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Everything You Need to Know about Summit One Vanderbilt

Everything You Need to Know about Summit One Vanderbilt

Whether you’re visiting NYC for the first time or just dropping by for a quick stopover, fitting an observation deck into your itinerary is an easy yet highly rewarding experience that allows you to see New York from a whole different aspect. 

Summit One Vanderbilt is one of the best observation decks in NYC and provides countless experiences that you will remember for years to come. 

But as with any busy attraction, there are a few things you should know before arriving to make your visit go as smoothly as possible. Here’s everything you should know before your trip to Summit One Vanderbilt!

summit one observation deck in nyc

Summit is more than just a viewing platform at the top of the One Vanderbilt building

This unique experience takes you on an immersive journey across 3 levels of interactive art displays incorporating mirrors and neverending glass which play with light to give you an incredible view of the New York skyline. 

As Midtown Manhattan’s tallest skyscraper, you’ll get unbeatable views from over 1,000 ft above the ground both inside and outside with a number of interesting elements to keep your visit exciting. 

Who can Visit Summit One Vanderbilt?

Anyone can visit Summit One Vanderbilt as the entire experience is fully accessible regardless of mobility issues, including those in wheelchairs.

Kids under 16 must be supervised by an adult at all times and strollers aren’t allowed. Other than this, it’s a great experience for the whole family to enjoy! 

Things to Do at Summit One Vanderbilt 

As I already mentioned, the experience at Summit One Vanderbilt is a multifaceted journey and there is a lot to see and do during your visit. 

1. Take Pictures of Interactive Art Exhibits 

Aside from the views, the entire Summit experience is based around four main interactive art exhibits by Kenzo Digital. As you progress throughout your visit you will be naturally guided from one to another but make sure to take plenty of time to experience them all. 

  • Transcendence 1: The first large room you enter is made almost entirely of glass and mirrors creating an endless reflection of the city. 
  • Transcendence 2: Located on the level directly above Transcendence 1, here you can look from above at previous artwork, and mirrored tunnels in the floor let you look down for an entirely different perspective. 
  • Affinity: This is what you have probably seen most on Instagram, this large room is filled to the brim with silver balloons and mirrors making an incredible photo opp. 
  • Unity: The last digital art experience you will see, here your face is shown in clouds that light up an entire wall. Upon arrival at Summit, you are asked to scan your face on a machine to allow for this to work. 

Along the way, you will also see one other artwork called “Clouds” by artist Yayoi Kusama. This room is filled with blobs of silver shapes all over the ground creating yet another way to see the city’s reflection. 

2. Ride the External Glass Elevator 

Another unique element that you will find at Summit One Vanderbilt is the largest external glass-bottomed elevator in the world

If you choose to experience “Ascent”, this glass elevator will whip you up an extra 12 stories on the outside of the building giving you a thrilling ride and one of the best views of the Empire State Building you can get at a whopping 1,210 ft.

Riding the glass elevator comes at an additional cost to your regular entrance ticket and the whole trip lasts just 5 minutes. So while you do get higher than the regular viewing platform, consider if it is worth the price for you. 

3. Step Out on a Glass Ledge 1,100 ft High

If the glass elevator sounds a little too scary or you simply don’t want to pay the extra, don’t worry as you can still have a similar experience with “Levitation” 

These are two glass boxes suspended above Madison Avenue where you can step out over the edge and see straight down between your feet. 

Since it is included in your regular entrance ticket, this is naturally quite a popular attraction. There are staff members stationed here to control the lines and each person is given just 30 seconds to keep the queue moving. 

The staff will also take pictures of you while you stand on the ledge which will be available for purchase at the end of your journey here. 

4. Walk Around the Outdoor Terrace

On the top floor, you will find the wrap-around outdoor terrace of Summit One Vanderbilt. While the outdoor section of Summit isn’t the main attraction and thus much smaller than similar outdoor viewing platforms in NYC, venturing out here is absolutely worth it to feel just how high you actually are. 

There are large glass walls for protection but make sure to bring a jacket as it can get quite brisk this high up in the air! 

