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How to Spend the Perfect December Day at Rockefeller Center

By The Center Magazine StaffNov 13 2023
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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 12 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.

10:30 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, and Café Grumpy is 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 that you’re caffeinated…

11 am: Pick out some presents at LEGO and FAO Schwarz

Stop by FAO Schwarz at 30 Rockefeller Plaza before heading to LEGO at 636 Fifth Avenue

You can check off several people on your Nice List by popping into FAO Schwarz and LEGO, two iconic NYC toy stores. FAO Schwarz will be your first stop, as it’s just a short 2-minute walk from Café Grumpy; it’s located right next to the Christmas Tree — but don’t worry, you’ll spend more time here later.

Did shopping work up an appetite? We know just the place to grab lunch…

12 pm: Fill up with a midday meal at 5 Acres

Make your way back to Rink Level

With gift shopping now complete, it’s time for lunch at Chef Greg Baxtrom’s Rockefeller Center restaurant, 5 Acres. The all-day menu consists of hearty favorites for the whole family — like the 5A Burger, mac ‘n’ cheese, and eggplant parmesan. If you’re feeling something lighter, opt for the oysters or Caesar salad.

For grab-and-go options, check out the Under 30 Rock offerings.

In case you want something sweet, too…

1:30 pm: Get your sugar fix at The Tipsy Baker

The Tipsy Baker is also on Rink Level

One of the newest members of the Rockefeller Center community, The Tipsy Baker is an extra cozy spot to grab a warm drink and a sweet treat. By day, the restaurant functions as a café and bakery; by night, it turns into a bar, where shared plates, wine, and beer are on the menu.

To make the most out of that energy boost…

2 pm: Go ice skating at The Rink

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

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. And if you need a place to warm up post-skating, the Après Skate Chalets Presented by Balsam Hill should do the trick — just make sure to reserve them here. Even if you’re not cozying up in a chalet, you can still enjoy on-the-go food and beverage service from 21 Greenpoint and Other Half Brewing.

Now, it’s time to meet someone special…

3:30 pm: Get a photo with Santa

Santa will be on the Rink Level of 30 Rockefeller Plaza

This holiday season, Santa will be popping into Rockefeller Center. His exciting appearance means there will be professional photo ops and plenty of chances for little ones to tell them all of their wishes. Bring the whole family to capture the joy of the holidays in a picture you’ll treasure forever (bonus: it makes for a great holiday souvenir). Reserve your time slot here.

Next up…

4:30 pm: Be one of the first to experience The Beam 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, unobstructed views of New York City's most famous landmarks. This December also marks a new chapter at Top of the Rock: The Beam. The new addition invites visitors to recreate “Lunch Atop a Skyscraper,” the iconic photo depicting 11 ironworkers lunching on steel beam during the construction of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. You’ll be lifted 12 feet above the deck, rotated 180 degrees, and granted an amazing view of Central Park and beyond. Tickets will be available from November 20, and each guest will walk away with a digital photo of the experience. Get your tickets here.

Before you go…

6 pm: Delight in an amazing dinner at Jupiter

Head to 30 Rockefeller Plaza’s Rink Level

The owners of downtown’s King restaurant — Clare de Boer, Jess Shadbolt, and Annie Shi — have taken their talents to midtown with 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.

One last thing…

7:30 pm: End your day by 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 most picturesque place to end your day. Be sure to head to The Rink steps for a professional photo (available from November 30) to commemorate the day!

To inquire about private group or VIP experiences this holiday season, call 212.698.2000.

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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