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Guide To Visiting Top Of The Rock In New York City

Guide To Visiting Top Of The Rock In New York City

Top of the Rock in New York City is one of the two original observation decks. It features three levels with both indoor and outdoor viewing platforms so visitors experience stunning views of Manhattan. You can visit everyday from 9:00am to 11:30pm with tickets starting at $40 for adults.

In this guide, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know for visiting Top of the Rock including tips we learned during our trip.

Our NYC Experience

Woman standing alone at Top of the Rock observation deck
Kristen enjoying the views from the 69th floor of the observatory

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 places to visit in the USAWe’ve visited Top of the Rock multiple times over the years. It’s our favorite observation deck in the city because it offers a no frills experience with amazing views at a cheaper price.

What Is Top Of The Rock?

The Rockefeller Christmas Tree and Ice Rink
Famous Rockefeller Christmas tree and ice rink

The Top of the Rock is an observation deck located at the summit of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. This building is one of the 14 original art deco structures within the Rockefeller Center complex. The observatory is spread between the top 3 floors featuring a panoramic 360° unobstructed view from the 70th floor.

Constructed in the early 1930s by the Rockefeller family between 5th and 6th Avenue, today it’s filled primarily with office space. The complex also includes Radio City Music Hall, the Rink at Rockefeller Center and it’s home to the annual lighting of the Rockefeller Christmas tree.

Directions

Red carpet at observation deck Entrance
Red carpet entrance to the observation deck

The Rockefeller Center is sandwiched between Times Square and Central Park in Midtown Manhattan between 48th and 51st Street as well as 5th and 6th Avenue. You’ll most likely recognize the prominent building from the street before heading to the entrance.

Access to the building entrance is on W 50th Street, closer to 6th Avenue and opposite Radio City Music Hall. A bright red carpet with Top of the Rock in huge letters awaits you outside. It’s open daily from 9:00am to 11:00pm.

  • Address: 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112
  • Location: Google Maps

You can get to Top of the Rock observation deck in many different ways including subway, bus and car.

Here are subway options:

  • B, D, F, M trains: Take train to 47th-50th St Rockefeller Center
  • N, Q, R, trains: Take train to 49th St and walk east on 49th St to Rockefeller Center
  • 1 train: Take train to 50th St then walk east on 50th St to Rockefeller Center 
  • 6 train: Take train to 51st St then walk west on 50th St to Rockefeller Center 

Here are bus options:

  • Broadway: Take the M7 bus and exit at 50th St then walk east to Rockefeller Center
  • 5th Ave (south) or Madison Ave (north): Take the M1, M2, M3, M4 or M5 bus to 50th St
  • 49th St: Take the M50 bus then exit between 5th and 6th Ave

Discounted parking is available at the Rockefeller Center SP+ garage located on 53 West 48th Street. Grab your parking spot and discount here. You can also arrive by Uber, Lyft or taxi but this might not be the most cost effective option.

 

Top Of The Rock Tickets

Tickets for Top of the Rock observation deck
Our General admission tickets with the ESB in the background

You’ll need a ticket to visit Top of the Rock. There are three main ticket options, but if you choose to visit during the sunset slot, you will pay $15 more for your ticket.

The general admission ticket grants you access to all 3 levels of the observation deck with no time limit. While the two other ticket options include additional add ons. Here are the three tickets options explained in detail:

  • 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.

Travel Tip: Children ages 5 and under can visit for free. Seniors aged 62+ will also receive a small discount.

Where To Purchase Tickets

Woman with viewfinder and Empire State Building in background
Kristen at 70th floor posing for a photo with Manhattan

There are many ways to purchase Top of the Rock observation deck tickets. You can buy directly from the official website here or onsite at Rockefeller Center. You can also purchase an entry ticket 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 and reviews to see if you can beat it.

If you plan to visit several of New York City’s top attractions, we recommend you consider purchasing an attraction pass. We used both a New York CityPASS and NY Sightseeing Pass to visit this observation deck.

We recommend the NY Sightseeing Pass because it’s extremely easy to use while offering both flexibility and big savings. Top of the Rock is included with this pass and we have an exclusive 5-10% discount just for our readers.

Want To Save Money In NYC?

Use the button below to claim 5-10% off any NY Sightseeing Pass.

You can also read our detailed NYC attraction pass comparison to help you decide which pass you should purchase for your visit.

Travel Tip: If you visit Top of the Rock with a NY pass, you won’t have to pay the extra $15 for the sunset time slot.

Top Of The Rock Walkthrough

Top of the Rock observation deck
Street view of the towering observation deck

At Top of the Rock , you’ll experience three different floors and learn about the history of this influential building. But unlike many of the other New York observation decks, Top of of the Rock is not a one way system.

