pm: Snap a photo of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

You can’t miss it in front of 30 Rockefeller Plaza

Draped in 50,000 energy efficient LED lights and topped with a sparkling Swarovski star, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is a New York holiday icon. The Christmas Tree is open to the public and the picture-perfect place to end your day.

Roxy the owl
Purchase your tickets to Top of the Rock online to avoid waiting in line. Top of The Rock has four ticket packages to choose from.

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