We went to NYC’s Rockefeller Center, home to the most iconic skating rink in America, and discovered why it’s such an iconic holiday activity

We went to Rockefeller Center in December, and the Christmas Spirit was infectious. Patrons Suzy Eunice and Alley Waldrop wait in line for to skate the Rink at Rockefeller Center.

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We went to Rockefeller Center in December, and the Christmas Spirit was infectious. Patrons Suzy Eunice and Alley Waldrop wait in line for to skate the Rink at Rockefeller Center.
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Joey Hadden/Insider

The Rink at Rockefeller Center opened on Christmas Day in 1936 to help bring people to the sunken section of Rockefeller Center during the Great Depression.

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The Rink at Rockefeller Center in 2019.
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Joey Hadden/Insider

Source: The Washington Post, Rockefeller Center


Today, more than a quarter of a million people skate at the world-famous rink annually. The holiday season brings the largest crowds.

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The Rink at Rockefeller Center holds 150 skaters at a time.
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Joey Hadden/Insider

Source: PR Newswire


We went to Rockefeller Center on a Sunday in December. The holiday spirit was infectious.

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The Rink at Rockefeller Center.
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Joey Hadden/Insider

Before we even got to the ice skating line, we came across a group of carolers singing on Fifth Ave.

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Carolers sing in the streets at Rockefeller Center.
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Joey Hadden/Insider

As we got closer to the Rink, it was nearly impossible to tell which people were in line to skate and which were simply admiring the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

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The area was incredibly crowded.
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Joey Hadden/Insider

After slowly trudging along in this crowd, we finally saw the entrance sign for the Rink indicating that we were in line.

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The line was, perhaps unsurprisingly, very long.
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Joey Hadden/Insider

We stood in line behind Suzy Eunice and Alley Waldrop.

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Eunice and Waldrop stand in line to skate the Rink at Rockefeller Center.
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Joey Hadden/Insider

The couple said they were visiting New York from San Diego, and they hadn’t skated at Rockefeller Center before.

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Suzy Eunice looks back from the end of the line for the Rink at Rockefeller Center.
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Joey Hadden/Insider

It’s pretty common for the line to be packed with first-timers. According to several Trip Advisor reviews, skating at this particular rink is a hot bucket-list item around the holidays.

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Skaters at the Rink at Rockefeller Center.
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Joey Hadden/Insider

Source: Trip Advisor


People say skating the iconic rink is something you “must do once.”

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The Rink at Rockefeller Center holds 150 skaters at a time.
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Joey Hadden/Insider

Source: Trip Advisor


Waldrop had an idea of why this experience is so coveted.

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Holiday decor is everpresent at Rockefeller Center.
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Joey Hadden/Insider

“The atmosphere feels very Christmassy,” Waldrop said of Rockefeller Center.

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Holiday decor is everpresent at Rockefeller Center.
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Joey Hadden/Insider

And nothing at Rockefeller Center is more Christmassy than the enormous Christmas tree, which is one of New York’s most prominent holiday attractions.

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People photograph the Rockefeller Christmas Tree.
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Joey Hadden/Insider

Source: Business Insider


The 2019 tree is 77 feet tall and wrapped in miles of lights. At the end of the holiday season, Rockefeller Center will donate the massive tree to Habitat for Humanity.

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The 2019 Rockefeller Christmas tree.
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Joey Hadden/Insider

Source: Associated Press


Eunice and Waldrop said they didn’t bother with long lines at other New York attractions, but they felt skating at Rockefeller Center was worth the wait.

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The Rink at Rockefeller Center holds 150 skaters at a time.
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Joey Hadden/Insider

After spending some time in line with eager skaters …

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Holiday decor is everpresent at Rockefeller Center.
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Joey Hadden/Insider

… we headed to the VIP entrance to find some skaters that finished their session.

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The VIP entrance at the Rink at Rockefeller Center.
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Joey Hadden/Insider

This is where we met the Bell family. They were visiting New York City from Florida. With prepaid VIP tickets, the Bell family spent an hour and a half in the rink, and they didn’t have to wait in line.

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Skaters in the VIP area at the Rink at Rockefeller Center.
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Joey Hadden/Insider

The Bells said they had skated before, but not in the middle of New York City. “It’s a lot colder than other rinks I’ve skated on, but it was still so much fun,” 12-year-old Harper told Insider.

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People skate at the Rink at Rockefeller Center in December.
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Joey Hadden/Insider

“You fall a lot but you don’t really care,” 12-year-old Juliana added.

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Bell family not pictured.
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Joey Hadden/Insider

According to Rockefeller Center, Olympians have skated on this rink. From first-timers to Olympic skaters, visitors say the Rink caters to everyone.

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A man in an Olympic jacket struts his skills at the Rink at Rockefeller Center.
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Joey Hadden/Insider

Source: Trip Advisor, Rockefeller Center


Skating the Rink at Rockefeller Center is the perfect holiday activity for seasoned skaters and anyone just trying to get in the holiday spirit. “It would be impossible for me to be more in the Christmas spirit than I was after 1.5 hours of ice skating beneath the iconic tree,” a Trip Advisor reviewer said.

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A bystander cheers a skater on.
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Joey Hadden/Insider

Source: Trip Advisor