5. Enjoy Cocktails and Snacks at the Cafe

Inside on the same level as the outdoor terrace, you will find the Nordic-style cafe called “Apres”. 

Here you can enjoy a cocktail and some snacks while you take in the panoramic views of New York City for as long as you like. 

6. Experience Beacon Mode at Night

If you are lucky enough to visit at night you can experience another incredible facet of this wonderful place as waves of colors light up both the inside and outside of the building

This turns all the artworks into a completely different experience as the reflections become even more alive. 

While visiting during the day is often best for a first-time visit, if you have visited an alternative NYC observation deck during the day before, visiting this one at night is a great addition. 

Tickets for Summit One Vanderbilt

Tickets to visit Summit One Vanderbilt can be bought onsite at the welcome desk however as this is a very popular experience, I highly recommend you book online in advance. Your tickets can be shown on your phone so there is no need to print them out.

There are 3 different ticket packages you can purchase: 

  • Summit Experience (Adults $42, Youth $36) – General admission to all levels except “Ascent” (Glass elevator)
  • Summit Signature Experience (Adults $56, Youth $50) – General admission as above plus Signature cocktail or mocktail included. 
  • Summit Ascent (Adults $62, Youth $56) – General admission to all levels plus the Ascent Glass Elevator experience. 

Youth tickets are available for kids from 5-12. Those 13+ are required to buy an adult ticket and children under 5 don’t need a ticket. 

TIP: If you’re hoping to visit with the fewest crowds, book the earliest time slot and aim to arrive at least 30 mins early to line up.

summit one vanderbilt

Summit One Vanderbilt Vs Other NYC Viewing Platforms

If you’re not quite set on visiting Summit One Vanderbilt yet, I have written an entire comparison that will help you choose the best observation deck in NYC for you here. 

But to give you a quick overview, here are some of the ways that Summit One Vanderbilt compares to other viewing platforms in New York City. 


If you include the Ascent elevator which takes you up a further 12 stories from the main viewing platform to 1,210 ft, Summit One Vanderbilt has the second-highest viewing platform in the city behind the Empire State Building’s upper level. 

Prices & Inclusions

Ticket prices for general admission to Summit One Vanderbilt fall in the middle of the pack when compared to other notable observation decks in NYC like Top of the Rock, Empire State, and the Edge. 

That being said, you get a lot of bang for your buck with tickets to Summit One as it includes the entire immersive experience over 3 different floors (except for the external glass elevator).

Unique Features 

I think that Summit One Vanderbilt also wins when it comes to uniqueness as it is so much more than a big, high room with a few exhibits. 

As I already mentioned, the entire experience is designed to flow from one element to the other with every minute of your interactive journey through art being exciting and super instagrammable. 

In addition to the art you also have the chance to step into the glass boxes overhanging from the building, ride a glass elevator on the outside of the building as well as drink and eat at a beautiful panoramic cafe. While the other observation decks have a handful of similar elements, there are not many that have them all. 

Wait Times 

As this experience is curated to be a one-way journey, the wait times to visit Summit One Vanderbilt can be quite long since they can’t let in too many people at one time. 

If you’re looking for a quick visit, quieter viewing platforms like Top of the Rock may be more suited as there is less to see which means people stay for shorter lengths of time. 


Each of the viewing platforms offers great views over NYC but Summit One offers many different angles and vantage points thanks to its multiple floors and reflective surfaces. 

Located across from the Empire State Building you can get amazing and uninterrupted views from here however you will always be behind glass. If you would like the opportunity to see a panoramic view without being hindered by thick glass, you should try the Top of the Rock. 

How to Get to Summit

Regardless of where you are staying in NYC, getting to the One Vanderbilt building couldn’t be easier as it is located right next to Grand Central Station in Midtown Manhattan

However, you cannot simply walk into the lobby of the building as this is not an entrance to the Summit. 

There are 3 ways to get to Summit One Vanderbilt:

From the Main Concourse of Grand Central Terminal

If you are arriving by train, make your way to the main concourse in Grand Central and look for the passage labeled “Subway, 42nd Street”. Continue until you reach “Vanderbilt Ave 42nd & 43rd Street” which will lead you into the basement of the One Vanderbilt Building. 

