When it comes to observation decks in New York, there are two big names, and of course buildings, that are vying for your attention, custom and ascent.  It is a heavyweight clash, with the Empire State Building in one corner and The Top Of The Rock @ Rockafeller Center (TOTR) in the opposite corner.  Both buildings and their respective observation decks offer spectacular views over an iconic city skyline which has featured in many hit TV shows and smash movies.   No prizes for guessing which of the two I chose, sorry.  Here’s why and how my TOTR experience went.

Why The Top Of The Rock @ Rockafeller Center?

Why did I go for the TOTR over the Empire State Building?  Well, basically my decision was based on research and recommendations.  From reading I knew that both attraction were around the same price.  A combination of online reviews and friendly advice told me that scaling the Empire State Building would require a longer queuing time, involve more crowds, and arguably, wouldn’t offer as good a views as the TOTR.

I also liked the idea of witnessing the Empire State Building from another vantage point, such is its fame and infamy that I wanted to see it towering over the rest of the New York skyline, I didn’t want to be restricted to simply looking up at it from street level.

Decided, the Top Of The Rock @ Rockafeller Center it was.  Despite the TOTR only having a single observation deck vs the Empire State Buildings two decks, and that single deck being some 200ft closer to the ground than the Empire State Buildings lowest deck, my research and my friends advice had me sold.

Empire State Building Top of the Rock  TOTR2
Cost per adult From $27.00 . Improved packages including express lift can be purchased. purchased. $27.00
Height of observation deck(s) 86th Floor – 1050ft
102nd Floor – 1250ft
70th Floor – 850ft

 

About the Rockafeller Center

The Rockefeller Center is a complex made up of nineteen different buildings.   Located on a single block in midtown Manhattan, it is the product of the Rockefeller family and in particular a Mr John D Rockefeller who first leased and developed the site way back in 1930.

The photo below was taken in the lower plaza of the Center, which is in fact central to the whole complex.  Just in case you are a fan and were wondering, yes that is the ice rink where Buddy the Elf took Zooey Deschanel for a night skate during everyone’s favourite Xmas film – Elf.  Adding to the Christmas spirit, although you may already know, the lower plaza is also where the famous Rockafeller Christmas tree is stationed each holiday period.  Many now consider the switching on of the tree lights, which first took place in 1933, to be the ‘official’ start of the holiday season.  So famous is the event that millions around the US tune in to NBC to watch the now star studded event every year.  In the past, big name stars such as Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson, Toni Braxton, Mary J. Blige, Miley Cyrus, Michael Buble, Usher, Justin Bieber, Celin Dion, Sheryl Crow have performed during the tree lighting event.  Its kind of a big deal!

The top of the Rock New York

TOTR

My Top Of The Rock Experience

My visit to the TOTR was a bit of a stop-start affair.  Joined by my better half in New York,  we had planned to visit the Rockafeller’s observation deck around midday on a Saturday.  We’d made it through the ticketing office lines, through security, up what felt like countless elevators, and then, when only one more elevator ride remained we were told the bad news.  ‘The clouds have rolled in’ said the sorry looking member of staff, embarrassed as if it was his fault. ‘We’re really sorry, but there is now near zero visibility at the top.  If you wish, you can exchange your tickets and come back later at no extra cost’.  Ah bugger, we were pressed for time, really pressed for time.  We had 26 sites to visit in 2.5 days as a part of a challenge we had been set by our sponsor Travelsupermarket, and whilst New York was surprisingly easy to navigate and travel within, we still didn’t have a lot of time to spare.  This was a set back.We formed a 2 person huddle to discuss our options, the huddle didn’t last long.

Within 30 seconds we were heading back downstairs to exchange our tickets.  We had just wasted an hour or two in travelling to the Rockafeller and waiting in line, but we were not prepared to come all the way to New York, climb one of its tallest buildings, look out over one of the most iconic skylines in the world, and only witness cloud.  We get plenty of  that sodding cloud at home.Back down in the ticketing office we noticed that displayed upon boards above where the ticketing staff were sat, were sunset times. We thought that might be a cool time to witness the views.  To watch as each of the skyscrappers lights up under dwindling sunlight.  We though our chances slim of acquiring tickets for such a time, assuming it would be one of the most popular times and as such considered peak, but we were in luck.We scampered away from the Rockafeller towards the Staten Island Ferry terminal a few minutes later, but with 2 x 5.30pm TOTR tickets safely zipped away in my pocket.  We would be back.

The top of the Rock New York

The top of the Rock New York

The top of the Rock New York

By the time we had cruised passed the Statue of Liberty on the Staten Island Ferry, walked the High Line, visited a Jazz club, walked through the Union Square Farmers Market and then returned to the Rockafeller Center, the sun was on its way out for the day.We reached the observation deck just as the last of the days light was present.

Facing north and looking out over the immaculately shaped central park was a joy.  Having walked through the park the previous day for what felt like hours, from our now vantage point we worked out that we had barely covered half of the park such was its scale.  We also saw Harlem, way off in the distance, and where only the previous morning we had hunted in search of Malcolm X Blvd.

Moving to the south side of the observation deck we saw the competition.  Right in front of us stood the Empire State Building.  It looked particularly dark and gloomy at this point, but was soon to light up.Even though exposed to the elements upon the partially open viewing platform, it wasn’t particularly cold.  Maybe it was the adrenaline in my system, the buzz of witnessing such incredible views of a colossal skyline, who knows?  With the light fading I fired off a few shots from my Sony Nex F3, before finding a prime spot for what was to follow.

What followed was New York lighting up under darkness.  A city wide light show.

The top of the Rock New York

The top of the Rock New York

The top of the Rock New York

The top of the Rock New York

The top of the Rock New York

The top of the Rock New York

The top of the Rock New York

The top of the Rock New York

The top of the Rock New York

The top of the Rock New York

The above was the only, slight downer about the view from the TOTR.  The beautiful spire of the Chrysler Building was partially obscured by a couple of New Yorks other sky scrapping towers.  On the whole though, I was more than happy with my TOTR experience.  In fact I think the cloud rolling in earlier in the day worked in our favour, had it not, I would never have seen the New York skyline in such a way.

Next time (here’s hoping there is a next time), if I could haul my ass out of bed, I’d attempt a sunrise visit to the TOTR.  I bet that would be equally spectacular.

Equally, next time I might also try to take in the views from the Empire State Building.  In no way am I saying in this post that you should only visit the TOTR, both attractions offer incredible views, it just so happens that on this occasion I was pressed for time and had to choose.  Given more time I would definitely have visited both.

[mappress mapid=”33″]

The view from The Top Of The Rock, New York.