You can travel between each floor at your convenience and revisit any of the previous floors whenever you want. There is also no time limit to how long you can stay so you can really use this to your advantage.

In this next section, we’re going to give you a detailed walkthrough including the best things to do at Top of the Rock and exactly what you can expect.

1. Main Entrance

As you enter through the street level entrance, you can climb the stairs or take the elevator to the beginning of the observation deck. But before you make your way to the next level, be sure to admire the stunning Joie Chandelier made from 14,000 crystals showcased in 450 gorgeous cascading strands.

Once you show a timed entry ticket, you’ll be lead through security for a bag check. Every time we’ve visited, this line has moved extremely quickly and only took a few minutes, but it can be very busy in summer. After you pass through security, you’ll now be able to explore the Mezzanine exhibit.

Travel Tip: The Joie Chandelier was made by Swarovski. It hangs an impressive 3 stories and is meant to look like the Top of the Rock from upside down.

2. Mezzanine Exhibit

Visitors at exhibits at Top of the Rock
Visitors getting their picture taken on the Beam

This first exhibit is one you should not miss because it features interesting history of the Rockefeller Center. There are multiple exhibits and you can choose what you want to read.

You will also learn about John D. Rockefeller and what it took to create this observation deck. We won’t give any information away so you can learn all the facts during your trip.

Need help organizing your visit to NYC?

Our popular 50+ page New York City Guidebook can help you with planning every aspect of your trip.

3. Iconic Photo

Top of the Rock iconic photo of construction workers
1932 photo Lunch Atop a Skyscraper

As you continue walking through this section, you’ll come across the very famous photograph of construction workers eating lunch on a steel beam over the city.

This iconic photo was taken during the construction of this building which is pretty cool to think about. You can choose to have the same photo taken on the interactive beam at the top of the observation deck if you’re brave enough.

Further Reading: Best New York quotes for social media

4. Top Of The Rock Theater

Top of the Rock theater
Large viewing theater at TOR

Before heading to the elevators, the last stop is the theater. There are three short films you can choose to watch or you can continue to the sky shuttle elevator.

The three short films at include:

  • NBC & Rockefeller Center, An American Tradition
  • The history of the Rockefeller Center
  • The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Travel Tip: Each short clip has a 4 minute run time and they run on a loop.

5. Sky Shuttle Elevator

Elevator experience and light show at Top of the Rock
Illuminated elevator shaft at Rockefeller Center

As you step into the sky shuttle, get ready to experience a climb of 850 feet in 42 seconds. This elevator has a glass ceiling and will terminate on the 67th floor of the Rockefeller Center. Be sure to look up to see a light show projected against the glass and watch an animation about the history of New York City.

6. 67th Floor

One of the best photo spots at Top of the Rock

As you step out of the elevator, you’ll now be on the 67th floor. This floor is filled with iconic photo locations and multiple viewing platforms. The enclosed room has large windows which create natural frames for the surrounding views of Manhattan.

There are also two additional outdoor platforms with large glass panels for you to take in the skyline. One of the best NYC photography locations is located in the window sill near the first outdoor viewing platform as you come out of the elevator.

There will most likely be a long line for this photo spot so it’s pretty easy to find. If you look out the window, you can see the Empire State Building standing right in the middle of the window frame. So sit on the frame and get your perfect photo!

On the 67th floor, there is also another interesting creation by Swarovski known as the Radiance Wall. It’s made from glass panels, blown glass, crystal cluster and fiber optic lights. Look closely for crystal figurines and tiny animals in the wall.

As you head to the escalators for the next floor, you’ll pass by a small gift shop which sells unique souvenirs.

7. 69th Floor

Visitors on Top of the Rock observation deck
Visitors at the 69th floor of the Rockefeller Center

As you make your way up to the next floor via escalator, this next floor offers a 270° outdoor viewing platform with a breezeway. The platform faces north, west and south from behind large glass panels. The deck is fairly wide and can fit a substantial amount of people. There is also another small gift shop.

As of December 2023, visitors can pay an extra $25 to sit on a replica of a steal beam while they are lifted 12 feet and spun 180 degrees over the observation deck floor to enjoy the views of Manhattan and Central Park.

The Beam interactive exhibit allows visitors to recreate the 1932 photograph, Lunch Atop a Skyscraper. Just to give you a perspective, this beam is 800 ft above New York City. So try it if you dare!

If it’s windy or cold, the breezeway is a good place to hide from the elements. Once you enter the breezeway, a color will be assigned to you which will follow your every step throughout the room. If you’re traveling with kids, they will love this space.

8. 70th Floor

70th floor observation deck platform with many visitors
Unobstructed views of the 70th floor

As you climb the stairs to the third and final floor, this is the true climax of Top of the Rock in New York City. The 70th floor offers full 360° unobstructed views without glass barriers.

