The Rockefeller Center tree is set to be illuminated Wednesday in a festive ceremony, but spectators should expect some security restrictions, be aware of street closures and prepare for cold and blustery weather.
Mario Lopez, Stefan Holt and Natalie Pasquarella will kick off the pre-show at 7 p.m. EST on NBC. “Today” anchors Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, Al Roker and Craig Melvin will then greet the entire country for the 87th annual “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” from 8 to 10 p.m.
Despite mostly cloudy skies, New York City should stay dry for the festivities and temperatures in the low 40s shouldn’t be too bad for those standing in the cold.
WATCH LIVE ONLINE: You can watch the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting on your devices by click here or tapping the “Live TV” button on your NBC New York mobile app, and logging in with your TV provider.
Crowds are expected to form in the late afternoon and police say drivers should expect heavy traffic and avoid the vicinity of Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall from 3 p.m. to midnight.
Police also say the following roads will be subject to closures on Wednesday:
- 5th Avenue between 46th Street and 52nd Street
- 6th Avenue between 46th Street and 52nd Street
- 46th Street between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue
- 47th Street between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue
- 48th Street between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue
- 49th Street between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue
- 50th Street between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue
- 51st Street between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue
- 52nd Street between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue
- Rockefeller Plaza between 48th Street and 51st Street
All spectators attending will pass through a security screening and spots are first come, first served. People are urged to use mass transit to attend the event. Umbrellas, backpacks, large bags, coolers and alcoholic beverages are prohibited, police said.
The tree’s lights will be illuminated every day from 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. through January 6 and 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on January 7, 2019.
On Christmas Day, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree will be lit for a full 24 hours.
Throughout the night, there will be performances from a star-fueled lineup, including this year’s “Sexiest Man Alive” John Legend, Derek & Julianne Hough, Brett Eldredge, Idina Menzel, Gwen Stefani, Lea Michele, Chicago, NE-YO, Straight No Chaser, Skylar Astin and Alex Newell.
The 87th annual holiday celebration will feature a 77-foot tall Norway spruce from Florida, New York. The 60-year-old tree weights 14 ton and was donated by Carol Schultz. The tree will be wrapped in five miles of multi-colored lights and topped with a brand new, 900-pound star made of Swarovski crystals.
After the tree is taken down January 7, it will be milled into lumber for Habitat for Humanity.
Here are some historical facts about the Rockefeller Center Tree:
• 1931 – Construction workers building Rockefeller Center put up a Christmas tree, the first-ever Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.
• 1933 – First formal Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Ceremony. The tree was decked with 700 lights in front of the eight-month-old RCA Building.
• 1936 – Two trees, each 70 feet (21.3 m) tall, were erected. For the first time the Lighting Ceremony included a skating pageant on the newly opened Rockefeller Plaza Outdoor Ice Skating Pond.
• 1942 – Three trees were placed on Rockefeller Plaza, one decorated in red, one in white and one in blue to show support for our troops serving during World War II.
• 1949 – The tree was painted silver, to look like snow.
• 1951 – The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was lit for the first time on national television on the Kate Smith Show.
• 1966 – The first tree from outside the United States was erected. It was given by Canada, in honor of the Centennial of its Confederation. This is the farthest distance a tree has traveled to Rockefeller Center.
• 1980 – For the 50th Anniversary of Tree Lighting, a 70 foot-tall (21.3 m) Norway Spruce came from the grounds of the Immaculate Conception Seminary of Mahwah, N.J. Bob Hope participated in the Lighting.
• 1999 – The largest tree in Rockefeller Center history, 100 feet tall (30.5 m), came from Killingworth, Conneticut.
• 2004 – The Swarovski-designed star became the largest star to ever grace the tree.
• 2007 – For the first time, the tree was lit with energy-efficient LEDs. They draw a fraction of the power that had been traditionally required by the tree, reducing energy consumption from 3,510 kwH to 1,297 kwH per day, saving as much energy as a single family would use in a month in a 2,000 square foot (185.8 m²) home. Hundreds of solar panels atop one of the Rockefeller Center buildings help power the new LEDs.