Guide to Lincoln Center: Everything you need to know about the Upper West Side arts complex

Learn about the various performance venues for theatre, music, opera, dance, and more within Lincoln Center, plus nearby restaurants and attractions to visit.

Erin Cavoto
Erin Cavoto

Lincoln Center is a stunning multi-block artistic complex to visit in New York City, boasting a large open-air courtyard with a beautiful fountain. It’s home to crucial parts of the New York City cultural scene, including the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet, the New York Philharmonic, and a Broadway theatre, which is showing Uncle Vanya starring Steve Carell through June 16.

With various venues making up Lincoln Center, you can experience a wide variety of shows and performances, whether it be a symphony, a ballet, a play, a film, and much more. You can plan a whole itinerary in the Lincoln Center area, which is located on the Upper West Side, just a block from Central Park between 62nd and 65th Streets. There's so much to explore in the surrounding neighborhood if you’re visiting the area for a show, including grabbing delicious food and exploring a nearby museum.

Read on to learn all about Lincoln Center, including which types of performances you can see, where to eat and drink, and other activities to explore while you’re there.

Get to know the history of Lincoln Center

Part of Lincoln Square on the Upper West Side, Lincoln Center was originally conceived as a center for the performing arts in the 1950s, with John D. Rockefeller as the chairman of the project. However, it wasn’t until the mid- to late-1960s that some of the center’s most famous buildings would open, such as the David Geffen Hall, the David H. Koch Theater, and the Metropolitan Opera House.

These are the three main buildings that border the plaza, but others have been constructed over the years. The Juilliard School, for instance, was built in 1969, as was the outdoor amphitheater Damrosch Park. The Lincoln Center Theater building opened in 1985, and it now houses three performance spaces.

Famous venues and shows at Lincoln Center

Because there are so many different venues that make up Lincoln Center, here's a guide to what each one offers so you can tailor your visit to your interests.

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The Metropolitan Opera House

Unsurprisingly, the Met Opera House is home to the Metropolitan Opera and has been since its opening in 1966. Hundreds of famous operas have been performed at the Met over the years, such as La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, Aida, and contemporary and family-friendly operas. During the summer, you can also see performances from the American Ballet Theatre at the Met.

Get Metropolitan Opera tickets now.

Book Tickets CTA - LT/NYTG


Lincoln Center Theater

Lincoln Center Theater operates three theatres in its building: the Vivian Beaumont Theater, Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater and Claire Tow Theater. You can see Off-Broadway shows at the Mitzi E. Newhouse and Claire Tow and Broadway productions at the Vivian Beaumont. The Beaumont usually hosts one or two Broadway shows per year, with the most recent being Uncle Vanya.

Get Uncle Vanya tickets now.

Book Tickets CTA - LT/NYTG

Browse and get tickets to other Lincoln Center Theater shows at the links to each venue above.


David H. Koch Theater

One of the original buildings at Lincoln Center, the David H. Koch Theater is home to the New York City Ballet. Originally the New York State Theater, this building has always been home to the New York City Ballet, with the 1964 opening night gala even being televised on CBS.

NYCB typically puts on over 60 ballets each year, but the most well-known is its annual performance of The Nutcracker, which typically goes on each November and December. Additionally, the Tony Awards, the top honors for Broadway theatre, will be held at the Koch for the first time in 2024.


David Geffen Hall

Another main building in the Lincoln Center plaza, David Geffen Hall is where you can see the New York Philharmonic perform. Formerly known as Philharmonic Hall and later Avery Fisher Hall, the building is home to many different types of musical performances.

Visiting orchestras frequently perform at the David Geffen Hall, and there are concerts for children in the Young People’s and Very Young People’s Concert series. The Hall also hosts screenings of fan-favorite movies at which a live orchestra performs the score.


Jazz at Lincoln Center

Jazz at Lincoln Center opened in 2004, and it’s actually located a few blocks from Lincoln Center proper in Columbus Circle. Jazz at Lincoln Center is also home to three different venues: the Rose Theater, the Appel Room, and Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola.

At the Rose Theater, you can see jazz performances in a concert-hall style, while at the Appel Room, you can enjoy live music in an amphitheater that overlooks Columbus Circle. Dizzy’s Club is designed to resemble an intimate nightclub, putting on live jazz performances regularly.


Walter Reade Theater and Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center

In addition to live performances, Lincoln Center is also home to tons of film screenings. These two film centers, located across the street from each other, collectively host dozens of film screenings each week, plus talkbacks, special events, and educational programs.

The Munroe is home to new and specialty film releases, while the Reade hosts screenings in a wide variety of genres, formats, and age ratings.

What to do before seeing a show at Lincoln Center

Because Lincoln Center is conveniently located on the Upper West Side, there are plenty of other activities to do in addition to visiting the performing arts complex.

  • Walk a block east and explore the southern end of Central Park, with highlights like the Central Park Carousel, Wollman Rink, and the Central Park Zoo — all great attractions for families with kids.
  • The Museum of Arts and Design is also close to Lincoln Center, where you can explore exhibitions focused on craft, art and design.
  • Approximately 15 blocks uptown is the American Museum of Natural History, which is free to enter but suggests donations.
  • The Shops at Columbus Circle, boasting dozens of shops and eateries ranging in price, are located in the same building as Jazz at Lincoln Center.

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Where to eat and drink before seeing a show at Lincoln Center

Regardless of your appetite or budget, there are plenty of places to eat and drink near Lincoln Center.

  • Lincoln Ristorante: Go for the delicious pasta and convenient location — it's right in Lincoln Center.
  • Tatiana By Kwame Onwuachi: If your trip to Lincoln Center is a particularly special occasion (and you can get a reservation), the fusion eatery Tatiana was named NYC's best restaurant by The New York Times in 2023. It's located right in David Geffen Hall.
  • Jing Fong: This Cantonese restaurant located between 78th and 79th Streets has amazing dim sum.
  • Budget eats: If you're on a budget or a time crunch before your show starts, get a hot dog at Gray's Papaya or Matzo ball soup and a sandwich at Pastrami Queen.
  • Breads Bakery: Anyone with a sweet tooth must get their famous chocolate babka.
  • Van Leeuwen: This popular ice cream shop has all kinds of nontraditional flavors, like earl grey tea and marionberry cheesecake.
  • P.J. Clarke's: Get pre- or post-show martinis and oysters a block away from Lincoln Center.
  • Vanguard Wine Bar: It's in the name — go here for a post-show glass of vino.
  • The Empire Rooftop: Enjoy a drink and a view at this luxurious rooftop bar at The Empire Hotel across the street from Lincoln Center.

Get tickets to a show at Lincoln Center

As a true hub for the performing arts, you can see so many different types of performances at Lincoln Center, from a symphony orchestra to a ballet to a modern play. There is so much to do that you’re sure to find something for everyone.

Originally published on

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