York's Best Observation Decks: Top of the Rock
the Empire State Building Observatory remains THE traditional place to see Manhattan for tourists and visitors, there's a new observatory in town that offers all the glamour and excitement of a new point of view - at Top of the Rock - high atop "30 Rock" in Rockefeller Center.
30 Rockefeller Center and its famous observation deck was originally opened during the height of the Great Depression in 1933. However, the deck was closed to visitors in 1986 and, later restored, opened its doors again in 2005.
Today, Top of the Rock continues to awe visitors with a more spacious and some say much more relaxing) alternative to the Empire State Building in order to take in a bird's eye view of Manhattan.
We agree. Most visitors will find Top of the Rock much less crowded than its more famous counterpart, and offering much the same 360 degree views of the skyline - including the Chrysler Building, Central Park and maybe best of all - an astounding view of the Empire State Building that visitors to that observatory will definitely miss!
Timing your visit to Top of the Rock
Unlike the first-come-first-served Empire State Building Observatory, the Top of the Rock ticket system is timed so you can easily avoid long lines to buy your tickets (online or in the 30 Rock lobby) and at a time that best suits you or your travel companions.
The least crowded time of all is the early morning (Top of the Rock hours are from 8 a.m. - midnight daily), where you can see the early morning sun dapple and play on the city's East and Hudson Rivers, or look down on the trees in Central Park. Want a night of romance instead? Then definitely plan your visit for just before sunset, to see the city come alive with a million twinkling lights.
A note of warning: Christmas time is when thousands of visitors flock into the city to visit the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, and then head straight for Top of the Rock observatory. So the above advice (about early morning visits) goes double during the holidays!
Whatever the season, the Top of the Rock observatory is always welcoming with both outdoor and indoor viewing areas that are so much more spacious than their downtown counterpart.
Think about a huge veranda, as opposed to the Empire State Building's somewhat claustrophobic viewing area, to fully appreciate the Top of the Rock experience.
Although the Top of the Rock is not as high as the Empire State Building observatory, it allows a more intimate feeling that you are a part of the "canyons of New York" and includes a total of three observatory decks: on the 67th, 69th, and 70th floors.
Directions to the Top of the Rock
The Top of the Rock observation deck entrance is located at 50th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. The nearest subways stops to Top of the Rock include the B, D, or F to Rockefeller Center/47-50th
St. Station. Alternatively, on the East Side take the 6 train to the 51st Station and walk to Fifth Avenue. On the West Side, take the 1 train to the 51st Station and walk to Fifth Avenue. For more detailed information, call the Top of the Rock observation deck phone at 212-698-2000 or 1-877-NYC-ROCK.
Top of the Rock observation deck tickets & admission
Again, the advantage to the ticket system at the Top of the Rock observation deck is that it is timed, which means that you can reserve a time that's best for you to avoid long lines, and hours of waiting:
Adult (13-61) $17.50
Senior (62+) $16
Child (6-11) $11.25
Top of the Rock observation deck hours:
8 a.m. - midnight daily. The last elevator goes up at 11 p.m.