About Lincoln Center Guided Tours
The first building of the world famous Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts opened in 1962. Called Philharmonic Hall, it was built as the permanent home for the New York Philharmonic, the country’s premier symphony orchestra. That was soon followed by the Metropolitan Opera’s new stage in 1964, and two years later the New York City Ballet hosted its first performance at the State Theater, which was designed by famed architect Philip Johnson; 50 years later, Lincoln Center now boasts 29 performance spaces and affiliations with the world’s finest arts organizations.
Lincoln Center offers daily tours that allow visitors to see the inner-workings of this extensive arts complex. The hour-and-a-half tour is guaranteed to be different every time — depending on the time of day or year, some spaces will be accessible, some not. For instance, if your tour can’t access the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House — because it’s off season or there’s a cleaning crew inside — you might instead sit in the best seats at Avery Fisher Hall (in 1973 a Mr. Fisher gifted generously to Philharmonic Hall to improve its sound design; he got the place named after him as a thank you) and marvel at the incredible acoustics in the empty space.
Tours might visit the Vivian Beaumont Theatre and see the stagehands prepping sets, or waltz through the glittering balconies of the David H. Koch Theater (formerly the State; Mr. Koch gave $100 million toward the space’s upgrade). The tour might take you through hallways at Avery Fisher Hall that are lined with historical artifacts and fascinating ephemera that usually are accessible only to symphony ticket holders. Standing inside the various buildings of Lincoln Center you get great views of the outdoor sculptures and famous fountains that draw visitors to the public plazas.
The tours’ meeting place, the David Rubenstein Atrium, is a public space used enthusiastically by travelers and locals alike. With a striking textile mural and living walls of plants, the Atrium also houses a casual café and the main Lincoln Center information desk, where staffers can assist in securing tickets to performances. And if you’re lucky, you might catch a free show in the Atrium itself, which hosts a fantastic concert series on Thursday nights and Saturday mornings.
This survey of the Lincoln Center complex affirms why the institution remains so important to the entirety of classical and contemporary arts.
Did you know?
If you’ve seen the 1961 film version of West Side Story, you’re familiar with the part of New York where Lincoln Center now stands; the musical was shot just before the old buildings were razed to make way for the theaters and buildings that would make up the complex. Not to mention that the score of West Side Story was written by Leonard Bernstein, the New York Philharmonic’s revered, longtime music director.
For a behind-the-scenes peek of where the world’s most famous opera singers, dancers, musicians and actors perform, the Lincoln Center tour is unparalleled. This quick but comprehensive walk-around is for any arts fan, from aspiring ballerinas to lifelong classical-music aficionados.
David Rubenstein Atrium Location Information:
Broadway and 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
David Rubenstein Atrium
Broadway (between 62nd and 63rd Sts.), New York, NY 10023
1 to 66th St./Lincoln Center; 1, A, C, B, D to 59th St./Columbus Circle