The Top of the Rock is for many, Manhattan's favourite observation deck. For its location in the centre of the city, its wonderful views and its history.
It is located in the Comcast Building at number 30 Rockefeller Center and has three observatories, located on the 67th, 69th and 70th floors, which offer different experiences. The tour is very entertaining, as before you get to the top you'll find other exhibitions, shops and cafes.
I'll tell you all about what this great work of the Rockefeller family has to offer, which has been wowing visitors since 1939.
First impressions on arrival at the Top of the Rock: the Grand Lobby and the ascent
After touring Rockefeller Center with its shops (and if you visit Rockefeller Center at Christmas time, its famous ice skating rink "The Rink"), you will arrive at 30 Rockefeller Plaza or Comcast Building.
There, on 50th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue, you will find the entrance to the Top of the Rock. Impossible not to recognise it, a large red carpet and an "Observation Deck" sign will show you where to begin this well-deserved experience.
You will probably also recognise the entrance from the long queues of visitors waiting to get in. I recommend that you buy your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment and to speed up the tour, thus saving yourself an incalculable wait.
The Grand Atrium Lobby
As soon as you enter, you will begin to enjoy the Top of the Rock experience in the Grand Atrium Lobby. You'll enter a three-storey Art Deco lobby with a grand golden staircase. And in the centre, you'll see a fabulous Swarovski crystal chandelier called "Joie Chandelier", designed by Michael Hammers for the reopening of the observation deck in 2005.
From there you will have to go down to the lower floor where you will find the ticket offices, the lifts and from where you will officially start your visit.
Lockers and lift
On the lower level of the foyer you will find the ticket offices and lifts. If you already have timed tickets, because you bought them in advance online, just scan the QR code or present the printed tickets and you can start your tour.
If, on the other hand, you have untimed tickets or you have to buy them, you will have to go to the ticket offices to buy your ticket.
Once you have your ticket in hand, you can take the main staircase or the lifts to the first floor.
The Mezzanine Exhibit, the first stop on Top of the Rock
The tour of the observatory begins on the first floor, "Mezzanine Exhibit". There you will be able to enjoy a modern multimedia exhibition about the building and the Rockefeller Center complex, its history, curiosities, as well as information about the prestigious founding family.
In the same exhibition, you will also find the "Beam Walk". This is a space dedicated to the mythical photo of the workers having lunch, sitting on a beam hanging in the heights, does it ring a bell? That photo was actually taken during the construction of Rockefeller Center in 1932 and you will have the chance to recreate it. You will be able to take a photo of yourself simulating being suspended on a scaffolding hanging in the void. Please note, this photo is not included in the ticket price.
Finally, before going up to the Top of the Rock, you can make one last stop at the Theatre to watch a short documentary about NBC, the famous television network that has its offices in the same building.
The Sky Shuttles, the 4 shuttles to the top of the Top of the Rock
Finally, you're about to get to the top, to the very top of the Top of the Rock. The lifts are another experience in itself. Why? Because in just 42 seconds they will transport you...over 200 metres! Just as you read it, get ready for your stomach to tingle.
The lifts simulate time capsules. Through their transparent roof and screens, you will see the acceleration from the bottom to the top, while images of the history of Rockefeller Center and its evolution over time are projected, divided by decades.
And in less than a minute, without giving you time to imagine anything, you'll reach the 67th floor, the doors will open and voilà, you'll see the Empire State Building.
What the three Top of the Rock observation decks look like
One of the peculiarities of the Top of the Rock is that it has three observation decks, each offering different experiences. Originally, it was designed to simulate the shape of an ocean liner. It was even decorated to evoke the characteristics of the decks of a ship. Over time in its restoration and rejuvenation, contemporary forms and designs were combined with the Art Deco style of the 1930s.
First observation deck, 67th floor
When the doors of the meteoric lifts open, you will reach the 67th floor, the "Grand Panorama Room". This floor, where you'll also find the gift shop, is almost completely enclosed. However, its glass windows allow you to explore the skyline from north to south.
If you go in winter, it's an ideal place to spend a long time taking photos and enjoying the panoramic views.
On the same floor you can also have fun in the "Breezeway" room , full of moving LED lights, and enjoy another work by Michael Hammers with Swarovski crystals, "Radiance Wall".
Once you've finished your warm-up for heights, you'll find the escalators that will take you to the next level - there's plenty of vertigo ahead!
Second observation deck, 69th floor
This observation deck is open air, so get your camera ready because the views just keep getting better and better. Although for safety reasons it's surrounded by glass almost 3 metres high, you'll be able to see the city in 360 degrees. Two huge terraces await you there, offering views of Manhattan from the north to the south of the city. From Central Park and Harlem to Midtown and the Financial District.
From this 69th floor, the panoramic views are breathtaking, so much so that on clear days, the visibility from the Top of the Rock can be up to 130 kilometres around.
Third and last observation deck, 70th floor
This last observation deck is accessible both by lift and stairs and is the star of the Top of the Rock, without a doubt. It is a terrace that is completely open-air, with no glass or other elements that hinder visibility (or photos).
And although it is smaller than the other floors, it allows us to move 360 degrees perfectly, giving us access to unparalleled views of New York. From there, all the skyscrapers seem small and time takes forever to observe the beauty of the skyline.
Luckily, there is no maximum time limit, so when you get to the top of the observation deck, you can stay as long as you want and as long as you need to, so you can take home the best memories of this experience.
Ceci's Traveller Tip
From the 70th floor, you can see the terraces on the 69th floor. So if you go with someone else, you can ask your companion to take a photo of you from the highest floor with the skyline in the background!
The view of Manhattan from the Top of the Rock
The panoramic views of the Big Apple from this observation deck are unique. You can spend hours discovering places from the top and take home New York postcards for the whole family.
I'll give you a preview of what you'll be able to see from the sky above Rockefeller Center, but these are just some of the attractions of the views from the Top of the Rock. The list is as endless as the skyline itself.
Views to the north
- Central ParkCentralPark, almost in its entirety, disappearing into the skyline.
- Upper East Side, Upper West Side and Harlemneighbourhoods
- The Hudson River in the distance and the George Washington Bridge
- Times Square and its brightly lit buildings
- Along the river you'll also see the new Hudson Yards neighbourhood and the Edge Observatory.
Views to the south:
- The Empire State Building, in the foreground
- In the distance, Downtown, the One World Trade Center and another viewpoint, the One World Observatory.
- The Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island
And if you still can't decide between the Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building
This is one of the perennial questions travellers face when planning a trip to New York. If you've read all about the incredible experience that awaits you at the Top of the Rock, I invite you to check out this article with a comparison between climbing the Empire State or the Top of the Rock.
No one can decide for you, but this article might clear up some of your doubts. If not, you can always complete your New York experience by going to both!