New York City is home to many observation decks including both indoor and outdoor viewing platforms throughout Manhattan. These high vantage points are one of the best things to do in the city and offer unique experiences to visitors of all ages.
In this guide, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about the best observation decks in New York City including pros and cons to visiting each one.
Our NYC Experience
Kristen is a New York state native and we lived in NYC for a few months in 2021. We chose to move to the city so we could create the best possible content because you can’t just visit New York City for a weekend and claim to be an expert. Read more about us.
While we no longer live here, we still travel to the city every year because it’s one of the best destinations in the USA. We’ve summited all 5 of New York’s observation decks multiple times in different seasons. The information we share is based on many trips and our own personal experience at each observatory.
About This Guide
There are currently 5 major observation decks in New York City including Edge at Hudson Yards, the Empire State Building, One World Observatory, SUMMIT One Vanderbilt and Top of the Rock.
Here is a quick high level chart:
Personally we think a trip to NYC is not complete without scaling at least one of these skyscrapers to see the city from above. If this is you’re first time to New York, we recommend you plan to visit at least two of these observation decks.
In this guide, we share information about each individual option in alphabetical order. But at the end, we rank each observation deck by height, price, view and experience to help you make the best decision for your trip. You can also take a look at our interactive Google Map for the best NYC observation decks to see their location in the city.
Travel Tip: We try our best to keep the ticket prices and operating hours up to date, but please keep in mind these are subject to change at any given time. Use the official links we provide to confirm information before visiting.
1. Edge At Hudson Yards
The Edge at Hudson Yards is one of the newer observation decks in New York City. It opened in March 2020 and features the highest outdoor sky deck in the western hemisphere sitting 1,131 ft (345m) above Manhattan.
This popular sky deck is located on the 100th floor, but visitors can also experience the indoor space on the 101st floor. For visitors who want a thrill, you can ascend a staircase more than 1,200 ft to the Apex of Hudson Yards with Edge City Climb.
What You Need To Know
- Building: Hudson Yards in Midtown Manhattan
- Address: 30 Hudson Yards, New York, NY 10001
- Location: Google Maps
- Hours of operation: 10:00am to 9:00pm daily (check here)
- Height: Sky deck on 100th floor (1,131ft or 345m), City Climb (1,271ft or 387m)
The Edge observation deck is located inside the shops at Hudson Yards. In order to reach the entrance, you must enter Hudson Yards on the ground floor. Once inside, take the elevator to the 4th floor. From here, follow the signs directing you to Edge Observation Deck.
If you’re using the subway, take the 7 line to 34th street. The entrance to Hudson Yards is just a few minutes away from the subway platform exit. You could also walk the High Line which ends at the Vessel and Hudson Yards shops.
After showing your tickets at the main entrance, you’ll be escorted through security. Before arriving at the elevator, you’ll walk through informational exhibits about Hudson Yards and the history of Edge which ends in a light display.
The elevator ride will take you from the 4th floor to the 100th floor in a total of 52 seconds. This is one of the better rides out of all the observation decks and a video will play as you climb elevation showcasing the Hudson Yards exterior.
Once you arrive to the 100th floor, you can explore the outdoor viewing platform with views over the Hudson River, New Jersey and all of Manhattan. It’s one of our favorites views in the city.
Edge Ticket Options
You’ll need a ticket to visit Edge in NYC. There are three main ticket options and prices fluctuate by a few dollars throughout the day due to dynamic pricing. It will also cost an additional $10 to visit at sunset.
- General Admission – Online tickets begin at $36 for adults and $31 for children (ages 6-12).
- Flex Pass – General Admission + Flexible arrival. Online tickets begin at $54 for adults and $49 for children (ages 6-12).
- Express Admission – General Admission + Flexible arrival + Priority elevator access and lanes. Online tickets begin at $81 for adults and $76 for children (ages 6-12).
You can purchase tickets directly from the official website here or onsite at 30 Hudson Yards. But you can also purchase tickets through:
Travel Tip: If you book with the official website, you’ll pay an additional $3.64 tax. However, this is the only NY observation deck that doesn’t charge an extra processing fee. Click on the orange links to compare prices to see if you can beat it.
