Virtual Queues, Dedicated Entrances: Rock Center Tree Viewing Guidelines Unveiled

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The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center has not even been illuminated yet, and crowds have already started to gather to feel the much-needed holiday spirit amid the pandemic. That's why there are going to be some new rules people will have to follow if they want to see the tree up close.

The Rockefeller Center tree lighting festivities start at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Dec. 2 but there will be no public access to the plaza for the lighting ceremony. Instead, visitors can get their photo-op starting Thursday using virtual queues, monitored entrances and standing in socially distanced lines.

The public will be able to view the tree fully lit up from 6 a.m. to midnight each day. (On Christmas day, it will be lit for 24 hours.) But five minutes is all the time you will have to snap pictures of the iconic tree that has been decorated with 50,000 multicolored LED lights.

A group of only four people at a time are allowed, according to organizers. A bigger group will be split up to wait in separate, "delineated pods."

Visitors will need to virtually reserve their place in the 6-feet distanced line, organizers said. For convenience and to avoid crowding, people can scan a QR code to see wait time and receive a text message for when it's time to return to the line. Of course, everyone will be required to wear a mask at all times.


  • 49th and 50th Streets between Fifth and Sixth Avenues will be closed to vehicular traffic
  • Tree viewing entrances are only located on 49th and 50th Streets at Fifth and Sixth Avenues
  • Dedicated tree viewing zones are only located on 49th and 50th Streets between Fifth and Sixth Avenues; Center Plaza, where the tree is physically located, will be closed to the public
  • The Rink at Rockefeller Center will be accessible on 49th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues

"This is not a spectator event as it is in the past," Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference on Sunday. "What we do not want and can't have is large crowds of people crowding in there ... A different approach but an approach that will keep people safe. I keep saying it, I'll say it again — so we can get through to next year."

Shops in the Channel Gardens will be opened as usual but the garden is not open for tree viewing. Shops and restaurants in the Concourse are also still opened to the public and they can be accessed from 49th and 50th Streets.

A small town tree made its big city debut at Rockefeller Center for the 2020 holiday season. Gus Rosendale reports.
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