Top 5 Best NYC Observation Decks

New York City is famous for its tall buildings and beautiful views. 

And when you’re there, you should visit an observation deck – where you can see the city from way up high! 

There are many tall buildings in New York, so there are abundant options among observation decks.

Some places, like the Empire State Building, are old, while others, like SUMMIT One and the Edge, are super modern.

Deciding which one to visit can be challenging, especially if you’re short on time. 

That’s why we’ve created a detailed guide comparing the top 5 observation decks, highlighting the pros and cons of each.

So now you can make an informed decision and enjoy breathtaking views during your visit to the city

What Is the Best Observation Deck in NYC? 

We believe that the absolute best observation deck in New York City is the Empire State Building. 

It is also one of the world’s most famous buildings, and visiting its observatories is a must!

What distinguishes it is its iconic status and the meticulously curated museum section. 

Exploring its history and significant role in pop culture will add another layer to your visit, providing insight into the Empire State Building’s prominence.

But the real highlight is its breathtaking views.

On the main floor, you experience unobstructed outdoor views without glass, delivering a spectacular experience from beginning to end. 

We strongly recommend booking your tickets in advance, especially if you have access to a New York Pass. 

This recommendation applies primarily to tickets for Floor 86 and Floor 102 experiences.

Given its immense popularity, securing a time slot is crucial to avoid being turned away.

Ensure a seamless experience by booking your Empire State Building tickets in advance, allowing you to focus on planning the rest of your memorable trip!

Empire State Building

The iconic Empire State Building houses our favorite observation deck in New York City! Located in Midtown, it offers a captivating experience with the following details:

Location: Midtown

Price: $49 for standard admission; additional fee for access to the 102nd floor.
Hours: Open from 9 am to 12 pm.
Height: Stands at 86 floors, with the option to ascend to the 102nd floor for an extra fee.
Best Time to Visit: Recommended during the morning or sunset.
Wheelchair Friendly: Yes.
Overall Rating: A perfect 10/10 – considered one of the best things to do in New York City!

The Empire State Building, renowned for its famous Art Deco design resembling a pencil, played a significant role in the Race to the Sky. 

Built-in a year and 45 days, it broke all records, was the world’s tallest building for nearly 40 years, and was featured in over 250 films.

The museum section, showcasing movie posters and clips, adds to the overall experience. 

But even without its iconic status, the Empire State Building would still be our preferred NYC observation deck, thanks to its breathtaking views from the top. 

The 86th floor, devoid of glass, provides 360-degree views of Manhattan, making it one of the best experiences in New York City.

Standard admission tickets cost $48, with the option to add a visit to the 102nd floor for an extra fee. 

Sunrise experience tickets, priced at $136 per person, Watch the sunrise from New York City’s highest park observation deck. 

Avoid the crowds for this unique, magical experience of waking up the Empire State on the 86th floor.

Pros of the Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is the most famous and historic observation deck in NYC, offering more than just stunning views. 

The museum here provides an educational experience, enhancing the visit.

It’s safe to say that the popularity of this observation deck is well-deserved, given its all-encompassing appeal.

Cons of the Empire State Building

While the Empire State Building observation deck excels in many aspects, there are a few considerations to remember. 

Firstly, unlike other decks, it lacks a café or bar at the top. 

Although having a drink with a view can be enjoyable, this absence is a minor detail that won’t significantly impact our experience. 

Moreover, it’s worth noting that drinks at observation decks are often pricey, so this might even save you some money.

Another consideration is that you won’t photograph it in the skyline because you’re on the Empire State Building. 

Unlike other NYC observation decks, where you can see the iconic Empire State Building from a distance, being on it means missing out on this unique skyline view. 

Hence, booking your Empire State Building experience online is advisable for a smooth visit.

The Edge NYC

Situated in Hudson Yards, the Edge is a modern marvel among New York City’s observation decks, offering a unique experience with the following details:

Location: Hudson Yards
Price: Tickets are priced at $42 per person.
Hours: Open from 9 am to 10 pm (or midnight from Friday to Sunday).
Height: Elevates to an impressive 100 floors, making it the highest outdoor observation deck in the Western Hemisphere.
Best Time to Visit: Recommended during the morning or sunset.
Wheelchair Friendly: Yes.
Overall Rating: An impressive 8/10.

With its futuristic appeal, The Edge, which opened in March 2020, emerged as one of the city’s newest observation decks. 

Despite a challenging start during the pandemic, it has secured its position as one of the best in NYC.

Offering unrivaled views for miles, it stands in Hudson Yards, the city’s newest neighborhood.

It boasts captivating features like a glass floor portion, angled glass walls for a flying sensation, and the Eastern Point for stunning photos.

The highlight, however, is the breathtaking view of the Empire State Building. 