However, this floor is smaller compared to the other two levels and it can get extremely crowded. The entire space is shaped like a rectangle and there are two main sections so be sure to visit both sides. Below are the iconic sights you can expect to see in each direction:

  • Northeast: Central Park
  • Southeast: Chrysler Building, Brooklyn
  • Southwest: Empire State, One World Observatory, Midtown, Lower Manhattan, Hudson Yards
  • Northwest: Hudson River

After you finish taking in the views and snapping some photographs, you can choose to leave the observation deck or visit one of the previous floors. As you exit, you will pass through another gift shop.

Travel Tip: The Sky Lift is set to open on the 70th Floor sometime in 2024.

Best Time To Visit

Sunset setting over Manhattan skyline from Top of the Rock
Gorgeous Manhattan sunset from the observation deck

The best time to visit Top of the Rock is one hour before sunset. This is the perfect time of day because you’ll be able to see the skyline in the daytime, while the sun sets and at night. Golden hour offers the softest light which is the best time of day to take photos.

However, this is also the most expensive and busiest time to visit. If you want to avoid the crowds, we recommend you visit early in the morning or after the sun has set. As we mentioned earlier, there is no limit to how long you can stay at the top.

We’ve visited multiple times of the day including sunset, night and early morning at 9:00am. If you want to avoid the crowds, early morning will be your best option. We like sunset because Midtown is illuminated under an orange glow. At night, the Empire State Building irradiates beautifully right in front of you which you won’t see anywhere else.

Tips For Visiting

Perspective shot of Empire State Building from Top of the Rock
Empire State Building and SUMMIT One views from Top of the Rock

We’ve covered everything you need to know in this guide, but here are a few important tips for your visit:

  • Purchase your tickets in advance – If you want to visit at sunset, you’ll need to purchase tickets online well in advance to secure your time slot.
  • Bring a jacket or coat – With three levels of outdoor viewing platforms, you’ll want something to keep you warm when you’re up so high.
  • There are no restaurants – Make sure you’re not hungry when visiting because there are no places to eat at this observation deck. But you can find food in the Rockefeller Center here.
  • Be patient when taking photos – If you’re trying to take a photo from one of the outdoor viewing platforms, you may have to take a few shots or wait for the wind to die down. Be patient and enjoy the views.
  • Visit out of season – Summer months are going to be very busy, especially at sunset. Consider visiting New York in April or another shoulder month to avoid crowds.

Pros And Cons

We personally enjoyed our visit to this observation deck, but there were a few negatives to visiting too. Here are a few pros and cons to help sway your decision:

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • 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

In Conclusion

Funny selfie with man and woman at Top of the Rock
Mark and Kristen taking a funny selfie from the 70th floor

We like this observation deck because it offers gorgeous views of the Empire State Building you won’t get from any other observation decks in New York City. The iconic building almost seems like mirage that you can reach out and touch.

So is Top of the Rock worth it?

Yes, Top of the Rock is worth it because it’s one of the original observation decks in New York City. According to TripAdvisor, this experience is consistently rated a 4.5/5.0 with thousands of positive reviews. We completely agree with these ratings.

This is our favorite observation deck in New York City. The exhibits are informational and the views of Manhattan are stunning, but it’s the Empire State Building view that takes the cake for us. We also like the no frills experience and cheaper price compared to other options in the city.

Further Reading: Top of the Rock vs. Empire State Building

You can even now recreate the famous photograph of constructions workers sitting high in the Manhattan skyline which easily makes this a must do on any New York itinerary. An average visit usually lasts around 45 minutes so be sure to give yourself enough time.

Top Of The Rock Photos

We took many photos at this observation deck because it was such an incredible view. Here are a few of our favorite images to inspire your visit:

Obstructed view of Chrysler Building from Top of the Rock
Obstructed view of the Chrysler Building from top
View of Central Park from Top of the Rock
Central Park view from the observatory
Woman pointing to Empire State Building and I Love NY sign
Kristen pointing to the I Love NY sign with Empire State Building in the distance
The Manhattan skyline with SUMMIT One Vanderbilt and Empire State Building
Manhattan skyline at night from the observation deck
Empire State Building with I love NY sign
69th floor with large glass panels
Woman on Top of the Rock looking at Central Park
Kristen soaking up the views of Central Park
Compass, viewfinder and Empire State Building view
A view finder and glass panels on the 69th floor
Sunset behind Edge at Hudson Yards
The sun setting behind Edge at Hudson Yards

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We hope this guide to Top of the Rock helps with planning your visit to one of New York’s original observation decks!

Please let us know if you have any questions about this observation deck or New York City in the comments below.

Happy Summiting,

Mark and Kristen

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