Things To Do At Edge
We like this observation deck because the 100th floor sky deck offers sweeping views of Manhattan on New York City’s highest outdoor platform. This is what you can see from on top:
- Hudson River
- New Jersey
- Midtown and Lower Manhattan
- Empire State Building and Chrysler Building (with partially obstructed views)
Average visits to Edge last about 45 minutes and there are plenty of activities to keep you busy. Most visitors take a photo at the Eastern Point, look through the triangular glass floor down to the streets of Manhattan and take in the views from the skyline steps.
But if you want to splurge, you can eat at Peak Restaurant on the 101st floors, sip a cocktail in the Champagne Bar or purchase a ticket for the Edge City Climb. Tickets cost $185/person, but it has become one of the most popular things to do in NYC.
Pros And Cons
There are many reasons to visit Edge at Hudson Yards, but there are some negatives to visiting too. Here are a few pros and cons to help sway your decision:
- Highest outdoor sky deck in New York and the western hemisphere
- The view is beautiful especially at sunset
- The entire experience felt clean, finessed and polished
- Most interesting and unique design with both indoor and outdoor viewing platforms
- Sweeping views of Midtown and Lower Manhattan along with the Hudson River and New Jersey
- One of the most Instagrammable and best observation decks for photography
- It’s possible to get unobstructed photos without glass panels on the staircase steps
- One of the cheaper observation decks in the city
- City climb offers the highest outdoor point you can visit in NYC
- Crowds will be a common source of frustration, particularly when trying to get the highly sought after photo in the eastern point
- Snacks, champagne and other cocktails are overpriced for what you get
- Timed entry tickets for sunset tickets can sell out extremely quickly
- Many landmarks are partially obstructed or far away like the Empire State Building which is not in direct line of sight from Edge
- The glass panels on the deck can severely limit image quality if you’re going for that perfect instagram photo
Is The Edge Worth It?
Edge is a sleek and modern observation deck in New York offering panoramic views. We think it’s worth visiting because it’s home to the highest outdoor sky deck in the city as well as the western hemisphere. However, since this is an outdoor viewing platform, this observatory can close during high winds and thunderstorms which might impact your plans.
This is our second favorite observation deck in the city because it offers amazing views at a cheaper price compared to other options.
Further Reading: How to visit Edge at Hudson Yards
2. Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is easily the most recognizable and famous building in New York City. At the time of completion in 1931, it was the tallest building in the world. But today, it’s now the 8th tallest building in the city.
It was built in a record breaking 410 days and it was the first building over 100 stories high. There are two observation decks at the Empire State Building, one on the 86th floor and another on the 102nd floor. We love the exhibits here because they do a great job showcasing the history of New York.
What You Need To Know
- Building: Empire State Building in Midtown Manhattan
- Address: 20 W 34th St., New York, NY 10001
- Location: Google Maps
- Hours of operation: 10:00am – 9:00pm daily, but varies by season (check here)
- Height: 86th floor (1,050ft or 320m), 102nd floor (1,250ft or 381m)
The Empire State Building is located in the heart of Manhattan and it’s relatively easy to access. If you head southwest, this iconic structure is squashed tightly between 34th/33rd St and 5th/6th Avenue.
You’ll find the main entrance is on W 34th Street, but make sure you look up from the street below to take in the views before climbing up to the top. This building has been featured in numerous movies such as King Kong, Superman II, Elf, Sleepless in Seattle and many more so it’s pretty cool to see in person.
In addition to the views, we think the main highlight of the Empire State Building is the informational exhibits. After showing your ticket and making your way through security, you’ll be led to the 2nd and 80th floors which are filled with amazing displays and two elevator rides.
These are the best exhibits out of all New York City observation decks so we recommend you take your time and soak up as much information as you can. The main elevator ride from the 2nd to 80th floor is pretty average, but you’ll see an animated movie. The other elevator ride from the 80th to the 86th floor is very basic with nothing to see.
Once you make it to the top, you can see many famous landmarks including the Chrysler Building, Hudson Yards, Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and the East River. The 86th floor features an open viewing platform with wired mesh netting while the 102nd floor offers an indoor platform with large glass windows.
ESB Ticket Options
You’ll need a ticket to visit the Empire State Building. There are two main ticket options, but if you want to visit at sunset, it’s an additional $10 for the 86th floor and an additional $13 for the 102nd floor.
- 86th Floor – Access to the open-air observatory on the 86th floor. Online tickets begin at $44 for adults and $38 for children (ages 6-12) for day time tickets.