From Transit Hall in One Vanderbilt

Find the entrance on the corner of Vanderbilt Avenue and 43rd St and take the stairs down to the transit hall. Continue along the corridor until you see signs for One Vanderbilt where you will arrive in the basement of the building. 

From Street Level

Enter through the door between Vanderbilt and Madison Avenues at 45 East 42nd Street. Take the escalator to the basement and follow the signs. 

What to Expect at Summit One Vanderbilt

Wait Times

Even if you arrive at your designated time, you will need to wait in a queue with everyone else who booked the same time slot as well as everyone who is still remaining to enter from the previous time slot. 

This means that you will still have to wait for some time before you can enter despite having a specific time slot but it is usually only around 15 mins. 


Next, you will show your tickets and get given a wristband that will identify you throughout the experience. They will scan the wristband whenever you have your photo taken so you can easily view and purchase them at the end. 

The security is a simple walk-through metal detector and the staff will make sure you do not have any large items and are wearing appropriate shoes (no stilettos). 

Summit One Vanderbilt Movie

After security, they will shuttle you to watch a movie about the experience but this is optional, so if you are trying to beat the crowds feel free to skip this step and get your first picture taken. 

Preparation & Elevator Ride

Lastly, you will be given mandatory shoe covers that must be worn to protect the glass and mirrored floors, and sunglasses if you didn’t bring your own. 

Just before you ride the elevator to begin the experience you will also need to scan your face and wristband on a little machine so that it can be used for one of the art pieces later on. 

The final line is generally about 10 minutes wait for the elevator but the ride itself is very quick. Get ready for flashing lights and sounds as you go up in just 42 seconds.

91st Floor

Here your experience starts and incorporates all the activities I have mentioned earlier. 

  • Transcendence 1 Art
  • Reflect Art
  • Affinity Art

92nd Floor

  • Transcendence 2 Art
  • Levitation (Glass Boxes) 
  • Unity Art

93rd Floor: 

  • Apres Cafe
  • Open Air Terrace 
  • Ascent External Glass Elevator 
  • Gift Shop

Note that you cannot go back down once you have progressed to the next floor of the building so make sure you have seen everything you wanted to see before moving on! 

You’ll end your visit in the gift shop where you can look at and purchase any of the photos that were taken of you during your time at Summit One Vanderbilt. Once you’re done, simply ride the escalator back down to the elevator block to descend back to earth!

Length of Visit 

The official website for Summit One Vanderbilt recommends a visit time between 60 – 90 mins for the actual experience itself but that does not include much time to wait in lines and enjoy the cafe. 

I recommended allowing at least 2 hours for the whole visit and more if you want to take lots of pictures. If you’re visiting for sunset, you may want to have a much longer visit so you can experience all aspects of golden hour as well as “Beacon Mode” after dark.

What to Bring 

The first thing to understand about Summit One Vanderbilt if you are thinking about how to prepare is that there are lots of reflective surfaces everywhere, so wearing a dress or skirt is not the best idea

Here are some other things to think about: 

  • Sunglasses – the reflective surfaces make it very bright. 
  • Dresses, shorts, or tights – they will reflect what’s underneath
  • Comfortable shoes – high heels, work boots, or other shoes that may damage the floors are prohibited
  • Small backpack or purse – anything larger than a standard backpack will be denied 

There is no coat/bag check available on site and any items bigger than a standard backpack are prohibited, so make sure to leave them at home. 

However, you can bring strollers as an exception to the above rule but they must be collapsible or foldable (so no wagons). You will also need to take it with you throughout the visit. 

Best Time to Visit Summit One Vanderbilt

Summit One Vanderbilt is open all year round and can be experienced at any time of day however the best time to come is an hour before sunset

Arriving during golden hour allows you some time to enjoy the full extent of the reflections during daylight as you take some amazing pictures of yourself, but you also get to see the city light up at night alongside the unique Beacon Mode that is activated after dark. 

Visiting an observation deck at sunset is also one of the most romantic things to do in NYC and a great place to pop the big question if you’re looking for an incredible engagement story! 

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