HomeFam TripsRock Around the Tree at Rockefeller Center & More in NYC

Rock Around the Tree at Rockefeller Center & More in NYC

Rockefeller Center by night and day with ITTN’s Shane Cullen. Flying with United to Newark for a weekend in New York with NYC & Company

The Rink at Rockefeller Center

A quintessential image of New York at Christmas is ice-skating under the Rockefeller Christmas Tree and it was every bit as magical as the movies. There were no queues and the ice-rink had plenty of space for all the skaters of very variable abilities. Skating or shuffling along, staring up at the skyscrapers, twinkling decorations and the monumental Christmas Tree is a memory that will stay with me. The snow globe I purchased in the gift shop with an actual light from last year’s tree probably illustrates how much of a nerd I am but I love it.

Prices starting at $21 per person early in the morning and increasing to $51 for peak times (5pm to 9pm) midweek and up to $65 on the weekend (prices start at $11 for those aged 5 and under and vary by time, day and date. Book early to get the slot you want but there is still some availability in the run-up to Christmas. It’s worth every cent. https://www.rockefellercenter.com/buy-tickets/#the-rink

There are even “Engagement Packages” where you can book the rink for a private proposal with your own song playlist (yes, I’ve been watching too many made-for-tv Christmas movies but it is the season!).

Ice-skating runs right up to 19 March 2022 and the area transforms into a rollerskating rink, Flipper’s Roller Rink, for the summer season.

Top of the Rock

I’m making my list and I’m checking it twice – a list of things I love about New York, especially at this time of year. The New Yorkers explained the colder months are a great time of year for the Observation Decks as the crisp clear days provide clearer and further views than in the summer.

“3 decks, 360-degree views” and, as Ryan Schwartz from Rockefeller explains, the advantage with Top of the Rock is on the top observation deck there is no glass barrier meaning you can get great photos without the glare or reflection of the glass barrier at other observation decks.

We ascended the 70 floors to the observation deck of Top of the Rock which includes three floors, inside and outside with a 360-degree view of the spectacular skyline. Top of the Rock gives exceptional views of both Central Park and Midtown Manhattan. It’s worth remembering that if you’re here, you’ll get to see the Empire State Building from a fantastic viewpoint (on my list!).

Top of the Rock Observation Deck is open daily from 9am until midnight. This offers 360 degree views of New York City, 70 floors up and three indoor and outdoor observation decks.

Tickets start from $34-$40 with Express Pass ($85) and VIP Tour ($125) tickets also available. Find out more here – https://www.rockefellercenter.com/buy-tickets/#top-of-the-rock-observation-deck.

Santa at Top of the Rock

Finally, this time of year, the man in red makes an appearance and the moment is captured. I won’t tell you what he said but I’ve made the good list this year (did you ever doubt me?!).

Visiting Santa is part of the Top of the Rock experience so you will also need to have purchased “Top of the Rock” tickets. You can buy photos with Santa there – https://www.rockefellercenter.com/events/santa-at-top-of-the-rock/.

Film & TV Nerds

Don’t forget to pop into the NBC Store – for those who want a “Threat Level Midnight” sweatshirt*, a “Mouse Rat” T-shirt*, Law & Order Monopoly set or a Bayside Tigers Hoodie*.

Summit at One Vanderbilt

One Vanderbilt is the tallest commercial skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan. It is also in the top 30 tallest buildings on Earth.

The artist, Kenzo Digital has created “one of the largest, most mind-bending cultural experiences in NYC”. It is called Air and you can immerse yourself in these installations at SUMMIT on the top floors of One Vanderbilt. An insight into a few of my favourite rooms includes:

Air: Transcendence 1

This installation is a vast room of skyline views and mirrors. Described as “You Emerge into a structureless world of reflection, one with its own relationship to physics and time”. I can only describe it as walking through a real-life version of Inception with the city streets and people folding in on themselves. It’s unique and like a mirrored fun house for grownups.

Air: Affinity

A massive room filled with silver spheres that gently float and fall as you walk through them. You can touch, push, kick or swerve around them making this as interactive as you want. The room also has fantastic views of the city with floor-to-ceiling glass.


My fear of heights left my knees a little wobbly as I steps onto the glass ledge 1,100 feet above Madison Avenue. This is safely thrilling and gives a bird’s eye view of the city and streets below.


A room of shape-shifting reflective metal “goo” by Yayoi Kusama. My comment drawing parallels to it being the home of T1000 was wasted. Whether you are a Terminator fan or want to “escape the boundaries of perception”, this was fascinating and my kind of modern art. Overall, I would highly recommend a visit to Summit One Vanderbilt.

The traditional outdoor viewing deck is in the form of a wrap-around terrace giving views extending 80 miles on a clear day. My top tip is to bring sunglasses or you will have to wear the ones provided which are perfectly suitable for reducing the glare but might not fit big heads like my own. Also with mirrors everywhere – skirts may prove problematic. Finally, only non-marking shoes are allowed – i.e. no stiletto heels or work boots. Details are on the website and you can also pre-book tickets: https://summitov.com/tickets/.

Summit Experience:

Prices start at $39 for access to the immersive art by Kenzo Digital, Levitation (sky boxes over 1,000 ft above Madison Avenue) and the Terrace for views of the city.

Summit Ascent and Ultimate Summit

Upgrading to Summit Ascent with prices from $59 also includes a trip in a glass elevator up a further 12 stories (think the end of the original “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie”). Go for Ultimate Summit and also get a signature cocktail with prices starting at $73.

New York CityPASS

One of the tips for travellers to NYC is the New York CityPASS. You can save circa 40% off admission to five must-see attractions – including Top of the Rock. Visit the attractions at your leisure, in any order, over a consecutive 9-day period that begins the date of first use. You can purchase CityPASS online and get it straight to your mobile device.

New York CityPASS costs from $109 – $129 (child/adult) and includes attractions:

  • Empire State Building;
  • American Museum of Natural History;
  • Top of the Rock Observation Deck or Guggenheim Museum;
  • Ferry access to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island or a Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise; and
  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum or Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.


For shorter stays, there is the C3 by CityPASS (admission to 3 attractions of your choice and save up to 38%). CityPASS and C3 tickets are valid for 9 consecutive days starting with and including the first attraction visited. Prices range from $72 – $92 (child/adult).

As always, check out NYC & Company for advice on how to get the most out of your trip to New York City. For more on the CityPASS, check out their article – https://business.nycgo.com/meeting-planners/listing/citypass/47798/ or browse their extensive library of information at https://business.nycgo.com/.

*From The Office, Parks & Recreations & Saved by the Bell

Shane Cullen
Shane Cullen
Shane Cullen has been managing director of a media production studio for nearly 20 years working on projects for a global clientele. He has worked in the travel industry for over a decade and as a travel journalist since 2015. He is passionate about travel, film & photography. He also has a keen interest in emerging technology.

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