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Tickets Required To View Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, Changes Made To Other Holiday Traditions In City This Year

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- There's no place like New York City during the holidays, but the usual grandeur is different this year.

The Rockefeller Center tree is up, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are new guidelines for viewing the tree.

As CBS2's Ali Bauman reports, it's a New York City tradition, and even though the lights haven't been turned on yet, people are already stopping by to see the tree for themselves.

MORE: Workers Find Owl In Branches Of Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

If you're planning a visit once the lights turn on, prepare for some COVID-compliant changes.

Standing 75 feet tall and 45 feet wide, the Norway spruce comes to Midtown Manhattan from Oneonta, New York. Its admirers hail from all over.

"New York Christmas is the best Christmas," said visitor Louisa Gallagher.

"That means that Christmas is coming," said 8-year-old David Martinez.

Once its 50,000 LED lights are turned on this Wednesday, the tree will stay lit every day from 6 a.m. to midnight.

49th and 50th streets between 5th and 6th Avenues will be closed to traffic and become dedicated tree viewing zones, which have the only entrances for viewers.

Center plaza, where the tree is physically located, will be closed to the public.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city and state have agreed on a ticketing plan to limit crowd sizes during the pandemic.

MORE: Owl Found In Rockefeller Christmas Tree Released Back Into Wild

"A different approach, but an approach that will keep people safe. I keep saying and I'll say it again, so we can get through to next year," the mayor said Monday. "Next year, I look forward to so many of our traditions to come back so we can be there in person and enjoy them the way we always have and that we cherish."

"But let's stay safe this year, so everyone can get through to next year and enjoy those traditions together," he added.

"It's sad cause of COVID times, but hopefully with the lights and decorations and hooplah it will make it more cheery," said visitor Sarah Ribek.

To manage social distancing in line, there will be virtual queueing this year, with guests scanning a QR code for their wait time. They'll receive a text message when it's time to go.

MORE: Christmas Tree Arrives At Rockefeller Center, Complete With Police Escort

Once you're up, there's a five minute viewing limit at the tree, and of course masks are required and six foot social distancing will be enforced.

Guests will also be directed to delineated pods, spaced six feet apart, with a maximum of four people per pod.

"It's good to have some sort of tradition. Makes you feel like all this craziness isn't going on around us right now," Gallagher said.

The tree lighting ceremony will be on Dec. 2, but you'll have to catch it on TV because it is closed to the public this year.

Click here for tickets, wait times and more details.

On Monday night, Saks Fifth Avenue invited three New York City doctors to turn on their 10-story light show.

The flagship store is livestreaming these nightly ceremonies so viewers can enjoy the display from the safety of their home.

Of course, passersby can't help but stare.

"It's something amazing, it's something beautiful that you don't see everywhere," said Juan Torres.

LINK: Saks Fifth Avenue's livestream light shows

The annual Columbus Circle and Union Square holiday markets are not opening this year because of COVID, but shoppers are encouraged to spend their money over at Bryant Park.

There a fewer kiosks at the Bryant Park Holiday Market this year to allow for more spacious walkways.

The kiosks are either keeping customers outside or enforcing strict capacity limits.

You can also spot handwashing stations in the park.

"We thought, it's corona time, we're not gonna get any tourists or anything and, while that is true, we do get a lot of locals that usually go to Union Square or other markets that are ending up buying gifts from here this time," said Hamid Ullah, a vendor.

The holidays may not be as crowded in Manhattan this year, but there are still ways to enjoy the pomp and these unusual circumstances.


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