The Arts

Lincoln Center: New York’s Heart of Culture

December 15, 2015
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, NYC

The central plaza of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

New York City offers some of the world’s finest performances, and the city’s cultural epicenter is Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Home to eleven arts organizations presenting music, dance, opera, drama, and film, the campus showcases some of the world’s most celebrated companies and artists. Given the superb quality of its performances, Lincoln Center is the nation’s preeminent destination for performing arts.

Lincoln Center, NYC

The fountain and plaza at the heart of Lincoln Center. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Essentials of Lincoln Center

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts is located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The heart of the campus is a central plaza and fountain, surrounded by three large theaters: the David H. Koch Theater (formally the New York State Theater; home to the New York City Ballet), David Geffen Hall (home of the New York Philharmonic), and the Metropolitan Opera.

Adjacent to the central plaza is the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts and Lincoln Center Theater, which stages productions in its Broadway and off-Broadway theaters. Across 65th St is the Juilliard School and Alice Tully Hall, a concert hall and home to the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

Behind Juilliard is the Rose Building, housing the Walter Reade Theater (one of two campus movie theaters utilized by the Film Society of Lincoln Center) and the School of American Ballet (NYC Ballet’s school and training institution).

The newest “constituent” is Jazz at Lincoln Center, located several blocks south in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle.

Juilliard School, NYC

The intriguing new facade of the Juilliard School and Alice Tully Hall. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

A Brief History of Lincoln Center

Building the Metropolitan Opera

Building the Metropolitan Opera. Photo: Lincoln Center Archives.

In the 1950s, the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic were searching for new homes (the Philharmonic’s long-time home, Carnegie Hall, was scheduled for demolition).

In an initiative to revitalize the run-down neighborhood known as “San Juan Hill,” the area was condemned and groundbreaking for Lincoln Center took place in 1959. The center’s theaters and buildings opened between 1962 and 1968. The campus architecture and artwork exemplify mid-1960s “International Style.”

Jazz at Lincoln Center’s venues opened in the Time Warner Center (aka The Shops at Columbus Circle) in 2004.

A recent $1.2 billion restoration of the campus resurfaced the central plaza, added a new fountain and plaza steps, as well as a striking new façade for the Juilliard School/Alice Tully Hall. It also renovated the concourse and park areas, including a new restaurant under a sloping grassy hill. 

Free wifi is available in the public spaces.

Lincoln Center Park, NYC

Lincoln Center’s relaxing park space. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Attending a Performance at Lincoln Center

Performances take place year-round. The main constituents have annual performance seasons:

  • The Metropolitan Opera: September to May

NY Philharmonic: September to June
  • NYC Ballet: winter, spring and autumn seasons, as well as annual holiday performances of George Balanchine’s Nutcracker
  • Lincoln Center Theater: year-round

After the opera season, American Ballet Theater performs at the Met each summer. The Koch Theater offers performances by guest organizations between NYC Ballet’s seasons.

Additionally, Lincoln Center presents several annual arts festivals (Lincoln Center FestivalMostly Mozart, the White Light Festival) and outdoor events like Midsummer Night’s SwingLincoln Center Out of Doors, and the Met Opera’s HD Festival in the plaza.  In 2010, New York Fashion Week moved to Lincoln Center.

See the Center’s website for a calendar of performances and events.

David Rubenstein Atrium, Lincoln Center, NYC

Inside the David Rubenstein Atrium, where one can buy discount tickets or enjoy a free concert. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

Buying tickets for Lincoln Center

Tickets can be purchased at each theater’s box office (check here for Box Office hours), by phone, or online via each organization’s website.

Same-day discount tickets (up to 50% off) for Lincoln Center performances can be purchased at the David Rubenstein Atrium, located in front of the plaza at Broadway and Columbus Ave. at 63rd St.

The Metropolitan Opera has $25 rush tickets for good Orchestra level seats. Procedures vary, so check here for details.

The New York Philharmonic offers student rush tickets for select concerts for only $16.00. Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office up to 10 days in advance.

The New York City Ballet has tickets beginning at $29.00, and student rush tickets for $15.

Metropolitan Opera, NYC

The Met and Lincoln Center fountain gleam in the evening. Photo: Jeff Dobbins

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