5 Iconic Observation Decks in NYC ✨
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This post has been updated on January 1, 2024 to reflect updated ticket prices.
The New York skyline is the most recognizable skyline in the world and defined by historic, as well as modern skyscrapers such as the Empire State Building and the One World Trade Center. One photo and everyone knows where you are! As much as we like to admire these buildings from far though, nothing beats the views from their observation decks.
Over the last couple of years, many new platforms have been added to the list. Each one of those observation decks is unique and comes with a different, but always magnificent panoramic view of Manhattan. Which is why it’s so difficult to pick one! To make the choice a little bit easier for you, here are the 5 most iconic observation decks in NYC, rated by their views, best time to visit and ticket price.
Empire State Building
One of the oldest observation decks in NYC is located in Midtown Manhattan, on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. Almost everyone who’s ever been to New York will tell you “I’ve been to the Empire State Building”, and their choice was the absolute right one. It’s just a New York thing! Even King Kong enjoyed the view (spoiler alert: you’ll meet him on your way up).
The main observatory is located on the 86th floor at a height of 1,050 feet. This guarantees a spectacular 360-degree view of New York. Surrounded by top attractions such as Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge, this outdoor observation deck is also a very popular wedding location. Good to know: during the winter months the building installs an outdoor heating system to keep you comfy. Tickets to the main deck start at $44 (price last checked in 2024).
You’ll also have the option to visit the so-called “Top Deck”, located on the 102nd floor at a height of 1,250 feet. This one’s enclosed though and a combined ticket (86th and 102nd floor) starts at $79 (price last checked in 2024). So, is it worth visiting the 102nd floor? It depends. If you only have a couple of days in New York, then we’d say, go for it. If you have a little bit more time, why not use the ticket price difference to explore one of the other observation decks in NYC!
Best time to visit: ☀️🌙
One World Observatory
The One World Observatory, on top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, the One World Trade Center, opened its doors to the public in March 2015. And while it’s still one of the newest observation decks in NYC, it bears a significant history that can be explored in and around the building. From the 9/11 memorial to the building and the observatory itself.
The journey to the One World Observatory starts with the “Skypod Pass” (starting at $44 – price last checked in 2024). This pass grants you access to the elevator that takes you to the 102nd floor in just 47 seconds. During the ride, the elevator turns into a time capsule as its floor-to-ceiling LED walls feature an animation of the evolution of the New York skyline which is incredibly well made.
Once you’ve reached the main platform, you’re officially 1,254 feet above the ground! Since it’s a 360-degree observatory, you can get dramatic panoramic views of all parts of New York and it’s famous attractions such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty, New Jersey and on super clear days, you can even see Connecticut. Rest assured, within the observatory you’ll also have ample opportunity to educate yourself about the One World Observatory.
Best time to visit: ☀️🌙
Top of The Rock
Another classic outdoor observatory that surprisingly not too many are familiar with: Top of The Rock on top of the… Well, Rockefeller Center! If you want to capture the New York skyline from high up, this observation deck, at 850 feet, is the right one for you! None of the other, currently open, observation decks in NYC offer the opportunity to capture both the Empire State Building and the One World Trade Center in one stunning skyline photo. That’s why Top of The Rock is another super popular location for weddings, proposals and photoshoots.
But that’s not all! Top of The Rock is also known for its breathtaking views of Central Park – particularly during fall foliage season. Because we want you to see the stunning colors of Central Park, we strongly recommend that you visit the observation deck during the day, at the latest around sunset. A regular ticket starts at $40 (price last checked in 2024). Oh, and in case you’re familiar with the “Instagram famous” Top of The Rock window photo, you’ll come across it on your way to the terrace!
Best time to visit: ☀️
The Edge 🏆
One of the latest additions to the list of observation decks in NYC is located in the heart of Hudson Yards: The Edge. The outdoor deck opened in March 2020 and when it comes to panoramic views, this is our favorite sky deck in Manhattan.
For starters, it’s the tallest outdoor observation deck in the Western Hemisphere. We are talking unrestricted, 360-degree views of Manhattan and New Jersey at 1,100 feet! The platform itself is huge and only enclosed by angled glass panels. It even features a triangular glass floor that allows you to look right onto Hudson Yards. There is also an outdoor staircase where you can relax and admire the full beauty of the city. Tickets are currently starting at $40 (price last checked in 2024).
Now to the million-dollar question: What’s the best time to visit The Edge? As with any of the other mentioned observation decks in NYC, a visit will always be unforgettable, no matter what time of the day you’re going. However, the view from The Edge is absolutely stunning during sunset and at night. It’s just the perfect location to wind down after a long day of sightseeing, especially during the summer months. There’s also a bar on the deck that serves drinks and snacks!
Quick tip: While you’re exploring Hudson Yards, make sure you stop by the High Line park and check out The Vessel (small “observation deck” at 150 feet)!
Best time to visit: 🌙
Bonus point for passing the vibe check: 🍸🎷
Summit One Vanderbilt
Another observation deck recently made its debut in Manhattan. Summit One Vanderbilt is located near Grand Central Terminal and the observation deck’s grand opening was in October 2021. The mirrored floors, walls and ceilings inside the observatory turn this visit into a unique, story-driven, immersive experience, 1,000 feet+ above New York City.
The open-air terrace at nearly 1,100 feet, faces the southwest of Manhattan. This allows you to discover the city from a completely different angle. And that’s just the beginning! What else makes this experience stand out from all the other observation decks in NYC? Definitely its all-glass enclosed elevators, which are accessible only from the outdoor platform on the 93rd floor. These elevators take you up to 1,210 feet! Then there are fully transparent sky-boxes at 1,060 feet – basically glass cubes that allow you to “float” above Manhattan. And did we mention the fun “Affinity” room where inflatable silver balloons seem to float magically through the air? You must’ve noticed by now, Summit One Vanderbilt is definitely one of the most family friendly observation decks in NYC!
Best time to visit the Summit One Vanderbilt observation deck would be during the day. At night it can get tricky to snap good photos because of the many mirrors, which are not particularly flash-friendly. Regular tickets start at $42 (price last checked in 2024).
Best time to visit: ☀️
These are the top 5 iconic observation decks in NYC you should know and consider visiting! At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter which one you’re choosing as you’re always guaranteed an incredible and certainly unforgettable panoramic view of “The City That Never Sleeps”. However, we hope that our description of each observation deck helped you pick the right one that fits your personal preferences and travel schedule.
After you’ve visited one (or even all) of these observation decks, don’t forget to show us your best skyline pictures on Instagram by tagging us! We’d love to see, and maybe even feature, your best shots!
If you still have doubts or questions, feel free to drop us a line and we’ll answer your questions as soon as possible!