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Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting 2018: Street closures in NYC

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Prepare for a mess in Midtown today

85th Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images

If the appearance of festive window displays in Midtown and the proliferation of Christmas trees on city sidewalks didn’t already clue you in, allow us to: The holiday season has officially arrived in New York, and no single event is a bigger holiday hoopla than the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

This year’s tree is, as in many other years, an enormous Norway spruce—the 72-foot-tall conifer weighs about 12 tons, and was trucked down to NYC from Wallkill, New York, earlier this month.

On Wednesday, November 28, it’ll be illuminated for the first time around 9 p.m., and millions of spectators are expected to take it all in, whether from their homes (here’s how you can watch it live) or on the extremely packed streets of Midtown.

And those streets will indeed be packed—the Department of Transportation has already designated Wednesday as a gridlock alert day, meaning that “travel through Midtown will take twice as long as a typical day of week,” according to the agency. (So basically, don’t drive if you don’t have to.)

Additionally, some streets will be closed in Midtown to facilitate the tree-lighting event, which is open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. Here’s the full list from the NYPD; streets will be closed at the police department’s discretion, but according to “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz, the closures will begin around 3:30 p.m.:

  • 46th Street between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue
  • 47th Street between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue
  • 48th Street between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue
  • 49th Street between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue
  • 50th Street between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue
  • 51st Street between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue
  • 52nd Street between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue
  • Rockefeller Plaza between 48th Street and 51st Street
  • Sixth Avenue between 46th Street and 52nd Street
  • Fifth Avenue between 46th Street and 52nd Street

And if you want to steer clear of “pedlock” at subway stations, best to either avoid the ones surrounding Rockefeller Center—so 47-50th Streets, and Fifth Avenue-53rd Street—or leave before the event begins or ends.

According to the NYPD, some of the streets near the tree will be closed regularly between now and January 7 (when the whole thing comes down); those are:

  • 49th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues
  • 50th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues

Those streets will be closed from 5 p.m. to midnight on weekdays, and from 1 p.m. to midnight on weekends.