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The TODAY Plaza 30th Anniversary: A Look Back at the Most Memorable Moments

Celebrate Studio 1A's birthday with this retrospective of the biggest and best concerts, showstoppers and history-making events.


June 12, 2024

Light the candles — it's the 30th anniversary of Studio 1A and the TODAY Plaza!

To celebrate the occasion, we're looking back on the best moments and memorable events of the last three decades and, truly, there are too many to count. But first, a bit of history on how TODAY began, starting with the name. 

On Jan. 14, 1952, the first-ever TODAY show debuted to American households, broadcasting live from RCA's exhibition hall at Rockefeller Center in New York City.

(L) Dave Garroway reports outside in front of the TODAY studio, May 1956. (R) Crowds gather outside to watch a live taping of the TODAY show on Nov. 18, 1955.

Dubbed “The Window on the World,” the expansive studio windows allowed TODAY anchors to look out at the crowds gathered along the sidewalk and, conversely, all of America could look in. 

However, through the years, the studio changed locations until, eventually, the Window on the World was shuttered.

That is until 1993, when TODAY executive producer, Steve Friedman, approached the network with the idea of bringing back the street-level studio and its storied windows. NBC agreed and construction began on a three-story, 18,000 square-foot studio on East 49th Street and Rockefeller Plaza.

On June 20, 1994, Studio 1A opened to the world and has since produced three decades of unforgettable moments including dazzling Halloween costume reveals, live concerts performed by some of music's biggest luminaries like Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Celine Dion and Prince, along with milestones like the Plaza's transformation into a vaccine clinic at the height of the pandemic, as well as an impromptu concert venue for disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The TODAY Plaza isn't just a chapter in the story of NBC — it's helped write the book along with the show's past and present hosts, from Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel to Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb.

In honor of the TODAY plaza's 30th Anniversary, cut a piece of cake and join us in remembering some of the most unforgettable moments that have helped shape Studio 1A into the legendary landmark it is today.

June 20, 1994 – Studio 1A opens on the Plaza

Dubbed Studio 1A, the new TODAY studio debuted on June 20, 1994 with co-hosts Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel anchoring the show.

NBC News' Katie Couric, Bryant Gumbel during the debut of Studio 1A on June 20, 1994.

Their first guest? President Bill Clinton, who spoke via satellite from the Oval Office. Other guests on the inaugural broadcast included New York City Mayor, Ed Koch and veteran journalists Tom Brokaw and Barbara Walters.

Today, more than 2.7 million viewers tune in daily to watch the morning show.

October 31, 1994 - TODAY celebrates its first Halloween on the Plaza

Months after the newly-minted Studio 1A opened in June, the Plaza celebrated its first-ever Halloween. Though it was tame by today’s epic standards, it laid the foundation for a Halloween tradition that’s evolved into a certified extravaganza. And it’s not just viewers who can’t wait for the annual, over-the-top celebration, but also the TODAY team who enjoy topping each other with their astonishing costume reveals year over year.

June 16, 1995 - Earth, Wind & Fire headlines the first-ever concert on the Plaza

It was a warm, sunny day when the legendary band, Earth, Wind & Fire joined the TODAY team to perform their enduring hit “September” and other timeless tunes. Not only was it a show to remember, but it’s one that goes down in the history books as the first-ever concert on the Plaza. 

July 9, 1996 - Prince performs on the Plaza

With the word “Slave” emblazoned on his cheek in protest of his binding record contract, Prince joined Katie Couric, Bryant Gumbel and Al Roker on the Plaza to perform just two songs, both off his new album “Chaos and Disorder.” Sitting at a baby grand piano, the music icon played the jazzy tune “Dinner With Delores,” followed by “Zannalee.”

September 1, 1997 - The Plaza remember Princess Diana

On Aug. 31, 1997, the world lost one of its most beloved figures when Princess Diana was tragically killed in a car accident. While Katie Couric reported live from London, fans gathered on the TODAY Plaza and expressed their grief over the Princess' untimely death, with one calling it “a great loss to the whole world.”

