Is Top of the Rock worth your money?
Michel and I are no big spenders. Sleeping in a motel? Sure! Getting our lunch at a local supermarket? Yes! Walking instead of taking the public transport? If possible: of course! In New York we tried to keep our travel expenses within our budget. BUT there was one activity Michel and I actually spent serious money on: Top of the Rock. Visiting the Rockefeller center costed nearly $80 for two regular adult tickets. Was it worth it? YES!
In this blog post I will tell you exactly what you get to see during a visit to the observation decks. Are the views really that breathtaking? Which floor offers the best view? And I will provide you some practical tips, so you can get the most out of your visit (and your money)!
What is Top of the Rock?
Top of the Rock is a viewpoint, divided on three floors, of the Rockefeller Center (a large complex consisting of 19 commercial buildings). In the Rockefeller Center you can find lots of shops, food & drinks and the Radio City Music Hall. And you can try out your ice-skating moves outside on the famous rink.
The observation decks offer a panoramic view of New York city. The highest viewpoint is 260 m above the city. You can expect to see major highlights such as: the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, One World Trade Center, Central Park, Hudson River, East River, Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. Sound pretty good, right? And that’s just a short list, lol!
The entrance and way to the top
So what happens after you bought tickets? Can you just walk in and take the elevator to the observation decks? Well, you have to be a little patient. No too long, I promise! Once you pass security you will arrive at the Grand Atrium Lobby where you can admire the Joie Chandelier, specially crafted by Swarovski, made out of 14,000 crystals. Upside down this chandelier has the shape of the Top of the Rock!
Then you make your way through the mezzanine where you learn all about John D. Rockefeller Jr. and the creation of the Rockefeller Center. It’s amazing to see how these huge skyscrapers were created back in the day (between 1929-1940).
After that there’s a short photo stop where staff members let you walk the beam. Do you know that iconic image of construction workers eating lunch on a steel beam high above the city? You’ll be pretending to take their place on the photo, pretty funny! If you want you can pick up the photo later on in the gift shop, but you don’t have to (Michel is not a huge photo fan, so we skipped this part haha).
Be prepared for one last stop in the theatre to watch a video about the history of NBC and the Rockefeller Center (Rockefeller Center is the headquarters of NBC). We ended up seeing the video more than once, but overall it wasn’t too bad! It took us only half an hour from the entrance to the elevator (called Sky Shuttle). The elevator ride was really cool. It takes less than a minute (!) to bring you up 260 meters, wow! Hold tight, because you will be reaching the top in no-time.
Three observation decks
First deckMichel and I were eager to check out the fantastic view and this floor allowed us a first sneak peak. BAM! There was the Empire State Building right in front of me already. This made me so excited! On this deck you can also find a cute gift shop and the Radiance 3D wall. This wall is created by Swarovski and is made out of glass panels, blown glass, crystal clusters, and fiber-optic lighting. As gorgeous as the wall may be, we wanted to see more of the city view (we can be a little impatient sometimes, haha) so we did not spend too much time on the first deck.
The second deck, including the Breezeway (this room has a mind of its own – pretty cool!), is entirely outdoors but it’s enclosed with glass. However, that did not matter to me. It was finally time to start taking some photos outside! We got really lucky with the weather and were able to see quite far. What a magnificent view of New York. I could even see the Statue of Liberty. Can you spot it on my photo below?
The previous day Michel and I had been wandering in New York and mainly looking up admiring all those tall buildings. We felt sooo small! I know it sounds corny, but on the third deck it felt like we were standing on top of the world. I noticed other visitors weren’t as loud as before. It felt like everyone realized how incredible this city is and appreciated the view as much as we did. It left me speechless for a moment…In my opinion this is the best floor to take photos. This deck is completely outdoors and free of a glass enclosure.
Michel and I were fascinated of all the binoculars (don’t they look like funny little robots?) and we decided to both try one out. You can see REALLY far with them and we were able to spy in several offices, haha. Be sure to aim at what you’d like to see beforehand, because the binoculars only for work about half a minute. Or just bring enough quarters with you, lol.
Can you guess how high 432 Park Avenue is (that tall building sticking out below)? I found out that it’s currently the most narrow skyscraper in the world. This skyscraper is even higher than Top of the Rock: 426 m! I can only but dream of what an amazing view you must have if you live here…
Tip: install the Top of the Rock app for iOS or Android. This app teaches you all about the city’s architecture, historical & cultural landmarks, and neighborhoods with the 360 degree viewfinder. Google Maps or an old-fashioned map can help you locate all the New York landmarks as well.
Is Top of the Rock worth spending your money on?
Without a doubt: YES. From the moment you enter the Rockefeller Center up towards the elevator ride; this attraction knows how to make people excited. It may be a little busy, but now I know why this is such a popular place to visit. Once you reach the top you feel like the king/queen of New York city, haha!
The panoramic views can’t be compared with anything I had seen before at those rooftop bars. The energy you feel exploring this city feels even more powerful once staring at it from above. You get a truly new unique perspective on this beautiful city. I’m convinced you NEED to check out Top of the Rock when you’re visiting New York. It’s worth it.
Important practical information
How to get to Top of the Rock?
The main entrance is located on 50th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue. You can recognize the entrance easily by the big red carpet in front of the door. A second entrance is located on the Concourse level of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Check the website for directions and best way to travel.
When to visit?
Before visiting any viewpoint be sure to check the weather and timing of your visit. Imagine the weather is so foggy you barely see the Empire State Building. Plan wisely so you lower your chances of getting disappointed.
If you’re having a hard time to decide when to visit Top of the Rock you can upgrade your ticket to a Sun & Stars ticket. This ticket allows you to visit Top of the Rock twice within 24 hours (during the day and after sunset). And don’t forget to check the opening hours, so you won’t stand in front of a closed door (haven’t we all been there? I for sure have, oops!).
What kind of tickets are available?
There are different ticket options available to make sure you get the most out of your visit. We decided to go for regular tickets, but you can also go for a VIP access ticket or follow a guided tour. If you own (or planning to buy) one of the New York discount passes check out if Top of the Rock is included, so you can save out some money. And if you are travelling with a large group (students, travel professionals or corporate groups) you might want to check out the special offers.
How to get tickets?
Top of the Rock works with a timed ticketing system. You can either purchase your ticket online or at the Box Office (like we did). When you decide to buy tickets at the Box Office you have to realize immediate entry is not guaranteed and available times may be limited. We bought a ticket around noon and the earliest option available was 2,5 hours later. For us this turned out great, because we could enjoy a lunch and have a walk in-between. But be aware of the fact the day might be fully booked!
If you know you want to visit Top of the Rock, but are unsure about the exact time then I would recommend to buy an unscheduled ticket. You can easily exchange these tickets for timed tickets at the Box Office prior to your entry. Or to avoid all the fuss: just buy a ticket and pick a time right away. That’s the easiest option and you’re assured of the best time for you.
What can I bring along during my visit?
Please be aware of the fact there is a security checkpoint before you enter Top of the Rock. Please check the website to see if you’re meeting the requirements. My own personal advice: bring you camera (duh!).
Psssst, can’t get enough of NYC?
Check out my Instagram New York story for more behind-the-scenes videos, our favorite food/drinks spots and more!