The tree lighting at Rockefeller is known all over the world as one of New York City’s most beautiful and exciting traditions. The idea of standing near a stunning, giant tree with loved ones, and observe over five miles (approximately 30,000) of colorful, LED light bulbs brighten up the city sounds like a pretty amazing experience, doesn’t it?
The real question is: Is the well-advertised Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting worth it? Here’s the short answer for you: no. Do not go. Do not waste your time. Do not even walk within a 4 block radius of the event. I say spend your lovely afternoon shopping and dining. Go sightseeing, enjoy a cocktail, and visit the tree the following evening, or the evening after, or the evening after that. It will be lit for 24 hours until the New Year. Trust me, you will have plenty of time to see it.
The streets were already packed when I arrived at 3:30 PM. Barricades and very impatient cops were guarding all surrounding blocks. Lost travelers stood in the middle of the street, not knowing which way to go because every intersection was an exit according to the authorities. Very rude New Yorkers with crying children pushed their way through, screaming obscene words at anyone who came in their paths. The show was scheduled to start 7PM; it was going to be a very long wait.
When I finally made it to my desired spot, I stood for over 5 hours, surrounded by restless toddlers, bored teenagers, and disappointed parents to finally see the tree come to life. Most of the people I stood next to for the first three hours had given up, and left. Families argued about who should stand where. There was no music to get the crowd going before show time. And the performances they show at 7PM are not actually taped live (I know, talk about feeling cheated). Instead, we got a woman holding up a wand she designed with rolled up sheets of paper to tell us to scream and wave at the camera. She swayed her arms in the air to signal us to pretend that we were having a fantastic time so you (at home) would want to be part of the joyful moment.
After the event is over, do not even think that you will get out easily. There are lines to get into exit lines. You will walk around the block three times before you get to make it out. Also the subway station on 6th Avenue near Radio City will be closed, so you will have to walk with your sore and cramped up legs to the next station to get home in the cold.
In summary, the tree is beautiful, it should be one your “to-do” list for the holiday season. However, do not go to the lighting. It is one of the most undesirable experiences one would want to go through, especially when visiting. It is a big waste of time.
By: Paola Mathe