Rockefeller Center is an iconic place in New York City – not only before Christmas, when they put up the large Christmas tree and give you an enjoyable skate on their ice rink. Many tourists tend to forget that Rockefeller Center is indeed not one building, but a complex of nineteen ones. However, you simply connect this area with Top of the Rock, the observation deck at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the 260 meter 66 story building. It already opened in the mid-1930 – I went there in October 2022.
Top of the Rock – Location & Admission
You typically access Top of the Rock from 50th street, more or less right across Radio City Music Hall. However, the in-fact entrance is in the underground shopping mall-style connections underneath the Rockefeller Center. The closest Subway Station is 47-50 Sts-Rockefeller Ctr, which is served by the lines B, D, E, F and M. There are a lot of other key attractions in close proximity, e.g. the Museum of Modern Art, St. Patrick’s Cathedral or Times Square. The hotels we stayed in, on this trip Conrad New York Midtown and Hilton Garden Inn New York/Central Park South (both 54th St), were both just a short walk away.
Top of the Rock is one of the most iconic observation decks in New York. It typically opens from 9:00 hrs to midnight. The online general admission ticket, which comes with a fixed time slot, but also the possibility to move the slot in case of bad weather, has a nominal price of 40 USD (43.55 USD after tax). If you want to be at Top of the Rocks during sunset, there is an additional 10 USD plus tax fee. There are also express passes, which allow you to skip the line (from 85 USD) and a VIP Tour (125 USD). My wife and I used the New York Sightseeing Pass in October 2022, which was very handy and gave us a time slot some 15 minutes after our arrival.
Top of the Rock – The Visit
You walk through a bit of an exhibition, before standing in line to get up to the observation decks. In fact, you initially line for the typical commemorative (and not included in your ticket, if you are not VIP) picture. You cannot bypass that area, which is then more or less the last stop of your tour before you head up to the elevators. You also see the Swarovski Chandelier on this part of your visit. Waiting for the elevator took us much more time than waiting for a time slot (overall, some 20 to 30 minutes).
In fact, there are multiple platforms that range from the 67th to the 69th floor of the building. Finally, you could also visit the roof deck. However, even though the rest of the Top of the Rock visit felt to be somehow relaxed (or at least: bearable), the very upper point you can reach was absolutely packed and stressful and home of (too many) influencers and rude French tourists during our visit. Thus, I did not feel to take some pictures from there. As you see in the pictures below, there was also a small arts exhibition due to a Mexican holiday during our visit. A smaller platform is also used for private events.
Views from Rockefeller Center
Even though they claim that their roof terrace is the “best one in NYC”, which sounds like typical US marketing, Top of the Rocks indeed offers great views of the city. The key factors are the good location, just five streets away from Central Park and that the view is still unobstructed by other skyscrapers. Another key factor is that you indeed have a view in any direction. You even have a great view of its main peer in the area, the Empire State Building. However, Top of the Rock is rather North if you want to see Financial District or even the Statue of Liberty. If you are interested in these areas, One World Observatory might be an excellent choice.
Top of the Rock – Services
You leave Top of the Rock through the subway level mall area. There is a – surprisingly small and narrow – souvenir store close to the exit. Top of the Rock feaures another souvenir store on observation deck level itself. Furthermore, you may use an audio guide. Getting out of that underground area, by the way, is not too easy. There is a lack of directions at some point.
Top of the Rock – My View
Top of the Rock is a classic – and it is a great observation deck at that part of Manhattan. The lines are reasonable – only the “fighting for a spot” on the roof terrace is significantly reducing the enjoyment of visiting the classic skyscraper. The lower decks are cool, though, as well. Is the price worth it? Finally all the observation decks are no bargains, but you can look out for deals and then go for the option which is most convenient to you.
Views from Above (USA)