December 11, 1998 - Whitney Houston delivers a holiday concert

With the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree as the backdrop, Whitney Houston took to the chilly Plaza on December 11, 1998 to perform songs from “My Love is Your Love,” Houston's first studio album in eight years.

June 11, 1999 - Ricky Martin sends fans into a frenzy

Drawing the largest crowd the Plaza had seen to date, Ricky Martin caused a frenzy when he performed his No. 1 song “Livin’ La Vida Loca” to scores of screaming fans. Dubbed “The Puerto Rican Elvis”, Martin swiveled his hips, sang his hits and left the crowd swooning over his high-energy performance.

October 31, 1999 - Katie Couric soars as Peter Pan

TODAY's annual Halloween celebration was really starting to take off in 1999 — literally. Getting into the spirit of the spooky holiday, the co-hosts dressed up as a variety of notable characters including Al Roker who, carrying a faux feline, memorably went as Austin Powers' nemesis, Dr. Evil. But it was Katie Couric who stole the show, flying onto the Plaza as none other than the beloved Peter Pan.

December 1999 - The largest Christmas Tree in Rockefeller History

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree has been a time-honored tradition since a group of local workers put up a 20-foot balsam fir at Rockefeller Center back in 1931. Though there have been dozens of trees throughout the years, the largest one in history was erected on the Plaza in 1999. Hailing from Killingworth, Connecticut, the mammoth balsam fir towered more than 100 feet above the crowds.

June 23, 2000 - Britney Spears performs “... Baby One More Time”

Flanked by a group of backup dancers, an 18-year-old Britney Spears took to the Plaza and treated the crowd to a trio of her iconic songs including “Oops! ... I Did it Again, “Lucky” and her No. 1 hit, “Baby, One More Time.”

September 6, 2000 - First wedding to happen live on TODAY

In front of a crowd of spectators and more than 6 million viewers at home, Peter and Melanie Ginsberg tied the knot on the Plaza becoming the very first couple to do so. “We’re one of the lucky ones that seem to have a really amazing life together,” Peter Ginsberg told TODAY on the 20th anniversary of the event in 2020. “It was a great way to start the journey that day.” 

November 9, 2002 - Justin Timberlake goes solo

After years of being a member of the wildly popular boy band NSYNC, Justin Timberlake left the group pursue a solo career. His debut album, “Justified” went all the way to No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and nabbed a few Grammys along the way. On a Friday morning in November of 2002, Timberlake wowed the crowd with his signature dance moves and songs “Like I Love You” and “Cry Me a River.”

May 30, 2003 - Mariah Carey hits sky-high notes on the Plaza

If anyone had any doubts that pop diva Mariah Carey could hit those next-to-impossible notes from her hit songs, they were put to rest in this performance on the Plaza. Singing songs from her “Charm Bracelet” album, the five-octave songstress stunned during her 2003 concert, hitting a series of pitch-perfect notes that left the crowd in awe.

November 23, 2004 - Bon Jovi rocks the crowd

It wasn’t the first — or the last — time the New Jersey rockers took up residence on the TODAY Plaza. But in November of 2004, their high-energy set of classics, including “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “It’s My Life” had scores of fans dancing and belting out, “Like Frankie says, ‘I did it my way’” right along with Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and the rest of the band in a memorable autumn concert.

September 26, 2005 — The Plaza becomes “Humanity Plaza”

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the TODAY Plaza was renamed the “Humanity Plaza” for five days as music luminaries performed for “Make a Difference Today” a series of concerts to help provide relief for victims in the wake of the devastating disaster. Among the notable performers were Josh Groban, Tracy Chapman and Stevie Nicks.

September 22, 2006 - Billy Joel and Tony Bennett duet

It would be extraordinary enough to see either Billy Joel or Tony Bennett perform on the Plaza, but a duet? Simply amazing. That’s just what happened in September of 2006. Outfitted in dapper suits, the veteran crooners joined forces to perform the standard “The Good Life” much to the delight of the crowd. 