- 102nd + 86th Floor – Access to the open-air observatory on the 86th floor + Indoor platform on the 102nd floor. Online tickets begin at $79 for adults and $73 for children (ages 6-12) for day time tickets.
You can purchase tickets directly from the official website here or onsite at the bottom floor. But you can also purchase tickets through:
Travel Tip: If you book with the official website, you’ll pay $4.35 (86th floor) or $8.60 (102nd floor) for tax and a $5.00 processing fee. Click on the orange links to compare prices to see if you can beat it.
Things To Do At The ESB
We like the Empire State Building because it was New York City’s first observation deck and it’s an iconic experience. Even if you visit the lower 86th floor, you’ll have incredible 360° views of the city. This is what you can see from the top:
- Chrysler Building
- Times Square
- Top of the Rock and part of Central Park
- East River and Brooklyn
- One World Observatory, Flatiron Building and Lower Manhattan
- Hudson River, Hudson Yards and Edge
Average visits to the Empire State Building last about 60 minutes and there are numerous exhibit to see. You’ll learn about the construction of the building, King King, the Otis elevators and more. We also like the large black and white photos of famous visitors who’ve climbed to the top.
No matter what floor you choose to visit, you’ll see amazing views of the city. But since you’re on top of the Empire State Building, you won’t be able to see the iconic building in the skyline.
Need help organizing your visit to NYC?
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Pros And Cons
There are many reasons to visit the Empire State Building, but there are some negatives to visiting too. Here are a few pros and cons to help sway your decision:
- The oldest and original NYC observation deck
- Exhibits on 2nd and 80th floor are the best out of all 5 observation decks in NYC
- Both indoor and outdoor viewing spaces
- Stunning 360° Manhattan street views
- Ability to take photos with unobstructed views on the 86th floor (have to put phone or camera through metal mesh fencing)
- Crowds at any given time can be large
- Glass windows on 102nd floor are not great for photos due to reflections
- No view of the Empire State Building because you’re at the top of it
- Underwhelming elevator experience
- Most expensive NYC observation deck and extra fee for 102nd floor
Is The Empire State Building Worth it?
The Empire State Building is the most famous observation deck in New York City. We think it’s worth visiting because of it’s historical significance. However, we don’t think this observatory offers the best views of the city and it’s very expensive. The money you’ll spend to visit the 102nd floor will be better spent at another observatory.
This is our forth favorite observation deck in the city due to it’s iconic status. But this option has the best exhibits so it’s worth the money for those who want to learn about the city.
Further Reading: Empire State Building first time visitor guide
3. One World Observatory
One World Observatory is the observation deck located inside the One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. This is the tallest building in NYC and the 7th tallest building in the world after the Lotte World Tower in Seoul, South Korea.
This building was created as a tribute of remembrance to those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. Built on the original site of 6 World Trade Center, One World Observatory is 1,268ft (386m) in height making it the highest indoor observation deck in the city.
It opened to the public on November 3rd, 2014 and at the time of completion, One World Trade Center surpassed the Empire State Building as the tallest structure in NYC. This is the only observation deck in Lower Manhattan so it’s a unique experience.
Further Reading: Best things to do in Lower Manhattan
What You Need To Know
- Building: One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan
- Address: 117 West St, New York, NY 10006
- Location: Google Maps
- Hours of operation: 10:00am – 7:00pm daily but changes seasonally (check here)
- Height of Observation Deck: 102nd floor (1,268ft or 387m)
The One World observation deck can be found inside the One World Trade Center at the corner of West and Vesey Streets in Lower Manhattan. It’s recommend to use public transportation when visiting because there is limited parking nearby.
You’ll find access to the main building on West Street and the closest subway stop is the World Trade Center station along the E line. Since this observation deck was completed in 2014, it has more of a modern feel compared to the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock.
After showing your tickets and walking through security, you’ll experience the Global Welcome Center, the Horizon Grid and the Foundations Room before arriving to the Skypod elevator.
This is the best elevator experience out of all the New York observation decks because it whisks you 102 stories in 47 seconds making it one of the fastest elevators in the western hemisphere. But that’s not all because the elevator features an amazing time-lapse video beginning from the 1600’s to now.
