Throwback Thursday: The Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Growing up in the New Jersey, every couple of years we would get dressed up, take the train into the city, and would go to Radio City Music Hall to see the famous Christmas Spectacular.  I loved to watch the Rockettes, and dreamed of the high kicks, the costumes, the precision, and radiant smiles as they danced on stage and into my heart.   When we decided to spend some time on the east coast December of 2019, I knew we had to take my children, especially my dancer daughter, to see the most famous precision dance group in the world. 

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Two young girls with a cut out photo of the Rockettes in their red and white costume

When I presented the idea to my parents, they wanted to join in on the memories.  Then we wanted to bring my niece, and my dad’s god daughter, and my stepsister’s daughter.  At the end of the day we ended up being a group of eleven going into New York City.  A group of eleven does not move quite so nimbly as a family of four.  So to make the trip easier, we did the following:

  • We hired a van with driver for the day.  He took us into the city, dropped up off at Radio City Music Hall, and picked us up at the end of the day. 
  • We made reservations at a family friendly restaurant.  For a group this big, we wanted to make sure the kids were fed and we had a place to eat. 
Several children in a large passenger van
A van was a better option with the big a group and this many kids

The morning went smoothly with us able to get out of the house without too much chaos, and everyone behaved, though they certainly were excited, on the ride into the city.  The van was able to drop us off relatively close to Radio City, so we piled out.  Of course, we were near the famous Christmas Ornaments on 6th Ave and 50th street, so we took some group shots and fun shots among the ornaments.  Then we crossed the street to go to Radio City. 

A large family group in front of the red ornaments on 6th Ave and 50th street in New York City

Radio City Music Hall is a famous theater built in the 1920s and is known for its Art Deco style.  While the venue houses many shows throughout the year, it is most famous is the annual Christmas Spectacular.  The show stars the famous Radio City Rockettes, the world’s most famous precision dance group.  Dancers who make the Rockettes, need to be able to dance in jazz, ballet, and tap styles.  But they must be able to do it in total sync with the other dancers.  The troupe was founded in 1925, and until 2020, has been doing the Christmas Spectacular annually since 1933. 

The front of the Radio City Music Hall,

Radio City Music Hall is great at organization.  There is a line outside, and as you go in, they scan your ticket, and there is clear signage and ushers who help direct you to your seat area.  As you enter there are several additional experiences you can purchase.  There are pictures with Santa and pictures with a costumed Rockette for sale.  As a big group with a lot of kids, we chose to skip these experiences and go straight to our seats.  We did spend a lot of money on big buckets of popcorn for all the kids, which could be eaten at the seat and during the show.  We all settled into the seats, the kids choosing to all sit together, and soon the lights started on the show. 

Children in a row in the balcony of Radio City Music Hall

I don’t want to give away too much in the show because it’s back after a year hiatus due to COVID and I think if you are in the area, you should all go and see it.  I will say that my son said his favorite dance was the Rockettes in the bus, My daughter loved fall in the dance of the toy soldiers, and my husband and I were fascinated by the whole show.  At the end we were all bouncing out talking about how much we enjoyed it. 

I would say leaving the theater was where my carefully laid out plan fell apart for a while.  Part of the group went to the bathroom, while the other half waited.  After going down the stairs, waiting in the long line, getting everyone all in, washed hands, counting, and going back up, I found a few members of the group now had to go to the bathroom and/or had wandered off to see something and/or had gone and joined a different, longer, bathroom line.  Then a diaper change was needed.  I had planned our lunch reservation for 30 minutes post show, thinking that it was a 15-minute walk.  That turned out to be a big underestimation. Plan for at least 30-40 minutes in the venue AFTER the show.

Two young girls with a Radio City Rockette dancer
Yes it took a lot longer than expected post show, but at least we got a photo op with an actual Rockette

As I saw that we were going to be late, I called the restaurant, then my kids and I went ahead to make sure to hold our table, while the rest did their various bathroom trips, souvenir shopping, sightseeing, I have no idea what they were doing that took them so long to leave Radio City Music Hall.  I then high tailed it to Times Square through a crush a people to get to the restaurant about 20 minutes late, but thankfully they held the table.  The others soon joined us, and we sat down at a huge table to eat a fantastic meal at Bucca di Beppa. (Unfortunately, it does not look like this location survived the pandemic)

A large family group in Bucca di Beppa in Times Square

After dinner, we walked through the crush of people back up to Rockefeller Center, where in a crush of people we got sort of close to the tree…. took some pictures…and then tried to get through a crush of people to find a spot where the van could pick us up and take us back to New Jersey. 

Children holding lighted ballons in a crowd in front of the famous Rockefeller Center Tree
Pre-Pandemic Crowds

Once we finally were able to get to the van and load up, most of the passengers fell asleep as we drove back across state lines after a long day out in New York.  But the kids were dreaming of high kicks, glittery costumes, and the wonderful show that we had just gotten to enjoy.  I know that many were disappointed that in 2020, the show was not able to go on.  But with the vaccine and declining numbers, the Rockettes and the show are coming back with a vengeance.  Those visiting New York this December can enjoy this famous show once again. 

Can’t make the show? Check out what else you can do in New York City during the holidays.

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Covid Considerations for 2021:

  • People aged 12 and older will need to show proof of vaccination to attend the show. People who are fully vaccinated (2 weeks post the last required shot) will not be required to wear a mask
  • Children under 12 may attend the show with a vaccinated adult. They do NOT need to show proof of a negative COVID test, but will be required to wear a mask unless actively eating and drinking.
  • Continue to watch the website and check the latest rules, as changes may come with the vaccine expected to be available for those 5-11 in the coming weeks.

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