June 08, 2007 - Rihanna sings “Umbrella”

After Rihanna appeared on the Plaza in 2006, the Barbados-born singer returned to Rockefeller Center the following year with a new album, new look and the No. 1 single, “Umbrella.” The 18-year-old performed the song (holding an umbrella no less), as well as her other hit, “SOS.” Ultimately, it would be one of many memorable appearances the Fenty founder would make on the Plaza.

May 20, 2008 - Fergie does cartwheels while performing “Barracuda”

It was a chilly spring morning but former Black Eyed Peas singer, Fergie, turned up the heat when she took the Plaza to perform a high-energy set of songs including the Heart classic “Barracuda.” Rocking out to the guitar-driven tune, Fergie crawled her way across the stage before blowing everyone’s mind and doing not one, but two cartwheel flips while still continuing to sing.

November 26, 2008 - Beyonce performs “All the Single Ladies”

On the day before Thanksgiving in 2008, Beyonce gave everyone something extra to be thankful for — a stellar performance of her latest hit, “All the Single Ladies.” It was a chilly 38 degrees in New York City, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind. Bundled up in hats and coats, they enjoyed a showstopping performance by the one and only Queen Bey who also sang the Etta James’ classic “At Last.”

May 29, 2009 - Taylor Swift tells a “Love Story” on the Plaza

Even without the sequined blue dress and jewel-encrusted guitar, Taylor Swift still shined brighter than the sun during her summer concert on the Plaza in 2009. Legions of Swifties gathered for the performance, singing along with their idol as she performed hits including “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me.”

October 31, 2009 - TODAY's Halloween reveal is intergalactic

Of all the Halloween parties in the universe, none quite compared to TODAY’s “Star Wars” extravaganza in 2009. From stormtroopers and an X-Wing starfighter on the Plaza to the co-hosts stellar costumes, which included Meredith Vieira as Princess Leia, Hoda Kotb as Yoda, Al Roker as Han Solo and Kathie Lee Gifford as C-3PO, the celebration was out of this world.

July 9, 2010 - Fans go gaga for Gaga

A record-breaking 20,000 “little monsters” flooded the Plaza on a rainy Friday morning to see, the one and only, Lady Gaga perform. “Let it rain. Let it pour. You can’t stop us,” the pop diva announced to her cheering fans. From singing jazz standards to belting out her iconic hit “Bad Romance,” the theatrical songstress delivered one of the Plaza’s most unforgettable concerts.

August 8, 2010 - Katy Perry sings “California Gurls” amid cotton candy

Just one month after Lady Gaga slayed the Plaza, Katy Perry left her own mark, singing her No. 1 single “California Gurls” standing in a candy land of giant lollipops, gummi bears and cotton candy. The Summer of 2010 was truly one to remember because in addition to Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, Sting, James Taylor, Carole King, Taylor Swift, Ke$ha, Train, Daughtry, Kerry Underwood, Bruno Mars and Justin Bieber also made appearances on the Plaza.

October 31, 2011 - The Royal Halloween

Prince William and Kate Middleton tied the knot in 2011 and the royal nuptials were all anyone could talk about for months. It makes sense, then, that the TODAY team paid homage to the news-making event by recreating it for the annual Halloween extravaganza. Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford dressed as Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice, Meredith Vieira channeled Queen Elizabeth, Savannah Guthrie as then-Prince Charles and Al Roker went as Prince Harry. It was a celebration fit for, well, a king.

January 14, 2012 - TODAY celebrates 60 years on air

TODAY celebrated a big birthday in 2012 when it marked 60 years on the air. In honor of the anniversary, New York’s Empire State Building glowed the TODAY’s signature orange and yellow. On the Plaza, TODAY staffers got in the spirit, wearing period costumes from the 1950s, and past anchors came to share their stories as well as join in a champagne toast.

