Tickets required for Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree this year

Caitlin O'Kane

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree has been a beacon of holiday cheer in New York City for the past eight decades. This year, however, spectators won't be able to just walk up to the tree to snap photos. To prevent crowds in Rockefeller Center during the coronavirus pandemic, tickets will be required to visit the iconic tree this year.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the "ticketing pan" during a press conference Sunday, which mostly focused on reopening the city's elementary schools. New York has been dealing with a rise in coronavirus infections, though not as severe as the devastating outbreak the city suffered last spring.

"This is not a spectator event as it was in the past," de Blasio said about the Rockefeller Center tree. "What we do not want and can't have is large crowds of people crowding in there."

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree arrives at Rockefeller Plaza and is craned into place on November 14, 2020 in New York City. / Credit: Getty Images
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree arrives at Rockefeller Plaza and is craned into place on November 14, 2020 in New York City. / Credit: Getty Images

The mayor said the city has been working with the state on how to approach the plans for the tree. "The idea is we're going to really limit the number of people by using a ticketing approach," he said.

While more details will be announced in the coming days, de Blasio said the NYPD and other agencies will patrol the area to ensure there is space for visitors. Some lanes will be closed to traffic, he said.

"But, again, remember, we want to make really clear to people not to come out in large numbers and to be really smart about distancing," he said. "So, we're going to adjust those plans to achieve that goal."

There will be no public access to view the tree lighting ceremony, which will be broadcast live on December 2. "Details about how to visit the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree after it's lit will be announced in the coming weeks," Rockefeller Center said in a statement.

Other holiday traditions in the city have also been amended due to the pandemic. Instead of the usual two-and-a-half mile Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, this year's was short — about two blocks — and spectators were mostly kept away.

As with the parade, de Blasio urged people not to come out for in-person viewing when the tree is lit. "We all need to stay safe and we need to avoid crowds," he said.

"If you get a ticket, great, go see it," de Blasio said. He urged people to practice social distancing and wear masks.

"It's just not like holidays we've gone through before. Let's get through 2020, let's turn the page. In 2021, we can all get back there to celebrate the tree the right way. But this year is 'less is more.'"

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio on viewing this year's Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio on crowd control for Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

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