NYC Rockefeller Tree Lighting Ceremony Experience

Hi friends, welcome back! Today I’m sharing all about our experience at the 2021 Rockefeller Tree lighting ceremony. The Rockefeller Tree may be one of the most iconic Christmas Trees in the world, and every year on the Wednesday after Thanksgiving there’s a ceremony to light the tree. I always thought it would be cool to go, but I wasn’t about battling crowds to stand on the streets for hours and secure a good spot. A few days before Thanksgiving I was randomly looking into how to get tickets to Live with Kelly and Ryan, and I was guided to the website 1iota. I saw that you could enter a lottery to win tickets to the Rockefeller Tree Lighting so I figured when in Rome! They said this was the first year they gave free tickets to watch from the skating rink, so it must’ve been fate.

Once we landed in NYC after Thanksgiving, I checked my email and saw that I won the tickets. I couldn’t believe it! To accept the tickets, Jon and I had to upload our vaccine cards and fill out some information. We received confirmation of our tickets and I started reading all of the fine print. It said you had to be there by 5, stay for the whole taping, and phone use was prohibited. I didn’t realize it was such a time commitment, so we debated for a few days whether we still wanted to go. We ultimately decided we should go because when will we ever have this opportunity and be this uninhibited again.

The day before the show I walked through Rockefeller Center and saw them setting up for the show. It renewed the excitement in me and I knew we had to go! We would be standing right in the action of the performers set for the show including: Alessia Cara, Harry Connick Jr., Mickey Guyton, Norah Jones, Brad Paisley, Rob Thomas, Carrie Underwood, José Feliciano with CNCO, Pentatonix, the cast of Broadway’s Come From Away and the Radio City Rockettes.

On the day of the show, I left our apartment around 4:20 p.m., picked up Jon at his office near Grand Central, and then we set off for the check in spot. This proved to be difficult because there were so many police barricades along the street and you could only cross at certain intersections. We had to check in near Rockefeller Center so I was nervous we wouldn’t be able to get there in time, but we made it with plenty of time to spare. I breathed a sigh of relief once we were in the calm line and away from the madness on Fifth Avenue. While we were in line, we heard José Feliciano singing Feliz Navidad and it put us in more of a festive mood.

Around 5:25 p.m. we were brought inside to go through a security checkpoint and then led into a hallway to wait. While we were in line people could go to the bathroom before we were led out onto the rink. The bathrooms could be used anytime during the show, but you would forfeit your spot closer to the stage. I’d say there were about 100-150 people there, so even at the back of the crowd you’re still very close to the stage. Around 5:45 p.m. the producers informed us they wanted an audience for a pre-tape so we all went out onto the carpet covered ice rink under the Rockefeller Tree. On the stage, José Feliciano with CNCO sang Little Drummer Boy.

From about 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. there was no live coverage or tapings, so we just stood around waiting. By this point my back had already started hurting from standing…I’m getting old!!

At 7 p.m. the live coverage hosted by Mario Lopez on the local NY NBC started and we saw country artist Mickey Guyton perform first. I didn’t know who she was, but she sang beautifully! Her first song of the night was Rocking Around the Christmas Tree and then she sang O Holy Night on the official NBC broadcast.

About twenty minutes later, Pentatonix performed (There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays during the local broadcast and then Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime for the NBC broadcast. They sounded incredible as I expected. I was hoping they would sing Little Drummer Boy, that one’s my favorite of theirs.

The last performer we saw, Alessia Cara, sang The Christmas Song for local NBC and then her original song Make It To Christmas for the national NBC show. She also sang beautifully and I enjoyed her performance as well.

All of the other performances for the night were either pre-recorded or filmed in a different area so I was a bit bummed about that. Apart from the seven songs we saw, we just stood around the rest of the time without screens to watch the actual show. We could vaguely hear a live version and see the teleprompter, but we didn’t see any of the other performances. It seemed like everyone else in the crowd was a bit bummed about the lack of performances we saw and expected less to be pre-filmed. We all couldn’t wait for the actual tree to be lit so we could stop standing and go home ha. My back especially hurt during the waiting times so I wasn’t having the most pleasant time waiting. I kept watching the clock hoping it would be almost 10 pm.

