The Top of the Rock Observation Deck at Rockefeller Center gives visitors the chance to take in some of the best NYC skyline views you can ask for.
Over the course of 3 floors, you will enjoy those views in every which direction. With Central Park to the north and the World Trade Center to the south, there is plenty of iconic scenery everywhere in between.
Read on to learn everything there is to know about the Top of Rock of New York City and what to expect out on a visit.
What's in this article?
- 1) Rockefeller Center Background & Things to Know
- 2) How to Get to Top of the Rock
- 3) Top of the Rock Tickets & Reservations
- 4) How Much Does the Top of the Rock Cost
- 5) Top of the Rock Hours
- 6) What is the Best Time to Go to the Top of the Rock
- 7) A Top of the Rock Experience
- 8) Is Top of the Rock Worth It?
- 9) Which is Better Top of the Rock or Empire State Building
- 10) Frequently Asked Questions
1) Rockefeller Center Background & Things to Know
While there are several observation decks in NYC, the Top of the Rock is one of the best one to choose from.
Located on top of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the Top of the Rock makes up the 67th, 69th, & 70th floors of the building. Throughout these floors you will find both indoor AND outdoor observation deck areas – something that is not offered at all observation decks.
In addition, the Top of the Rock observation deck is the northernmost deck in NYC. That means you will get the grandest view of the NYC skyline looking southbound compared to other decks around Manhattan.
While the Top of the Rock is surely one of the top highlights of the area, Rockefeller Center also offers more than just the observation deck.
→ At the bottom of the building you will find Rockefeller Plaza. In the wintertime, the famous Rockefeller Tree is located here as well as an ice-skating rink and winter market. In the summer time, the plaza is sometimes converted into a roller skating rink too.
→ Rockefeller Center is also a place with much history and you have the chance to take a tour to learn all about it. Art, architecture, and points of interest make up the area. You can buy The Rock Pass to combine the tour and the observation deck.
→ At Rockefeller Center you will also find the NBC Studios, where you can take part of separate tours and learn more about the history of the studio at Rockefeller Center.
→ In the past, the Rainbow Room and Bar SixtyFive (located on the 65th floor) were open to the public. As of now, these are only open for private events, but be on the lookout for potential future openings.
While there is a lot to enjoy during a visit to Rockefeller Center, this guide in particular will focus on the Top of the Rock observation deck. I hope by the end of reading through, you will have all the necessary information for a visit.
2) How to Get to Top of the Rock
The Top of the Rock is located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, which is located between 5th and 6th Avenues & 49th & 50th Streets. The entrance to the observation deck is on 50th Street.
My recommendation would be to enter Rockefeller Center from 5th Avenue, walk along the famous fountains, past the ice skating/roller skating rink and to the main entrance. This will give you the chance to enjoy some of the top points of interest prior to heading up to the top of the building.
You can get to the Top of the Rock by any way of transport including by foot, subway, taxi/Uber, or even CitiBike.
If coming in by subway, the closest station would be:
• 47-50th Streets Rockefeller Center | E, B, D, F, & M
• 49th Street & 7th Avenue | N, Q, R, W
• 51st Street & Lexington Avenue | 6
→ Check out this comprehensive guide if you are wondering on where to stay in NYC
3) Top of the Rock Tickets & Reservations
In order to visit the Top of the Rock observation deck, you must purchase tickets and reserve a certain time slot.
You can either purchase your ticket ahead of time or you can purchase tickets when you arrive. If you would like to remove the hassle of worrying about purchasing tickets on arrival, I would just recommend buying in advance.
This is especially true for those sunset hours, when you will want to guarantee you are up top and ready for sunset.
→ Note that if there is inclement weather, you do have the option to choose a different date/time slot for your visit.
There are a few different types of tickets to choose from including:
General Admission: standard ticket giving access to the 3 different floors of observation decks
Express Pass: includes an entry ticket with expedited entry & priority elevator access
VIP Tour: this will be of a more in depth experience as you get a VIP tour of the top of 30 Rockefeller and a visit to the Rainbow Room
Rockefeller Center Tour: mentioned earlier, you can also take part of more general Rockefeller Center tour (does not include admission to the observation deck)
Rock Pass: gives you access to the Top of the Rock observation deck & a Rockefeller Center tour
New York CityPASS: for $129, you have access to 5 major NYC attractions including the Empire State Building, American Museum of Natural History, Top of the Rock OR Guggenheim Museum, Statue of Liberty Ferry OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise, 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Museum. → Buy your CityPASS today
4) How Much Does the Top of the Rock Cost
Each of the various ticket options have different cost of entry. Here are the latest costs for the Top of the Rock:
General Admission: ($34 – $40)
+10 per ticket for sunset access (starts ~3 hours prior to sunset)
Express Pass: $75
VIP Tour: $110
Rockefeller Center Tour: $27
Rock Pass: $56
5) Top of the Rock Hours
The Top of the Rock observation deck is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year from 9:00AM to 11:00PM, with the last entry at 10:10PM (varying hours during holidays).