July 27, 2012 - TODAY goes to the Summer Olympics

Held in London, 2012 was a landmark year for the Summer Olympic games, as it was the first time in the history that women competed in every single sport. TODAY was there to celebrate every win, including the U.S. women’s gymnastics team (Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Kyla Ross) who took home the Gold and came to the Plaza to proudly display their medals.

October 29, 2012 - Hurricane Sandy drenches the Plaza

The wind was whipping and the rain poured down, but that didn’t stop a handful of TODAY superfans from coming to the Plaza to see their favorite co-hosts. However, the storm proved to be disastrous. In its wake, TODAY cancelled its annual Halloween celebration in 2012 and instead participated in a telethon to help provide relief to victims of the devastating superstorm.

February 5, 2013 - Kathie Lee and Hoda go tubing on the plaza

In anticipation of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, a tubing hill dubbed “Mt. Rockefeller” was erected on the plaza and co-anchors Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb put their helmets on and went for a ride. In honor of the Olympics’ host country, the pair first downed a few sips of vodka before climbing on their snow tubes and screaming their way down the “mountain.”

August 29, 2014 - Ariana Grande delivers a mic-drop performance

The Summer of 2014 saw pop singer, Ariana Grande, dominating the music charts with hit singles including “Bang Bang” and “Problem.” Grande performed both to thousands of screaming fans at Rockefeller Center during this memorable end-of-summer concert on the Plaza. The pop queen wrapped up with set by dueting with rapper Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) on “Break Your Heart Right Back.”)

October 9, 2014 - Fleetwood Mac reunites on the Plaza

One of the most renowned bands in rock history, the members of Fleetwood Mac including Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, reunited on the Plaza in October of 2014 to perform some of their most iconic songs including the hit “Go Your Own Way.”

September 3, 2015 - Diving dogs compete on the Plaza

On a sunny Thursday morning, the Plaza went to completely to the dogs (literally). A giant pool full of water was erected to showcase the diving skills of a group of canines. The goal? To find out which pup could jump the furthest. In the end, a German Shepard named Jagger took home the trophy for his impressive jump of 32.3 feet. It was totally paws-some.

June 7, 2016 - Savannah surprises the hosts with a pregnancy announcement

Throughout the years, fans have visited the Plaza to make pregnancy announcements and share gender reveals on live TV. But one of the memorable came from TODAY’s own Savannah Guthrie. During a segment of random questions, Savannah read a note that said, “Are you pregnant?” To which she replied, “Well, yeah, I am pregnant!” There were congratulations all around in Studio 1A, and six months later, her second child, Charley, was born.

July 22, 2016 - Celine Dion gives a tearful and triumphant performance

Celine Dion is in a class all her own. Throughout the years, the Canadian-born singer has brought her vocal stylings to the Plaza, performing time and again for her many fans. However, it was in 2016, seven months after losing her beloved husband, René Angélil, the singer returned for a triumphant concert, reducing the crowd to tears with her emotional performance of “Because You Loved Me” and showing strength of her indomitable spirit.

August 23, 2016 - The U.S. Gymnastics Team brings home the Gold

It was a banner year for the U.S. women’s gymnastics team at the Rio Summer Olympic games in 2016. Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian and Gabby Douglas brought home a record-breaking nine medals (including four Gold) from the competition and shared their victory with the TODAY team on the Plaza.

July 6, 2017 - Ed Sheeran puts on an Independence Day-inspired show

In 2017, Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” was the No. 1 single in 30 countries, including the U.S. The singer-songwriter performed his big hit and other favorites off his record-breaking album “Divide” for a crowd of enthusiastic fans on the Plaza. 

October 31, 2018 - The Plaza goes crazy with the '80s

Every Halloween on the Plaza is amazing, but in 2018, the spooky celebration took things to a whole new level with an ‘80s throwback that was one for the history books. The TODAY hosts were transformed into ‘80s icons Tina Turner (Sheinelle Jones), Cyndi Lauper (Savannah Guthrie), Madonna (Kathie Lee Gifford), Bruce Springsteen (Carson Daly) and the OG Crocodile Rocker, Elton John (Hoda Kotb). Great Scott! Let’s not forget Al Roker as Doc and Dylan Dryer as Marty McFly, Jenna Bush Hager and Peter Alexander as Maverick and Goose, Craig Melvin as Prince Akeem and Willie Geist as Ferris Bueller. Anyone? Anyone?

