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How to Pick the Best Observation Deck in NYC for You

How to Pick the Best Observation Deck in NYC for You

When visiting an iconic city like NYC, getting a view from above is generally one of the most anticipated attractions for all visitors. But in a city as famous as the Big Apple, there are of course going to be many great options to choose from. 

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a frequent traveler, choosing the best observation deck in NYC for you can be a bit daunting as it all depends on your personal preferences and priorities.

So to help you decide I’ve compared all the main factors of Summit One, The Edge, Empire State, and Top of the Rock in this article. 

Observation Deck Comparison 

To give you a quick overview of all the different observation decks in NYC, I put together this simple table that compares some of the biggest factors to help you choose. 

Highest Viewing platformTicket Price (Adult)Type of Viewing PlatformUnique FeatureWait Times
Summit One1,210 ft (369 m)$ 42Indoor & OutdoorGlass SkyboxesLongest
The Edge1,131 ft (345 m)$ 36OutdoorCity ClimbLong
Empire State1,250 ft (381 m)$ 44Indoor (Top floor) & Outdoor (86th floor) Classic Art Deco DesignMedium
Top of the Rock850 ft (259 m)$ 40Indoor & OutdoorOutdoor platform without glass wallsShortest

For a quick summary before we delve into all the details, Summit One has the biggest glass elevator in the world, The Edge provides a unique outdoor experience, Empire State is an iconic choice, and Top of the Rock offers classic vistas. 

Each has its charm, so read all the more detailed info below to choose the one that suits your style and budget. 

Summit One – Blending Art with Iconic Views

Perched atop the One Vanderbilt skyscraper, Summit One is an incredible immersive experience that goes beyond the view.

The basic entrance ticket gives you access to all 3 levels of the observation platform where you can experience four rooms of unique immersive art. The fascinating reflective surfaces everywhere make for great Instagram pictures and will give you such an interesting feeling while you take in the sprawling views across all corners of the city. 

If you’re looking for an incredible indoor/outdoor experience, the entire glass construction paired with the building’s wrap-around outdoor terrace gives 360° views ensuring you won’t miss any NYC landmarks. 

Before you go, don’t miss the Levitation experience, two glass boxes poking out from the building above Madison Avenue. Stand on a glass floor if you dare and enjoy an unobstructed view straight down to the street below your feet. It’s an exhilarating sensation, making you feel like you’re floating in the sky. 

For those of you who want to get even higher, for an additional fee, you can book a ticket for the Summit Experience. This unique glass elevator will whisk you up another 12 stories on the outside of the building before bringing you back down to the regular platform.

Ideal For: Summit One is perfect for photographers and anyone seeking unique Instagram photos in the immersive art. 

summit one Observation Deck in NYC

The Edge – NYC’s Newest Sky Deck

Offering a unique open-air experience that sets it apart, The Edge boasts the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere at an impressive height of 1,131 feet (345 meters) above the city streets.

The outdoor area has plenty of space for visitors to walk around and explore from all angles as well as sections of glass flooring for you to walk over and look straight down. The angled glass pannel walls let you lean over and get an exhilarating feeling as you come to grips with just how high you are, but if you’re looking for a real adrenaline rush, you should absolutely add on a City Climb experience. 

Claiming the title of the world’s highest open-air building ascent, booking a City Climb will allow you to walk up the outside of the skyscraper to an even higher platform more than 1,200 ft high where you can lean out from the open edge while supported by a harness. 

Ideal For: The Edge is perfect for anyone looking for a thrilling experience with plenty of outdoor space to enjoy the view. 

Observation Deck in NYC the edge

Empire State Building – An Iconic Landmark

Known worldwide for its classic Art Deco architecture, The Empire State Building is an iconic NYC landmark featured in countless popular movies (often the location of a picture-perfect meet cute). 

This timeless classic provides breathtaking panoramic views of the city with a unique old-world charm and from its elegant lobby to the Art Deco interior, it’s like stepping back in time. I think visiting the Empire State Building is absolutely one of the most romantic things to do in NYC!

If you’re a history enthusiast or a lover of classic architecture, the Empire State Building is a must-visit but it’s also a great choice for those who simply want to soak in the city’s beauty from a historic and iconic vantage point.

There are two observation decks here each with different ticket prices. The first of which is located on the 86th floor and provides an open-air experience with 360-degree city views. But for those who want to get even higher, the 102nd floor also holds an indoor observation level with floor-to-ceiling windows.

Two more floors are accessible to anyone with a ticket, both home to a number of exhibitions exploring the history and construction of the Empire State Building as well as some fun pop culture exhibits such as the interactive King Kong room. 

Ideal For: The Empire State Building is perfect for history buffs, architecture enthusiasts, and anyone who wants to experience NYC from a timeless and iconic location.

Top of the Rock – A Classic Choice

Located inside the Rockefeller Center, Top of the Rock is another observation platform that offers unbeatable city views in a historical setting. Sitting at a peak of 850 feet (259 meters) high, it’s not the tallest on this list but it still provides a unique perspective of the NYC skyline. 

One of Top of the Rock’s standout features is its three levels of observation decks. The highest deck’s 850 feet of elevation still gives you that incredibly high feeling, while the lower ones offer closer views of the city’s biggest icons

This tiered design not only means you can get many different angles of the city, but you also get to enjoy stunning vistas without the thick glass barriers found in some other decks as the 70th floor has no glass walls!

Ideal For: Top of the Rock is perfect for photography enthusiasts who want versatility in capturing the cityscape and those who prefer a less crowded atmosphere while still enjoying stunning NYC views.

Observation Deck in NYC

Things to Consider When Picking the Best Observation Deck for You

View Preferences: Do you prefer open-air views or want to stay safely inside while you enjoy the views? While all the viewing platforms on this list have an outdoor area, some offer more space to explore.  

Budget: While the basic prices are quite similar for each of the observation platforms, not all tickets include the full experience. For example, everything is included in the Top of the Rock ticket while to access the top floor of the Empire State Building you need to pay almost double.  

Crowds: All of the viewing platforms will get busy in peak seasons but some are of course going to be more popular than others throughout the year. 

Additional Experiences: Each of the viewing platforms includes different unique experiences such as historical exhibitions, art galleries, glass floors, external elevators, and more. If one of these peaks your interest, it’s probably going to be a big factor in how you decide which is the best observation deck in NYC for you!

Weather: Of course, you can’t always know what the weather is going to do during your visit but if you are visiting in winter when there is a higher chance of rain and strong winds, you may want to opt for one of the viewing platforms that offers plenty of indoor space. 

Location: If you’re short on time, you may want to pick one that is close to your hotel in NYC or at least some of the other attractions you wish to see.

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