After the elevator, you’ll watch a short film in the See Forever Theater before enjoying the views from the 102nd floor. You’ll then be lead down to the 100th floor where you can experience numerous exhibits and take in more stunning views. For those who want to eat during their visit, you can make a reservation at One Dine here on the 101st floor.
One World Observatory Ticket Options
You’ll need a ticket to visit One World Observatory. There are four main ticket options and there is no additional fee to visit during sunset. If you purchase your tickets online in advance on the official website, you’ll also receive a $5.00 discount.
- Standard – General Admission. Online tickets begin at $39 for adults and $33 for children (ages 6-12).
- Combination – General Admission + Priority Entry + One World Explorer + $5 to shop, drink or eat. Online tickets begin at $49 for adults and $43 for children (ages 6-12).
- All-Inclusive – General Admission + Priority Entry + One World Explorer + Flexible Arrival + $15 to shop, eat or drink. Online tickets begin at $59 for adults and $53 for children (ages 6-12).
- VIP Tour – General Admission + Priority Entry + 60 minute guided tour + Escorted entry + $15 to shop, eat or drink. Online tickets begin at $69 for adults and $63 for children (ages 6-12).
You can purchase tickets directly from the official website here or onsite at bottom floor. But you can also purchase tickets through:
Travel Tip: If you book this observation deck in advance, it’s one of the the cheapest options in New York City starting at $39 for adults. Edge at Hudson Yards is cheaper at $36, but these are not sunset prices.
Things To Do At One World Observatory
We like the One World Observatory because it’s located inside the tallest building in the city. The history of this building is also important because it showcases strength and resilience after a horrible tragedy. This is what you can see from the top:
- Empire State Building
- Statue of Liberty and Governor’s Island
- Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridge
- New York State and New Jersey
- Memorial pools in tribute to 9/11 directly below
Average visits to the One World Observatory last about 60 minutes and you can experience multiple exhibits. You’ll be able to see 100 floors down to the streets of Lower Manhattan through the Sky Portal, watch a show at City Pulse or look for city landmarks with One World Explorer.
The 100th floor features large floor to ceiling windows and you’ll be able to see famous sights in Lower Manhattan including the Statue of Liberty, Governor’s Island and New Jersey as well as the Brooklyn, Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridge.
Further Reading: Brooklyn Bridge sunrise walk
Pros And Cons
There are many reasons to visit the One World Observatory, but there are some negatives to visiting too. Here are a few pros and cons to help sway your decision:
- Best elevator ride out of all 5 NYC observation decks
- Best views of the Statue of Liberty, Governor’s Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridge
- Decent views of Hudson River and New Jersey (but Edge is better)
- Highest indoor observation deck in NYC
- Only observation deck in Lower Manhattan
- Emotional experience due to the history of the building
- Modern day high tech experience
- Does not charge an extra fee to visit at sunset
- No outdoor viewing platform and all indoor views have glass panels so photos will have glare
- Food and drinks are extremely expensive
- Only a few exhibits to experience (far more at other observation decks)
- Empire State Building is far away so the view is not great
- Popular observation deck so you may experience long wait times
Is One World Observatory Worth It?
The One Work Observatory is the only observation deck in Lower Manhattan. We think it’s worth visiting if this is your second or third time to the city and it wouldn’t be our first choice. However, the history of this building is very important and you should not miss the 9/11 Museum and memorial pools nearby.
This is our least favorite observation deck in the city despite it being the tallest option because it only has an indoor viewing platform. It can be very difficult to take good photos due to the glare and it’s location in Lower Manhattan means you’re far away from the highlights in Midtown.
Further Reading: Tips for visiting One World Observatory
4. SUMMIT One Vanderbilt
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is New York City’s newest observation deck. Completed in 2021, this observatory features numerous interactive exhibits with floor to ceiling mirrors and the ascent elevator which showcases the largest exterior glass floor elevators in the world.
The observation deck is located between the 91st and 93rd floors with several indoor photo opportunities and an outdoor terrace. The Ascent elevator experience will take visitors up another 12 stories to 1,210ft (369m), but it costs an extra $20.
