Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Italian American workers quietly began a New York City tradition on Christmas Eve 1931 when they decorated a tree on the construction site of Rockefeller Center. The twenty foot tall balsam fir was adorned with strings of cranberries and paper garlands made by their families. It was here on a cold Depression era night that they lined up to collect their paychecks.

Little did they know that this act of cheer would inspire generations of travelers like myself to make the pilgrimage to the city for a glimpse of what is now a landmark.

The first official tree went up two years later and an ice skating rink opened in 1936. This year’s tree is an 82 foot tall Norway Spruce from Queensbury, New York. It positively glows under 50,000 LED lights and a Swarovski crystal tree topper.

The trees are always handpicked and come from all over the country. Trucks, cranes and scaffolding are required to transport, place and decorate the annual tree which is dedicated with an official lighting ceremony the Wednesday after Thanksgiving.

Seeing the holiday decorations was the main point of going to New York at Christmas and this iconic tree didn’t disappoint. However, I would note that going on a Saturday in December wasn’t ideal because there was an absolute crush of people in all directions through the touristy areas like Rockefeller Center.

I’m not a big fan of crowds but this was one of those “when in Rome” moments where I tried to just appreciate the experience for what it was. We would have loved a closer view but it really didn’t seem worth fighting the crowds for a different angle.

They estimate that 125 million people visit each year and it felt like about 25 million of them were there Saturday night.

I wondered later what it would be like really late at night or just before sunrise. Is it just as bad? I can’t help but wonder what it would be like in Rockefeller Center at daybreak.

Perhaps another time.

Meanwhile, I’ll be grateful to those construction workers some 91 years ago for thinking to brighten their worksite with a beacon of hope and holiday cheer.

A Christmas Whirlwind In New York City

Seeing New York City at Christmas has been on my bucket list since I was a kid, first seeing the Rockefeller Center tree on tv. When I mentioned that to my Pittsburgh pal Nichola earlier this year she said “let’s do it.”

Everyone needs that friend who makes adventuring a priority.

It was a whirlwind involving Nichola, her mama Patty, her college aged son and his girlfriend.

We hit the highlights but the list of wants that we didn’t touch was a mile long. Rest assured we are already talking about a sequel trip in warmer weather.

That’s the thing about a place like New York. There is so much to see in the way of iconic landmarks that it’s hard to get to all the cool off the beaten path stuff. Plus, there’s always something new to see

It would be amazing to spend time wandering neighborhoods and seeing what’s what.

Another time.

For now, I am home with lots of memories and stories to share with you. I also have a burning desire to sleep for a hundred years since rest wasn’t really a priority. Plus, I ate very little that was good for me so I was stoked to come home and make a veggie omelette and sautéed zucchini for dinner.

So check back for more on the holiday stuff, the observation tower we chose, lots of random pictures and many thoughts from a country mouse who had a fantastic time in the big city.

Plus, I have photos from the Phipps Christmas display in Pittsburgh and from the Christmas fun in Cambridge, Ohio. I’ll squeeze it all in soon!

Grand Explorations

This little gem from Grand Central Station popped up while perusing pictures recently. It reminded me of a grand time in New York City several years ago.

Oh, how I long to go back! Actually, I long to go almost anywhere but I’ll have to settle for memories right now.

I have some thoughts on a few day trips and maybe some long weekends for the spring. Adventures will continue to be hampered this year but I’m sure I can manage to do some safe exploring anyway.


When you’re from the country, one of the best things about visiting a city is the walkability of the neighborhoods and the availability of fresh things like flowers, produce and pastries on seemingly every corner.

I have always loved this picture from a market in New York several years ago. Hopefully you will too. Have a good day, friends.

Look Up

I am such a country mouse that any visit to a city with tall buildings isn’t complete without a series of pictures similar to this. It’s incredible to me that buildings can be built so tall and that there are hundreds and thousands of people at the ready to fill each one. The different materials used to create them and the way those materials complement and contrast with each other are a true marvel.

This is a corner in New York City several years ago and I especially appreciate the mix of solid and reflective materials.

As we walk down the street, we tend to look down or straight ahead.

Here’s your homework – wherever you are in this world, go outside and look up. If you’re in the country, there are sky and trees to enjoy. In a town, even in small towns, you will be amazed at what you will see by simply changing your perspective in this way.

NYC View

It’s the view from the top of the Rockefeller Center in New York City. I still want to visit the Empire State Building someday but the Top of the Rock tour gives you a great view of that landmark, Central Park and other City vistas. Want to go? Click here to learn more.