If you’ve been following along on our blog, you also probably know that we visit New York frequently but we’ve always been too busy stuffing our faces with food. This happens to be the one city where food is more important than photos for us.
One of the things I’ve always wanted to do, but has been on the backburner, is see the dreamy city views from Top of the Rock. Touristy, I know, but it’s one of those things you have to do New York! You get a beautiful view of the Empire State building and Central Park.
Last month when we were in town for the Swiffer event, we were determined to go to at least one iconic New York photo spot, and we picked Top of the Rock. We heard it was much less crowded than Empire State Building, but the views are just as beautiful if not better.
How can you not love this view?
Also, how crazy is it that while we were there, we randomly ran into our friend, Katie, who we went on the Philippines mission trip with! Big city but small world.
Since we didn’t get to go at sunset, I gave it a little extra glow in my edit.
These sunglasses make everything look like sunset. 😍
THE CURRENT VIEW
The first time was in the middle of a sunny day in August, where it was so crowded. The second time we went was on a rainy morning in February with an umbrella in hand. We arrived at 7:50 am and were the first ones there. It was relatively empty for the first hour before people started slowly trickling in. We stayed until 10 am, and comparably there still weren’t that many people. You don’t get a golden glow, but the visibility wasn’t bad and the views were much more enjoyable without the crowds. We were, however, disappointed to find that the Central Park side is now obstructed by construction (as of Feb 27, 2018).
TOP OF THE ROCK HOURS
They open from 8 AM to midnight with the exception of holiday hours. The first elevator goes up at 8 AM and the last one at 11:15 PM.
Tickets are all for a specific time and date. If you’re unsure of when you want to go, you can buy an unscheduled ticket, but those have to exchange for timed tickets at the Box Office before you can enter. It’s also not guaranteed when open slots will be available, so it’s best to figure out when you want to go before purchasing tickets.
- Adults $34
- Children (6-12) $28
- Senior (62+) $32
- VIP Access $65 (avoid lines and get immediate entry)
- Sun & Stars Upgrade $15 per ticket (allows access twice within 24 hours)
The entrance is easy to find. Get onto 50th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, then look for the big red carpet under the “Observation Deck” sign. If you get there before it opens and don’t want to wait outside, head down to the Concourse level and there is an entrance there as well.
There are 3 levels of observation decks (67, 69, 70). Don’t waste your time on the bottom two and head straight to the 70th floor for an unobstructed view. The bottom two have safety glass surrounding it. If you want photos of yourself, the middle level was the least crowded.
PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS + WHEN TO VISIT
- No tripods or professional video cameras are allowed.
- Best Time for Photos: Sunset is the best for photography, but it is also the most crowded. Get there at least an hour before to get your prime photo spot. Early morning could also be a great option, but since they open at 8, you’ll never actually get sunrise. If you go in the winter, the latest sunrise this year was 730 am. Don’t forget to layer up! The Central Park side doesn’t look as pretty in the winter with all the dead trees, though.
- Lenses: We shot all our photos with a 16-35mm on a Mark III (full frame).
MORE TIPS FOR VISITING TOP OF THE ROCK NYC
- To Avoid Lines: Along with going on weekdays and right when it opens, buy tickets online, so you don’t have to wait in line at ticketing. If you really want to avoid all the lines, pick up a VIP Access ticket. It gets you immediate entry when you arrive, priority elevator access, and expedited security screening.
- Visiting Multiple NYC Attractions? We highly recommend you get the CityPASS. It saves you 40%. We previously did it for Atlanta and also here, and it saved us a lot of money. Just make sure you have enough time to visit them all within 9 consecutive days.
- Download the APP to get real-time information about the city’s architecture, history, and more.
- ALSO READ: 9 Amazing Things to Do in Rockefeller Center + 21 Things You Should Know Before Visiting New York
- Radio City Music Hall (0.2 mi / 2 min walk)
- MoMa (0.4 / 7 min walk)
- Broadway Theater District (0.4 / 7 min walk)
- Times Square (0.4 mi / 8 min walk)
- New York Public Library (0.5 mi / 11 min walk / 9 min by train)
- Central Park (0.6 mi / 12 min walk / 11 min by train)
It’s a shame that we haven’t visited many of the touristy spots. I know a lot of travelers like to turn their nose up at anything touristy (I don’t like crowds either. It’s even worse when you’re short like me because you get no fresh air!), but some attractions are worth visiting and are crowded for good reason. It’s good to experience it first hand.
We’re usually okay as long as the reality and our expectations aren’t too off (like the time we went to Iceland and thought we’d be enjoying nature in solitude). We went to TOTR in the daytime, which wasn’t bad at all. Next time we’re there in the winter, we’d love to do either sunrise or sunset. We also need to go ice skating at the rink of Rockefeller! All someday things…
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Have you been to Top of the Rock? What did you think? Was the view worth it? If you haven’t visited NYC, what’s a touristy spot that you wouldn’t mind checking out? Also, I’ll take any suggestions on hidden gems too! 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