What You Need To Know
- Building: One Vanderbilt in Midtown Manhattan
- Address: 5 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017
- Location: Google Maps
- Hours of operation: 9:00am – 10:30pm daily (check here)
- Height: 92nd floor (1,063 ft or 324m), Ascent elevator (1,210ft or 369m)
One Vanderbilt is connected to Grand Central Station in Midtown. You can access the buiding through the train station on the main concourse level, the street level entrance at 45 E 42nd St or the Transit Hall in One Vanderbilt. No matter how you enter, look for the black observation deck signs to point you in the right direction.
We think this observation deck is a little bit different compared to the others on this list because it showcases numerous interactive exhibits that are popular with influencers. It’s definitely more about the photo opportunities rather than the views, but it makes for a unique experience.
After showing your tickets, you’ll watch a short two minute video about SUMMIT and receive a QR code before stepping inside the elevator. From here, you’re catapulted to the 91st floor in less than a minute while you watch a flashing light show.
As you exit the elevator, you’re senses are immediately awakened as you step out into Transcendence I. This exhibit has floor to ceiling windows paired with mirrored floors and you’ll see infinite reflections of New York City. This is just a taste of things to come.
You’ll make your way through two floors of exhibits and terminate in Après, a nordic inspired cafe on the 93rd floor. After enjoying a quick snack, you can make your way out to the open floor terrace or summit the Ascent elevator to One Vanderbilt’s highest point.
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt Ticket Options
You’ll need a ticket to visit SUMMIT One Vanderbilt. There are four main ticket options and you’ll pay $10 more for your sunset ticket.
- SUMMIT Experience – General Admission. Online tickets begin at $42 for adults and $36 for children (ages 6-12) for day time tickets.
- SUMMIT Signature Experience – General Admission + SUMMIT signature cocktail (or mocktail). Online tickets begin at $56 for adults and $50 for children (ages 6-12) for day time tickets.
- SUMMIT Ascent – General Admission + Ascent glass elevator. Online tickets begin at $62 for adults and $56 for children (ages 6-12) for day time tickets.
- Ultimate SUMMIT – General Admission + Ascent glass elevator + a SUMMIT signature cocktail. Online tickets begin at $76 for adults and $70 for children (ages 6-12) for day time tickets.
You can purchase tickets directly from the official website here or onsite at One Vanderbilt. But you can also purchase tickets through:
Travel Tip: If you book with the official website, you’ll pay $4.00 tax and a $3.00 processing fee. Click on the orange links to compare prices to see if you can beat it.
Things To Do At SUMMIT One Vanderbilt
We like SUMMIT because it’s more than just an observation deck, it’s an entire experience. The reflective art installations provide views you won’t get anywhere else in the city. This is what you can see from the top:
- Chrysler Building
- Borough of Brooklyn and Queens
- Empire State Building
- Lower Manhattan and One World Observatory
- Edge at Hudson Yards, the Hudson River and New Jersey
Average visits to SUMMIT One Vanderbilt last about 2-3 hours. If you plan to take many photos and want to experience the Ascent elevators, you may need more time. The highlight of this observatory is the interactive exhibits because you’re rewarded with unique views of the city.
Transcendence I and Transcendence II are very popular and you can expect them to be crowded. Affinity is the exhibit with the floating balloons, you’ve probably already seen on social media. Each room offers a different perspective of the city so be sure to look around.
Pros And Cons
There are many reasons to visit SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, but there are some negatives to visiting too. Here are a few pros and cons to help sway your decision:
- The newest observation deck in NYC
- Best view of the Chrysler Building
- Amazing art installations with stunning reflective properties
- Excellent close up view of the Empire State Building (but not the best)
- The modern design is extremely sleek, clean and sophisticated
- Both outdoor and indoor viewing platforms
- Staff were extremely helpful and funny at times
- Overcrowding is a problem, particularly at sunset
- This is an extremely photogenic observation deck with many people taking photos from every single direction which can be overwhelming
- The Ascent elevator ride costs an extra $20
- All 3 floors have glass panels which makes it difficult to take photos with good image quality
- Compared to other NYC observation decks, the elevator experience was just okay
- Extremely overpriced snacks and drinks
Is SUMMIT One Vanderbilt Worth It?
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt offers a different take on observation decks. It’s the newest option in the city and it offers amazing views. However, it can be very crowded with people trying to take photos and you’ll need to visit with a lot of patience. Most of the observatory is located inside so you may have glare in your photos from the windows.
