This massive and somewhat fortresslike, white travertine-clad complex contains 23 theaters, as well as the Juilliard School, the New York City Ballet, the Film Center of Lincoln Center, and a branch of the New York Public Library, making it one of the most concentrated places for the performing arts in the nation. Its 16-acre campus, planned by the master architect Philip Johnson and built as part of an urban-renewal effort, arose over the course of several years from 1962 to 1969; some 40 years later, it was given a thorough remodeling to better integrate into the neighborhood.
To get oriented, start across the street, on Broadway between 62nd and 63rd streets, at the David Rubenstein Atrium. There you'll find free Wi-Fi, tables, a café, free concerts (Thursday at 7:30 pm) and that rarest of NYC commodities, a public restroom. In addition, discounted day-of-show tickets for many Lincoln Center venues may be purchased in person here; there is a limit of four tickets per customer,
and the amount of discount depends on the performance. Because the box office is closed on Monday, any available tickets for Monday performances are sold on Sunday.
The acoustics in Alice Tully Hall are top-notch; the hall's primary resident is the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (www.chambermusicsociety.org). The newly renamed David Geffen Hall (from 1973 to 2015 it was called Avery Fisher Hall, before that it was Philharmonic Hall) is home to the New York Philharmonic (www.nyphil.org); the season is late September to late June. Orchestra rehearsals are open to the public on selected weekday mornings ($20, usually Wednesday or Thursday). A popular Young People's Concert series takes place Saturday afternoon, four times throughout the season.
The largest hall, the Metropolitan Opera House is notable for its dramatic arched entrance as well as its lobby's immense Swarovski crystal chandeliers and Marc Chagall paintings, both of which can be seen from outside later in the day. The titan of American opera companies and an institution since its founding in 1883, the Metropolitan Opera (www.metopera.org) brings the world's leading singers to the vast stage here from September to May. All performances, including those sung in English, are subtitled on small screens on the back of the seat in front of you. Also resident at the Met is the American Ballet Theatre (www.abt.org), renowned for its gorgeous full-program renditions of the 19th-century classics (Swan Lake, Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty) with choreography reenvisioned by 20th-century or contemporary masters. A limited number of same-day $20 rush orchestra seats are available at the Met's website. These tickets go on sale for Sunday through Friday evening performances at noon, for matinees four hours before curtain, and for Saturday evenings at 2 pm.
The David H. Koch Theater is the home of the formidable New York City Ballet (www.nycballet.com), and has an unmatched repertoire of 20th-century works, predominantly by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Peter Martins. The company particularly excel at short-form programs. Their fall season starts in September and early October, then returns in late November through December for their beloved annual production of Balanchine's The Nutcracker. Their winter repertory program runs in January and February, and a spring season runs from April into May. Sharing the theater is a mix of other internationally famous dance troupes.
The Lincoln Center Theater complex houses the Vivian Beaumont Theater, the smaller Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, and the rooftop Claire Tow Theater, which has 131 seats and a small outdoor terrace.
The auditorium of the Walter Reade Theater (www.filmlinc.com) shows film series devoted to "the best in world cinema,” including silents, documentaries, retrospectives and recent releases, often on the same theme or from the same country. The Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center has two small screening rooms, a café, and an amphitheater that hosts lectures and panel discussions.
In addition to extensive musical and theatrical holding, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts mounts periodic exhibitions related to major artists and composers. At the library’s free Silent Clowns series (www.silentclowns.com), held Sunday afternoon in its auditorium from September to May, rarely seen prints of the silent era’s comedy masters are paired with live piano music.
Tours of Lincoln Center, including the Met, take place daily and leave from the atrium; reservations are recommended and can be made from the website or in person. They do not include backstage areas but sometimes do include parts of the auditoriums. Backstage tours of the Met ($22) are held during the performance season.