When reserving tickets, you can choose entry time slots for every 15 minutes (i.e. 5:00PM, 5:15PM, 5:30PM, 5:45PM, etc.). They didn’t seem to be too strict with these time slots, as I arrived around 20 minutes prior to my time slot and they let me right on up.
If you are visiting for sunset, I would recommend purchasing a time slot around 1.5-2 hours prior to sunset. This will give you enough time to get through security, through the exhibition, and up the elevators with plenty of time to spare.
Note: the tour options will have specific time slots to book. Once all done with the tours, you will get to visit the observation decks.
6) What is the Best Time to Go to the Top of the Rock
While the observation deck is open from morning until night, in my opinion the best time to go to the Top of the Rock is around sunset.
Getting to see the city from an elevated vantage point as the sun sets beyond the horizon is a beautiful site to see. While the weather may not always be perfect for sunset, there is also a chance that the sky turns different shades of red, orange, and yellow.
The main downside for sunset time at Top of the Rock is that it is also the most crowded time to visit.
During my time there, people were already lining up along the railings up to an hour prior to sunset. By the time sunset came around, there were crowds of people lining up.
If you don’t care as much for sunset, the quietest hours of the day will be right at opening time and near closing time. This may even give you the chance to experience the observation deck all by yourself.
7) A Top of the Rock Experience
Now that you have a bit of background about Top of the Rock, lets go through what an experience there is all about.
Entrance & Exhibition
After getting yourself to the entrance on 50th Street, you will enter the building and be welcomed to the famous staircase and chandelier. If you haven’t purchased tickets yet, you will do so prior to making your way up the staircase.
Once up the staircase, your tickets will be checked as you go through security and then onwards to the exhibition room.
Note: if you purchased an Express Pass ticket, you will go straight up on an elevator prior to the exhibition.
The exhibition room though is full of information boards where you can learn all about the history of the building.
If you were not aware, one of the most famous NYC photographs was taken at the Top of the Rock – Lunch atop a Skyscraper. Here you will be photographed (if you want to be) on a steel beam, and you can purchase the photos later on up top.
After the exhibition room, you will walk through a small cinema, where three different short films are played back to back. You can decide to watch one or all three before heading towards the elevators.
The elevators have an interactive ceiling as they take you straight up to the 67th floor.
There are three observation deck floors at the Top of the Rock – 67th, 69th and 70th. Here you will have both inside and outside views of the NYC skyline. Getting between the floors is done by some quick escalators and stairs, so no need to hop back in an elevator (unless needed).
The 67th and 69th floors will offer views with large panes of glass surrounding the exterior of the observation decks. While on the 70th floor you will find a much more wide-open view with no obstructions.
Below you can see a screenshot of the top of the building and where the 3 outdoor viewing decks are located.
The 67th floor just has the two eastern corners of the building. The 69th floor has a larger overall area to walk around the exterior. And the 70th floor makes up the middle of the building without those glass panes that can be found on the other floors.
Below are some photos from each one of the floors so you can get a better idea of what to expect depending on level.
Top Photography Spot
In my opinion, the top photography spot would be located on the 70th floor observation deck on the southeast side of the building. From here you will get sprawling views of the NYC skyline looking southbound and you will not have the 69th floor deck in the bottom of your photos.
If you head too far west along the 70th floor deck, you will begin to have the 69th floor deck creep into your photos. By staying more east, you will have the chance for the most unobstructed views (in my opinion).
Below is a photo of the area in general – getting right up to the edge where most people are standing will give you the top views of city.
What Buildings Can You See from Top of the Rock
A better question is what building can’t you see from the Top of the Rock. From the observation decks you will be able to take in views of each and every major landmark NYC skyline building.
These include the Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, the Edge, One Vanderbilt, the Chrysler Building, the Billionaire’s Row high-rises, Times Square, Hudson Yards, and plenty more.
