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After an eventful journey down to New York City — complete with an unexpected, adorable hitchhiker — the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is ready to make its grand debut. 

Although the annual tree lighting ceremony on Wednesday will not be open to spectators due to COVID-19, starting Thursday, visitors will be able to view the 75-foot-tall Norway Spruce in all its splendor in person — with some precautions in place.

To see the tree, visitors must enter through one of the “tree viewing entrances” at 49th and 50th streets and 5th and 6th Avenues, where they will follow social distancing markers on the ground to the tree viewing zones. Once in the tree viewing zone, groups will have five minutes to take photos and enjoy the tree. 

Groups or “pods” must be four people or less and everyone must wear a mask at all times. Social distancing rules will be enforced by staff and police. Parties of 4 or more will be separated.

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During popular viewing times, visitors will be able to scan QR codes and join a virtual line. They will receive a wait time and a text message once it’s their turn to view the tree. 

The tree will only remain lit until 10:30 p.m after the tree lighting ceremony and will then be on display every day from 6 a.m. until midnight, except New Year’s Eve when visiting hours end at 9 p.m.

Rockefeller Center has not yet determined when the tree is coming down but, if it follows tradition, it will remain in the plaza until early 2021, when its lumber will be donated to a charity like Habitat For Humanity. For more information on what to expect if visiting the tree this season, visit the Rockefeller Center website. 

The tree lighting ceremony will air on NBC at 8 p.m. EST. The lights will turn on at 9:45 p.m. EST. 

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, on Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.

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