The Edge also houses a fully licensed bar, allowing visitors to enjoy a drink with a view, and an indoor section with floor-to-ceiling glass windows. 

For an extended experience, the Peak Lounge on the 101st floor offers cocktails and light meals. 

Tickets cost $42, available through Viator, and include various features like a flexible time slot.

For those seeking an adrenaline rush, the City Climb experience, scaling one of NYC’s tallest skyscrapers, is also available at The Edge.

Pros of The Edge

The Edge distinguishes itself with its calm and futuristic vibe.

It has interesting features typical of NYC’s observation destinations.

The glass floor is located in the middle of the observation platform, allowing visitors to look directly at the floor, giving them the feeling of floating over Manhattan

In addition, the deck is surrounded by rectangular glass walls, which visitors can even lean on for a more intimate experience.

Simple food and drinks on top add to the overall enjoyment.

The Eastern Point stands out as one of the best photo opportunities in New York City, promising memorable snapshots.

Cons of The Edge

While searching for drawbacks proves challenging, one letdown is that the Edge doesn’t have the deep historical roots in some other decks. 

Though undeniably unique, it doesn’t carry the age and iconic status of the Empire State Building.

For a hassle-free experience, consider securing your tickets to The Edge online in advance.

SUMMIT One Vanderbilt 

Located in the heart of New York City, SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is a distinctive observation deck offering an immersive experience and stunning views. 

Location: Midtown 
Price: Tickets begin from $53, with occasional off-peak days that can be snagged for $46.
Hours: Open from 9 am to 12 am.
Height: Situated across the 91st to 93rd floors.
Best Time to Visit: Recommended during the morning or sunset.
Wheelchair Friendly: Yes.
Overall Rating: Impressive, with a rating of 8/10.

SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is not just an observation deck; it’s a multi-sensory art adventure across three floors. 

From mirrored and multisensory rooms to glass boxes giving the sensation of levitating over the city, it’s an exploration of art and views. 

The digital art exhibition even lets you see your face in (digital) clouds.

While the mirrored rooms may appear disorienting, they offer enhanced and enlarged views of New York’s skyline. Its views create a unique visual experience. 

The 360-degree views are accessible through floor-to-ceiling glass windows, maintaining a spectacular view throughout the visit.

Upon completing the art exhibition journey, visitors can unwind at the Apres bar, featuring an indoor lounge area and an outdoor terrace with glass panels. 

Given the extensive offerings and potential crowds, it’s advisable to allocate 2 or 3 hours for the visit, particularly at sunset. 

SUMMIT One Vanderbilt stands out not just for its panoramic views but for delivering a truly unique and sometimes mind-bending experience.

Pros of SUMMIT One Vanderbilt

SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is a hub of creativity and uniqueness, diverging from the typical New York observation deck scene. 

It stands out for providing incredible views and a variety of distinct experiences. 

Visitors find it a good value for money, offering a refreshing departure from the conventional.

Cons of SUMMIT One Vanderbilt

While the views at SUMMIT One are undeniably spectacular.

Some argue that outdoor views, especially those from iconic spots like the Empire State Building, have a unique charm.

Practical considerations include footwear restrictions – no heels or steel toe caps allowed, and the need for shoe covers to protect mirrored floors.

However, this may not translate well in photos. 

Another aspect to remember is that the entire experience is one-way once you’ve left a floor or room. 

These are not major issues but factors to consider in planning your visit.

For a seamless experience, booking your tickets to SUMMIT One Vanderbilt online in advance is recommended.

Top of The Rock

Situated on the 67th, 69th, and 70th floors of Rockefeller Center, the Top of the Rock Observation Deck provides an impressive experience. 

Location: Rockefeller Center
Price: Tickets cost $44 per person, or you can use a CityPASS® to cover admission.
Hours: Open from 9 am to 12 am.
Height: Spans the 67th, 69th, and 70th floors.
Best Time to Visit: Ideal during the morning or sunset.
Wheelchair Friendly: Yes.
Overall Rating: Impressive, with a rating of 8/10.

Rockefeller Center, a famous complex built by the well-known Rockefeller family, houses notable venues like NBC Studios and Radio City Music Hall. 

Its crown jewel, the Top of the Rock Observation Deck, offers breathtaking views. 

You can see iconic landmarks such as the Empire State Building, Central Park, One World Trade Center, the Chrysler Building, and the Brooklyn Bridge.

The $44 ticket is worth it for the stunning views, especially of the Empire State Building. 

On the 67th floor, there’s the Swarovski Radiance Walls Exhibit, a giant wall made of glass and crystal lit up with fiber optic lights. 

Moving to the 69th floor, it’s an outdoor space enclosed with glass. 

However, the real highlight is the 70th floor, an open-air space with no glass panels, offering incredible views and perfect photo opportunities without reflections.

