From New York City observation decks, you can watch tiny cars and people scurry about far below and take in the city’s beautiful, dense, and ever-changing skyline at eye level. There’s nothing like looking down on Manhattan Island and the surrounding waters for a sense of the city’s beauty and sheer magnitude.
It’s a view and perspective that you can’t get any other way, whether you choose to visit these observation decks in the daytime, at the magical sunset hour or for the nighttime spectacle of city lights. Not surprisingly, New York City’s observation decks are wildly popular, so consider reserving tickets online ahead of time.
New York City’s Observation Decks
Top of the Rock at 30 Rockefeller Plaza
From the 70-story open-air roof deck atop Rockefeller Center (30 Rockefeller Plaza), opened in 1933, you’ll have a 360-degree view of all of Manhattan and the best views of Central Park, Midtown and Downtown. A mezzanine exhibit illustrates the story of the building and its colorful creator, John D. Rockefeller. Dine up high at the Top of the Rock Pulse restaurant, offering dishes specially created by a rotating roster of the world’s best chefs, or wait until you’ve descended to nosh and shop in Rock Center’s underground mall.
And while you’re at it, don’t forget to check out the art galleries and museums situated in the complex at ground level—after all, Rockefeller Center was conceived as a city within itself. A VIP package offers immediate entry and priority elevator access, or add a tour of the classic art and architecture of the entire Rockefeller Center. The Sky Shuttle whooshes you 850 feet into the air in less than a minute.
One World Observatory at One World Trade Center
New York’s newest observatory experience at One World Trade Center (285 Fulton Street) opened in 2015 atop the highest building in the Western Hemisphere, topping out at over 1,250 feet. The elevator ride lifts you to the 102nd floor in less than 60 amazing seconds, and along the way, you can watch a floor-to-ceiling LED display of a time-lapse look at 500 years of Manhattan’s development—from grasslands in the 1500s to today’s skyline. Once you’ve arrived at the See Forever glass-enclosed observatory, you’ll be presented with a montage of city views that only serves to amp up the audience for the unparalleled view down below
Don’t be surprised if the crowd cheers as the glass clears: You’re up high enough to see the horizon curve ever so slightly and watch the activity below on every single city block. If you’re brave enough, stroll across the birds-eye-view 14-foot glass disk that lets you look straight down. Enjoy a meal prepared by top-name chefs in the restaurant or a snack and coffee in the café, and then head down again— perhaps to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum near the base of the building, to learn more about the losses this resilient city pays tribute to with this incredible building.”
102 Floor Observatory at the Empire State Building
The Empire State Building (17-25 W. 29th Street) opened in 1931, just in time to inspire the iconic scene in King Kong. The Main Deck, wrapping around the building’s spire at the 86th floor, offers stunning views of Central Park, the Hudson River and East River, the Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty and more; there’s an app that will give you background on the sights. Head to the top deck, on the 102nd floor, to see 80 miles away in every direction on a clear day. This observation deck is open until 2 a.m. for epic nighttime viewing.