Here are some up and close photos from many of these top highlights:
Can You See Central Park from Top of the Rock?
In addition to the NYC buildings that can be seen, you can also see Central Park looking northbound. You should be able to see the 843 acres of beautiful greenery along with some of the top water features of the park such as the Central Park Reservoir.
Lining the streets prior to the park, you will have all those Billionaire Row high-rise buildings, that have greatly changed the NYC skyline over the past several years.
8) Is Top of the Rock Worth It?
In my opinion, the Top of the Rock is certainly worth the visit. Getting to see the NYC skyline from above is an experience you will never forget.
As mentioned before, the Top of the Rock is the northernmost located observation deck in the city. So, from the top, you truly will get some of the most wholistic New York City views you can ask for.
Although it is not necessarily a cheap activity to take part of, I do believe it is well worth visiting during your time in New York.
I will say though, if you are already planning to visit another observatory, you may find the experience a bit redundant. However, if you are looking for an outdoor, unobstructed NYC observation deck experience, then Top of the Rock is right up there on the list.
9) Which is Better Top of the Rock or Empire State Building
This is one question that comes up often when it comes to NYC observation decks. If you had to choose only one, picking between the Top of the Rock and Empire State Building is no easy decision.
The Top of the Rock does offer some of the best unobstructed views from an observation deck from its 70th floor. There are no glass panes, fencing, or other obstructions that will get in the way of your views (besides other people).
In addition, since the Top of the Rock is located north of the Empire State Building, you will get some unbelievable views of the ESB itself.
When it comes to the Empire State Building, there are two main observation decks to visit. You have the outdoor deck on the 86th floor and the indoor observatory from the 102nd floor.
Both of these decks are obviously higher in elevation than the highest point of the Top of the Rock. So, you will have a higher vantage point of the city.
In addition to that, the Empire State Building is the one observation deck in the city to offer a sunrise experience. While this is only available on Saturday mornings, getting to see the first rays of light over the city is a truly special experience to take part of (see the photo below!).
While there are certainly some things that the ESB offers I will say that from the Empire State Building you will not have that one panorama photo that includes most of the NYC skyline. And of course, you won’t have the chance to take a photo of the ESB itself.
In addition, the outdoor observation deck at the Empire State Building does have a fencing that goes around, so you will need to sneak your camera or phone between the openings to get the shots you want.
I have a hard time believing you will go wrong here as both observation decks are truly beautiful experiences to take part of.
10) Frequently Asked Questions
To wrap up the article, I did want to just answer some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to the Top of the Rock.
Can You Bring Food to Top of the Rock?
According to the Top of the Rock, food is not allowed. However, I have a hard time believing they will stop you if you bring a small snack in your bag. Water is also permitted, so no worries about that.
Can I Bring a Bag to Top of the Rock?
Yes, you are allowed to bring a bag to the Top of the Rock. The only prohibited items are those that present a danger to visitors. These include weapons, knives, lighters, glass bottles, and flammable substances.
In addition, you cannot bring musical instruments, amplifiers, and speakers.
How Long Are You Allowed at Top of the Rock?
While you do have to book a certain entrance time slot, there are no limitations on the amount of time you are allowed at the Top of the Rock. You can literally spend the entire day there if you would like.
With that said, I would imagine for most people, around 1-1.5 hours is enough for a visit.
How Many Floors Does Top of the Rock Have?
There are three main floors at the Top of the Rock observation deck – 67th, 69th, and 70th. Connecting the 67th and 69th floors you will find an escalator. Between the 69th and 70th floors will be a staircase.
Is Top of the Rock Indoor or Outdoor?
You will find BOTH indoor and outdoor viewing areas at the Top of the Rock. So, if you want to spend some time inside (if it is too hot or cold outside), then you can still enjoy some views within the building.
If you want those more unobstructed views, then there is plenty of outdoor viewing areas to take advantage of during a visit.
What Do You Do at Top of the Rock?
Beyond walking through the exhibit on the second floor, the main attraction at the Top of the Rock is to enjoy the vast views of the NYC skyline.
While most of your time in NYC will be spent at ground level, an experience at the Top of the Rock will give you the chance to enjoy those panorama views from high above.
I hope you enjoy your time at the Top of the Rock observation deck in NYC. If you have any questions about the experience, feel free to write them in below.
Also don’t forget to check out the other New York itineraries and guides up on the site.
Have fun out there and safe travels!