May 6, 2019 - Jennifer Lopez gets everyone “on the floor”

On a sunny Monday in May, Jennifer Lopez took over the Plaza, putting on a show like only J. Lo can. Kicking off the 2019 summer concert series sitting on a giant black and white horse, the multifaceted artist performed both new hits and old, including the fan-favorite “On the Floor.” Beyond singing and dancing up a storm, the pop phenom changed costumes four times, leaving fans memorized in the wake of her stunning concert.

March 17, 2020 - COVID comes to TODAY

In the early days of COVID-19, the U.S. was still grappling with the possible impact of a then-unknown coronavirus. Suffering from a sore throat and runny nose, TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie, co-anchored the show from her basement, where she was isolating out of an abundance of caution. Hoda Kotb carried on in Studio 1A, reporting just a few days later that all 40 million Californians had been ordered to shelter in place. Soon after, the entire world would essentially shut down in response to the unprecedented pandemic. 

April 7, 2021 - The TODAY co-hosts receive COVID vaccinations

With hope in sight, the TODAY team socially-distanced on the Plaza with each receiving their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on live television. Savannah Guthrie, Craig Melvin, Sheinelle Jones, Dylan Dreyer and Jenna Bush Hager all got their shot with Savannah saying, “I feel so grateful, I just think about (how) this is something that has not been done in all of human history, a vaccine in a year.”

May 19, 2022 - The Plaza turns into Harry's House

Already famous around the globe as a member of “One Direction,” Harry Styles went next-level as a solo artist after his debut album “Sign of the Times” went platinum. By the time Styles released “Harry’s House,” in May of 2022, the singer was selling out stadiums making him the natural choice to kick off TODAY’s summer concert series. Even though the weather gods sent rain, thousands of fans packed the plaza to watch Styles memorably perform his biggest hits including “As it Was” and “Watermelon Sugar.”

October 31, 2022 - “Elvis” officiates a Halloween wedding

Of the many Halloween extravaganzas on the Plaza, the 2022 Las Vegas-themed show was a sure bet (and, yes, pun totally intended). Dressed up as the King of Rock & Roll, Elvis Presley, Willie Geist officiated the wedding of McKay Blanchard and Eleanor Molver live on the Plaza in a sweet ceremony that viewers and fans couldn’t help but fallin’ in love with.

July 7, 2023 Karol G draws a record 15,000 fans

Thousands of fans lined the Plaza in July of 2023 to see superstar Colombian singer Karol G. The Grammy-winner put on a show for the ages. Performing four songs: “Amargura,” “TQG,” “Mientras Me Curo del Cora” and “Tus Gafitas,” the epic concert left some in the crowd in tears including one 12-year-old who, through her sobs, said, “algo muy bonito,” which translates into “something very beautiful.”

September 7, 2023 — TODAY superfans tie the knot on the Plaza

On Valentine's Day, 2023, TODAY show superfans Ben Herbert and Mindy Shore got engaged during a surprise proposal on the show. Little did they know that in just a few short months, they'd end up tying the knot there. In front of 25 of their closest friends and family, Herbert and Shore exchanged vows with none other than Hoda Kotb officiating the ceremony.

June 3, 2024 — TODAY celebrates 30 spectacular years on the Plaza

With 30 years in the rearview mirror, TODAY looks ahead to the future. Up next? The Plaza will continue to build its legacy of delivering show-stopping concerts, special guests, unforgettable moments, laughter and even a few tears — all of which will write the pages in the next chapter in TODAY's storied history. Whatever the future brings, one thing's for sure: The best is yet to come.

The original version of this story was written by Sarah Lemire and Mish Coffey for