The Accessible Guide to Lincoln Center

Lakshmee Lachhman-Persad

Lincoln Center is the most famous performing arts institution in New York City, if not the United States. The sprawling 16-acre complex on Manhattan’s Upper West Side houses 11 organizations that focus on music, dance, film and theater, each of which puts on works that are at the peak of their form. In a typical year, the venue presents thousands of shows and events to over 5 million attendees, featuring performances by resident companies, guest artists from around the world and talented students from its educational institutions. Programs at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet, New York Philharmonic and many others continue to thrill audiences. Read on for details of the Center’s history and disability-inclusive programming.

Courtesy, New York City Ballet

The Campus

The institution’s groundbreaking took place in 1959, financed by philanthropist John D. Rockefeller III, whose goal was to make the US a major cultural stage. The initial build culminated in three centerpiece performing arts centers. The Metropolitan Opera House—with 3,850 seats, the largest such venue in the world—opened in 1966 and houses the Metropolitan Opera Company as well as the American Ballet Theatre during the summer. The David H. Koch Theater, originally called the New York State Theater, opened in 1964, and is home to the New York City Ballet as well as the American Ballet Theatre during the fall. David Geffen Hall, formerly Avery Fisher Hall, opened in 1962 and houses the New York Philharmonic; the building is currently under renovation, so until the 2022–23 season, the Philharmonic will perform at other Lincoln Center venues and Carnegie Hall. (Once reopened, the concert hall will include reimagined, accessible spaces.) The Josie Robertson Plaza, with its mesmerizing Revson Fountain, connects these three architectural masterpieces. The Metropolitan Opera House, which faces Broadway, frequently commands center stage in photos of Lincoln Center taken from the street.

The Metropolitan Opera House. Photo: Jonathan Tichler

The design and decor of these venues complement their acclaimed reputation. Take the Metropolitan Opera House: pale, cool travertine marble graces its exterior, which features five massive arched windows and allows views of the lobby’s two giant Marc Chagall murals and majestic crystal chandeliers. Once inside, the splendor continues with the cantilevered, multilevel staircase and extravagant auditorium, whose deep burgundy seats are as comfortable as they look. The David H. Koch Theatre is similarly lavish. Located on the south side of the plaza, the 13-story building—a number of floors are underground—includes the grand Promenade, a gathering space which contains two oversize and striking marble Elie Nadelman sculptures and an 18-karat gold leaf ceiling.

Fire Shut Up in My Bones. Photo: Ken Howard

Seasonal Highlights

Now, as live performances resume, a range of diverse world-class talents brings these auditoriums to life. This season’s lineup focuses on themes of rebirth and diversity while mixing in seasonal classics, including George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, an annual favorite. Also of note is Fire Shut Up in My Bones, a debut opera by composer Terence Blanchard, based on the memoir by New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow. It’s the first by a Black composer to be staged in the Metropolitan Opera’s history.

Disability-Inclusive Programming

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts has long been recognized as a pioneer in making its programming accessible to visitors with disabilities. It offers the Passport for the Arts, a free program designed for children, teens and adults with disabilities and their families. Participating organizations include the American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera Guild, the Metropolitan Opera, CO/LAB Theater Group, Lincoln Center Theater and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Families can attend jazz and dance classes; see performances, such as a shortened version of The Magic Flute; and explore behind-the-scenes content. Programs are primarily virtual, with a few selections in person. Sign up here.

Accessible Information

  • Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts works to be accessible and inclusive to all visitors. Details can be found here.
  • Accessible information for the Metropolitan Opera can be found here.
  • Accessible information for the New York City Ballet can be found here.
  • Accessible information for the New York Philharmonic can be found here.
  • You can contact the Lincoln Center Access team at 212-875-5375 or access@lincolncenter.org.

Instagrammable Spot

Don’t miss being outdoors at the Josie Robertson Plaza during magic hour, when the fountain lights up.


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