While this is a popular new NYC observation deck, it’s our third favorite option in the city. We love the exhibits at this observatory, but we think they overshadow the views of the city. As professional landscape photographers, we came for the city views not for the photo opportunities of ourselves.
Further Reading: Guide to visiting SUMMIT One Vanderbilt
5. Top Of The Rock
The Top of the Rock is an observation deck located at the top of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. It features three floors of observatories and a panoramic 360° unobstructed view from the 70th floor. As of December 2023, visitors can now also purchase extra tickets for The Beam to replicate an iconic 1932 photograph.
Completed in 1933, this was one of the 14 original art deco structures in the Rockefeller Center complex between 5th and 6th Avenue. It was commissioned by the wealthy Rockefeller family and it’s now home to Radio City Music Hall, the Rink at Rockefeller enter and the famous Rockefeller Christmas tree.
What You Need To Know
- Building: Rockefeller Plaza in Upper Midtown
- Address: 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112
- Location: Google Maps
- Hours of operation: 9:00am – 11:00pm daily (check here)
- Height: 67th floor (820ft or 250m), 70th floor (850ft or 259m)
You can find Top of the Rock observation deck sandwiched between Times Square and Central Park between 5th/6th Avenue and 49th/50th Street. The building is instantly recognizable as you make your way down the street toward the entrance.
Access to 30 Rockefeller Center is on W 50th Street, closer to 6th Avenue and opposite Radio City. Look for a bright red carpet with Top of the Rock in huge white letters. In the main entrance, be sure to notice the stunning Joie Chandelier made for the observatory by Swarovski.
After showing your ticket and passing through security, you can visit the various exhibits on the Mezzanine including 4 optional short films in the Top of the Rock theater. Next, the sky shuttle elevator will climb 850 feet in 42 seconds displaying an animation about NYC history.
You’ll first arrive on the 67th floor which has a great photo spot of the Empire State Building and multiple viewing platforms. The 69th floor showcases a 270° outdoor viewing platform with a breezeway. But the final showstopper is the 70th floor with 360° unobstructed views without glass barriers.
Top Of The Rock Ticket Options
You’ll need a ticket to visit Top of the Rock. There are three main ticket options and you’ll pay $15 more for a sunset time slot.
- General Admission – Online tickets begin at $40 for adults and $34 for children (ages 6-12) for day time tickets.
- Express Pass – General Admission + Immediate entry any time of day + Priority elevator access + 20% discount at gift shop. Online tickets begin at $85.
- VIP Pass – General Admission + Guided tour + Priority elevator access + Private experience on the Beam + Photo pass + 20% discount at gift shop. Online tickets begin at $160.
You can purchase directly from the official website here or onsite at Rockefeller Center. But you can also purchase tickets through:
Travel Tip: If you book with the official website, you’ll pay $3.99 for tax and a $5.00 processing fee. Click on the orange links to compare prices to see if you can beat it.
Things To Do At Top Of The Rock
We like Top of the Rock because it’s a not a one way system unlike most of the other observation decks in New York. You can travel between all three floors as many times as you want to get the best pictures. This is what you can see from the top:
- Central Park
- Chrysler Building
- Empire State Building
- One World Observatory, Midtown and Lower Manhattan
- Hudson Yards, the Hudson River and Edge
Average visits to Top of the Rock last about 45 minutes. This observation deck offers the best view of the Empire State Building with plenty of indoor and outdoor viewing platforms. The 70th floor is the highlight because you’ll be surrounded by the skyscrapers in Manhattan.
In addition to taking in the views, you can purchase a ticket for The Beam on the 69th floor which is a unique experience. This is something we plan to do next time we’re in the city and just another reason why you should visit Top of the Rock.
Pros And Cons
There are many reasons to visit Top of the Rock, but there are some negatives to visiting too. Here are a few pros and cons to help sway your decision:
- Up close and best unobstructed view of the Empire State Building
- Only observation deck with great views of Central Park
- View includes every other observation deck in one direction
- Educational and interesting exhibits about the history of Top of the Rock
- Both indoor and outdoor viewing spaces on multiple levels
- Unique ability to take photos over New York with no glass panels on the 70th floor
- Reasonably priced observation deck for what you get
- Not a one way system so you can visit floors multiple times
- Addition of The Beam in 2023, makes for a unique experience
- It’s the lowest elevation of an observation deck in NYC
- Crowds can be large at sunset
- No cafe, cocktail bar or restaurant available
- Outside viewing platforms can be extremely windy and cold
- Not as many frills as other NYC observation decks
- Difficult to see Lower Manhattan landmarks
- Lacks height and thrill compared to other observation decks
- Elevator ride is nothing special
Is Top Of The Rock Worth It?