Top of the Rock is a classic observation deck and a must-visit in New York City, providing stunning perspectives of the city’s iconic landmarks.

Pros of Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock is one of the more budget-friendly observation decks, offering beautiful views. 

Admiring the skyline, including the iconic Empire State Building, was a highlight, especially from the 70th floor with no glass barriers. 

It’s perfect for a classic observation deck experience with awesome views.

Cons of Top of the Rock

While the views are undeniably amazing, some may argue they don’t quite match the impressive stature of the Empire State Building’s observation deck. 

However, appreciating the Empire State Building differently helps balance this out. 

Unlike some other decks, Top of the Rock lacks features like a glass floor or levitation boxes, and there’s no provision for drinks and snacks at the top. 

If you’re seeking a more experiential visit, alternatives like the Edge or SUMMIT One Vanderbilt might be more appealing.

And if Top of the Rock is your option, consider booking your tickets to Top of the Rock online in advance.

One World Observatory

Location: Lower Manhattan
Price: General admission costs $44, with additional ticket options available.
Hours: Open from 9 am to 9 pm.
Height: Spanning the 100th floor, it’s the highest indoor observation deck in New York and the entire western hemisphere, towering 1,268 ft (386.5 meters).
Best Time to Visit: Ideal during the morning or sunset.
Wheelchair Friendly: Yes.
Overall Rating: Impressive, with a rating of 8/10.

The One World Observatory is not just a high-up place; it’s an adventure. 

As you go up, a cool multimedia wall shows pictures and videos of important moments in New York City. 

The elevator ride is like a time machine, showing how the city has changed over many years.

On the 102nd floor, there’s a cinema room with another time-lapse, and then you step into the observatory to see New York from above. 

Heading down to the 100th floor, you’ll find huge windows all around, giving you a full-circle view of the city. 

There’s even a Sky Portal where you can look down to the ground – it’s like magic!

If you’re feeling hungry or want a drink, there’s a restaurant and bar on the 101st floor. 

But remember, it’s a good idea to book ahead!

For $44, you get a basic ticket, but if you want a bit more luxury, there’s an all-inclusive option for $65. 

This one lets you show up whenever you want and even gives you a $15 voucher to spend at the bar. 

So, the One World Observatory is a must-see whether you’re a New York local or a visitor.

Pros of One World Observatory

The One World Observatory is like reaching the sky – it’s the tallest observation deck in New York City unless you’re planning an adventurous City Climb at the Edge. 

The time-lapse in the elevator is an excellent extra touch, and the fact that you can see New Jersey is pretty awesome!

Cons of One World Observatory

While the views are incredible, there’s no outdoor area to step out onto at the One World Observatory. 

Also, it closes a bit earlier than other observation decks in the city. 

However, if you’re like us and prefer to go in the morning or during sunset, it’s not a big problem. 

Yet, it might be a bit annoying if you were hoping to enjoy the views at night.

Are the NYC Observation Decks suitable for those afraid of heights?

If you do not like heights, we suggest choosing observation decks without glass floors or portals. 

Decks like The Edge and SUMMIT One Vanderbilt might be intense for you. 

Instead, consider the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock, where you can enjoy fantastic views without the added thrill.

One World Observatory could be a good compromise because it’s enclosed, but be cautious around the Sky Portal if you prefer to stay grounded. 

The suitability depends on your fear’s intensity and what precisely triggers it. 

Always prioritize your comfort and enjoyment when choosing an observation deck.

Are the observation decks in NYC suitable for kids?

Absolutely! Kids tend to have a blast at these decks. 

SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is fantastic for kids due to its interactive features, especially the cloud and balloon rooms. 

As long as your kids aren’t too scared of heights, any observation decks in New York City would be a hit with them. 

It’s a great way to add excitement and awe to their NYC experience.

Is it worth doing more than one observation deck in NYC?

Absolutely! It’s totally worth it, considering the cost is generally around $40 to $50 each, and you get different and stunning views from each deck.

We highly recommend starting with the Empire State Building, a classic choice.

However, it’s also worthwhile to explore at least one other observation deck to see the Empire State Building as part of the iconic NYC skyline. 

Visiting different decks offers unique perspectives on the city, and since many are open late.

You can enjoy the city’s dazzling lights after dark – a truly magical experience!

An intelligent approach is to mix it up. 

Begin with one of the “classic” observation decks, like the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock. 

After that try one of the newer ones with exciting features such as glass floors, stylish bars, and digital art displays. 

This way, you get the best of both worlds – the timeless and the contemporary.

Consider using sightseeing passes like The New York Pass, CityPASS®, or Go City Pass. 

They not only make visiting multiple decks more cost-effective but also offer a convenient way to bundle top attractions and save money during your NYC adventure.

Featured Image: UNtappedcities.com

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