Around 9:55 p.m. Hoda Kotb, Al Roker, Savannah Guthrie, Craig Melvin, Bill Deblasio and a few others came onto the stage to start the countdown and press the magical button that lights up the tree. Everyone in the crowd seemed to love Hoda the most and loved waving and calling out to her.

We all counted down from five, and then the tree lit up with over 50,000 multicolored LED lights on over five miles of wire! The gorgeous Swarovski star on top weighs 900 pounds and contains over 3 million crystals on the 70 spikes.

The tree looked beautiful and we were all excited to get our pictures.

All in all, I’m glad that we went but I wouldn’t go again because of how much was pretaped. If all of the performers were live on the ice rink stage, I’d definitely try to go again. I think the best spot would be from a surrounding office building window with some champagne. We got incredibly lucky with the weather and it was about 43 degrees and dry. My feet got a little frozen standing on top of the ice rink for so long, but I wasn’t at all cold or wet all night. I can’t imagine doing all of the standing and waiting while also freezing, I’d be miserable. I was in so much pain from standing the whole time that I’m already looking forward to watching next year from the comfort of my couch maybe with a glass of wine 😉 As you can imagine, this 100% confirms that I would never survive NYE in Times Square ha! I’m glad we went and got to experience the Rockefeller Tree lighting, but I won’t be signing up for the lottery next year.


30 thoughts on “NYC Rockefeller Tree Lighting Ceremony Experience

    1. I hope I can win more lotteries. They had one for a Michael Buble Christmas special but sadly I didn’t win that one

  1. It is great that you won the lottery and had this opportunity! Your photos of are awesome. Standing for so long is rough on the back. I’m sure you weren’t the only one. Thanks for this up close look at the tree lighting ceremony.

    1. Thank you! I still can’t believe we got to be so close and how I randomly got tickets. Between the standing, dehydration, and staying out past my bedtime I felt pretty rough the next day haha but it was all worth it 🙂

  2. How exciting that you won the tickets for the tree switch on but such a pity so much of it was pre-recorded. Still it must have been a once in a lifetime experience that you’ll always fondly look back on. Thanks for sharing this with us all.

    1. Thank you! Such a great once in a lifetime experience, especially with how much I love Christmas 🙂

  3. How exciting! Bummer about the lack of performances, though. All in all, the tree lighting is definitely on my bucket list! Didn’t know there was a lottery for that. So neat!

    1. Hopefully they have the lottery again next year so you can enter! I think it’s the best way to see the tree lighting, you really can’t get any closer haha.

    1. I feel like I’m in shock that we were actually there haha. I thought all my Peloton yoga would help my back, but I guess not. Hoda seems so awesome and not just for cameras!

  4. What an incredible experience – the tree is so beautiful! You were so close to everything too – these are memories for a lifetime. And your pictures are lovely!

    1. Thank you!! Was an awesome once in a lifetime kind of opportunity and Christmas memory I’ll have forever 🙂

  5. Great to experience it….once. But, I am with you. Not worth it for pre-taped content and so much standing. The best seat these days can be at home, closer to washrooms and refreshments are close at hand. Thanks for sharing Lyssy. Allan

    1. Glad we can say we went but There’s nothing better than watching something from the comfort of your own house!

    1. It was very cool to say we’ve done it, and that was probably the best way to watch the tree lighting. Definitely worth it once 🎄

  6. What an experience to have and at least you can say you have now done it and will enjoy all others at home. Pictures look great. Did they have anyone out on the stage in between the live coverage or did they just leave you all there to entertain yourselves?

    1. Thank you! It was cool to do and now we can say we went. Also think it was the best way to see it. The only thing in between performances was the staff changing the stage so we had to entertain ourselves 😂🎄

  7. For all the good press you give NYC, you deserve to win this lottery, Lyssy! It’s a shame your hosts weren’t more accommodating knowing how long you’d be standing outside for the tree-lighting (ex. chairs? Hot chocolate?). As for the performers, I would’ve taken the same chance knowing I might’ve seen Carrie Underwood singing either “All Is Well” or “O’ Holy Night”. She has a command of those hymns like no other.

    1. I was hoping for some hot chocolate, some chairs would’ve been perfect! A few days before the tree lighting I saw Carrie was going to be in Vegas for her residency and my spicy senses started tingling. She is an amazing singer! I was also hoping Michael Buble would make a surprise appearance.

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