Top of the Rock is one of the older observation decks in New York City and it offers a no frills experience. It’s not a one way system so you can revisit any level you want at any time. However, the exhibits and the elevator ride are only average, but this observatory offers the best views in the city.
This is our favorite observation deck because this is the closest vantage point to iconic landmarks such as the Empire State Building and Central Park. As professional photographers, we can take amazing photos from the 70th floor because there are no glass panels. We also really appreciate the basic experience coupled with the cheaper price.
Further Reading: Complete guide to Top of the Rock
NYC Observation Decks Ranked
There are many variables when it comes to selecting the best observation deck in New York City. The answer is not a one size fits all type of situation. So we’re going to rank each observatory by height, price, view and experience.
Highest Observation Deck
The graph above shows the highest points you can reach at each observation deck. An asterisk (*) means you’ll have to pay more than the basic ticket price to reach that platform. The highest observation deck in NYC is One World Observatory at One World Trade Center. Here are the rankings in order:
- One World Observatory: 102nd floor (1,268ft or 387m)
- Empire State Building: 102nd floor (1,250ft or 381m)*
- SUMMIT One Vanderbilt: Ascent elevator (1,210ft or 369m)*
- Edge at Hudson Yards: 100th floor (1,131ft or 345m)
- Top of the Rock: 70th floor (850ft or 259m)
The Edge City Climb is the highest point in New York City at 1,271 ft (387m), but we didn’t include this in our rankings. City Climb is technically not an observation deck, it’s classified as an experience and costs an additional $185/person.
Cheapest Observation Deck
The official winner for the cheapest NYC observation deck is Edge because a general admission ticket currently costs $36 per adult.
But if you wanted to visit an observation deck at sunset, One World Observatory is the cheaper option with no additional charge for the popular sunset time slot costing only $39 per adult (purchased online in advance for the $5.00 discount).
So the cheapest observation deck is Edge or One World Observatory depending on which time you choose to visit. Here are the rankings in order with sunset prices:
- Edge at Hudson Yards: $36 *($45 at sunset)
- One World Observatory: $39
- Top of the Rock: $40 *($50 at sunset)
- SUMMIT One Vanderbilt: $42 *($52 at sunset)
- Empire State Building: $44 – 86th floor *($54 at sunset)
Or if you have healthy budget and want to treat yourself in the city, the City Climb at Edge is the most expensive option. Here are the rankings for additional experiences:
- City Climb Edge: $185
- Top of the Rock VIP Pass: $160 (70th floor)
- Empire State Building: $79 (102nd floor)
- Ultimate SUMMIT One Vanderbilt: $76 (ascent elevator)
- One World Observatory VIP Tour: $69 (102nd floor)
There is no arguing all 5 New York observation decks offer amazing views, but which one is the best? After climbing each observatory multiples times, this is where we think you can find the best views:
- The best view for photographers is Top of the Rock. Unobstructed views from the 70th floor allow photographers to take great photos with no glare.
- The best view for influencers is SUMMIT One Vanderbilt. With sensory overload in almost every room, you can’t take a bad photo at this observation deck.
- The best view of Lower Manhattan is One World Observatory. If you want to see the Brooklyn Bridge, State of Liberty, Governor’s Island and close up views of Lower Manhattan, this is the option for you.
- The best view for sunset is Top of the Rock. With a location on the east side of Manhattan, you’ll experience the sun setting with One World Observatory, the Empire State Building, Edge and SUMMIT One Vanderbilt as the sun falls to the west.
Travel Tip: Sunset is the most popular time to visit the observation decks in New York so if you want to avoid the crowds visit early in the morning or after the sun has set at night.
Last but not least, if you’re looking to visit the best NYC observation decks for experience, here’s our rankings:
- The best elevator experience is One World Observatory. Not only will you ascend to the 102nd floor in 47 seconds, making it one of the fastest elevators in the western hemisphere, but the short film played during the ride showcases history dating back to the 1600’s.
- The best NYC observation deck for exhibits is the Empire State Building. With two impressive floors of information about New York, this where you’ll learn about the famous skyscrapers and history of the city.
- The best daredevil experience is the Edge City Climb. If you want to climb 1,271ft to the top of Hudson Yards to look out over the Manhattan skyline, this is the option for you. The only negative is the hefty price tag.
- The best observation deck location is Top of the Rock. This observatory features the most iconic landmarks including the best view of the Empire State Building and Central Park.
If you’ve gotten this far in our guide, you know the Top of the Rock is our favorite observation deck in New York City. While this is not the most impressive building compared to the other options, we think it offers the best views.
A general admission ticket gives you access to all three floors and you can move freely between each one. This is the best observation deck in NYC if you want a no frills experience with amazing views at a cheap price.
However, New York City is a magical place and seeing the city from a high vantage point is one of the best ways to appreciate the skyline. In addition to Top of the Rock, we always like to revisit the Edge or SUMMIT One Vanderbilt when we come back to the city.
If this is your first time in NYC, we recommend you visit two observation decks.
Pick one of the originals, Empire State Building or Top of the Rock. And then choose one of the modern options, One World Observatory, Edge at Hudson Yards or SUMMIT One Vanderbilt. This way you can personally witness the difference between then and now.
How To Save Money
All of the New York City observation decks are included on attraction passes with the exception of SUMMIT One Vanderbilt. We can tell you from experience because we visited all of these observatories with various passes when we lived here.
If you plan to visit an observation deck and other major attractions in the city, we recommend you consider purchasing an attraction pass because you’ll receive a discounted price. There are four main competitors and you should read our New York Pass Comparison before buying because one pass might be a better option for you.
Having used the NYC attraction passes ourselves when we lived in New York, we love the NY Sightseeing Pass because its extremely easy to use while offering both flexibility and big savings. And we have an exclusive 5-10% discount for our readers.
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Just keep in mind SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is not currently included on a New York Pass so if you plan to visit that observation deck, you’ll need to purchase tickets separately.
If you’re interested in the Empire State Building, the New York CityPASS allows you to visit both during the day and at night within 24 hours without an extra cost.
Two More Observation Decks
There are two more viewing platforms, we think are worth quickly mentioning, especially if you’re a returning visitor to the city and you’ve already climbed the 5 popular NYC observation decks.
Statue of Liberty Crown
A general admission ticket to the Statue of Liberty will give you access to both Liberty Island and Ellis Island. But did you know you could summit the crown in the world famous statue?
You’ll need to purchase a crown reservation on the official Statue City Cruises website. This is a unique experience where you’ll climb 162 steps inside the Statue of Liberty to view Manhattan and the Hudson River from 25 different windows. You can also visit the official NPS website for more information.
The Chrysler Building is an art deco skyscraper found on the east side of Manhattan next to Grand Central. It once held an observation deck on the 61st floor which closed in 1945 shortly after the opening of the Empire State Building.
In 2020, the Landmarks Preservation Commission approved plans for a new observation deck in the Chrysler Building. You can see the Curbed article here or the CBS news video here. While this observation deck has not been completed yet, it’s certainly one to keep on your radar.
More NYC Observation Decks
- How to visit One World Observatory
- Complete guide to Edge at Hudson Yards
- SUMMIT One Vanderbilt first time visitor guide
- Tips for visiting the Empire State Building
- Why you should visit Top of the Rock
- Empire State Building vs. Top of the Rock
More New York Guides
- Epic things to do in New York City
- Best New York City hotels
- How to visit New York in April
- The best 4 day NYC itinerary
- What NY attraction pass should you buy?
- 60+ best New York City photo spots
- Where to find the best NY pizza slice
- How to find the best bagels in NYC
Want more New York content? Head over to our New York Travel Guides to explore the Finger Lakes, Adirondacks and the best of NYC.
We hope this guide ranking the best NYC observation decks helps with planning your visit to New York City!
Please let us know if you have any questions about a specific observatory or New York City in the comments below.
Mark and Kristen
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Mark and Kristen Morgan are travel, hiking and photography experts. Over the last 6 years traveling full time, they have explored more than 40 countries and 30 US states.
Where Are Those Morgans has been featured in USA Today, Gestalten, Get Your Guide, CityPASS and Condé Nast Traveler along with various other publications. Read more about us.