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In a city that is well known for its skyscrapers, it’s not surprising that New York has some pretty phenomenal views. While there are some classic icons that everyone should experience at least once in their travels – here’s looking at your Empire State Building – there are many others that should make the cut. Any of these could be considered the best observatories in New York City. If you have an opportunity to explore the views from these vantage points, you won’t be disappointed!
The Best Observatories in New York City:
Top of the Rock
- Address: 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112
- Hours: Every day, 8:00 a.m. – Midnight (last elevator to the top leaves at 11:00 p.m.)
- Top of the Rock tickets: General Admission Pricing – Adults $38, Children (6-12) $32, Seniors (62+) $36
- Included in: The Sightseeing Pass, CityPASS, CityPASS C3, New York Pass, The Explorer Pass
Even though you won’t find Liz Lemon wandering the halls of 30 Rock, the Top of the Rock is our first option for the best observatories in New York City. Its view gives a unique vantage point of the city.
Instead of observing the former RCA building from the Empire State Building, you get a clear picture of the iconic skyscraper from Top of the Rock. It’s also close enough to Central Park to enjoy a sweeping view of the park in all its splendor.
If you want to skip the entry fee, head instead to Bar Sixtyfive, Top of the Rock’s bar just a few floors below the observation deck. Although you won’t be outside, you can see the same panoramic views from the bar with a cocktail in hand.
One World Observatory
- Address: One World Trade Center, 285 Fulton Street, New York 10007
- Hours: Every day, hours of operation change depending on the time of year (last tickets sold up to 45 minutes before closing time)
- One World Observatory tickets: General Admission Pricing – Standard $38, Combination: $48, All-Inclusive $58
- Included in: The Sightseeing Pass, New York Pass, The Explorer Pass
It seems like guests tend to forget about the view from the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. That’s right. One World Trade Center is the tallest building on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Located in the Financial District, the view from the top is unmatched. From its spot on the southern tip of Manhattan, you can actually see the curves of the whole island from the observation deck. On a clear day, it really feels like you can see forever.
When I visited this New York City observatory last, it was after dark. It’s one thing to see New York during the day, it’s quite another sight to see the taillights illuminating Fifth Avenue and the brightest point of light halfway up, Times Square.
The best time to visit One World Observatory is midday with clear skies. For significant savings, visit on Tuesdays! After 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, the 9/11 Memorial Museum is free. Spend the afternoon with a view at One World Observatory, explore the 9/11 Memorial, then heading to the Museum after 5 p.m.
Empire State Building
- Address: 20 W 34th St, New York, NY 10001
- Hours: Every day, 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 a.m. (last elevator to the top leaves at 1:15 a.m.)
- Empire State Building tickets: For 102nd and 86th floors access, as well as the 2nd-floor Museum – Adults $72, Children $66, Seniors $70
- Included in: The Sightseeing Pass, CityPASS, CityPASS C3, New York Pass, The Explorer Pass
Next on the list of the best observatories in New York City—The Empire State Building. It’s is a beautiful, historical symbol of New York City.
Construction started on the building in 1930 and completed in just over a year. In the early years after its finish, it earned the nickname “Empty State Building” because many of its office floors were unoccupied.
Once the tallest building in the world, it held the title for 40 years, until it was surpassed in 1970 by the construction of another famous New York building, the World Trade Center. Even then, as it is now today, the Empire State Building observation decks is a bucket list activity for when people come to New York City.
There’s not one, but two observation decks at the Empire State Building. The main deck, an indoor and outdoor space on the 86th floor. As well as the newly renovated, fully enclosed glass 102nd floor.
There’s also a museum on the 2nd floor, dedicated to the building’s history. Since you’re in the heart of Midtown, from the top of this New York City observatory, you’ll see views of Fifth Avenue, Bryant Park and the New York Public Library, Madison Square Park, and many, many rooftops.
The Edge at Hudson Yards
- Address: 30 Hudson Yards, New York, NY 10001
- Hours: 8:00 am – 2:00 am – 365 days/year (last elevator 1:15 am)
- Edge at Hudson Yards tickets: General Admission Pricing – Adults $36, Children (6-12) $31, Seniors (62+) $34
- Included in: The Sightseeing Pass, CityPASS C3
This mammoth of a skyscraper is a brand new addition to the skyline. Situated all the way on 11th Avenue and West 30th Street, the building is part of the new Hudson Yards development that broke ground in 2012.
Surprisingly, this New York observation deck is now the tallest one in City. It surpassed One World Observatory for the title. While One World Trade Center is still a taller building overall, the observation deck at 30 Hudson Yards sits open at a higher height.
A 10,000 sq. ft. bar will be waiting for you at the top when you arrive. If you’re a real adrenaline enthusiast, The Edge is suspended in midair, with a glass floor in the center.
Statue of Liberty Crown
- Address: Liberty Island
- Hours: Every day except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. The ferries operate from 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., departing each island every 25 – 30 minutes
- Handicap friendly? No, there is no elevator to the top of the Crown.
- Statue of Liberty with Crown Access tickets: General Admission Pricing: Adults $22.25, Children (4-12) $12, Seniors (62+) $17
- Not included in any city passes. Tickets are only available for purchase through Statue Cruises.
One of the least expected, yet most fascinating views from an observatory in New York comes from the Crown of the Statue of Liberty.
Despite being notoriously tricky. Not only do you have 168 steps to climb if you take the elevator – if you decide to climb the whole way, it’s 366 steps from her to her Crown – but tickets for access to the Crown usually sell out months in advance.
However, if you know you’re coming to New York City, and you already have a plan to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, take a unique opportunity and opt for a view of lower Manhattan from the Crown.
But, please be wary! Scammers are notorious for selling bogus tickets for boat access to the Statue of Liberty and the Crown to unwitting tourists.
You can only purchase tickets to the Statue of Liberty, the Crown, and Ellis Island through Statue Cruises. While there are third-party and independent tour companies that legitimately sell tickets to the Statue of Liberty, these companies acquire those tickets from Statue Cruises.
So, if you’re approached by someone standing at the entrance of Battery Park, telling you they can get you tickets, right now, for same-day access to the Crown, run the other way!
The Summit at One Vanderbilt (Coming Soon!)
- Address: 1 Vanderbilt Ave, New York, NY 10017
- Expected to open in 2021
- Neighborhood: East Midtown, next to Grand Central Terminal
One Vanderbilt is a brand new office tower set to dominate the midtown skyline, and become the fourth tallest building in the city.
Since it’ll be situated right next to Grand Central Terminal, the company has signed an agreement to renovate aspects of Grand Central, in exchange for the location of its new home.
While not much is known yet about one Vanderbilt and its future New York City observatory, The Summit, it’s currently expected to open in 2021.
Chrysler Building (Coming Soon!)
- Address: 405 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10174
- Expected to open in 2021
- Neighborhood: Turtle Bay, next to Grand Central Terminal
When the Chrysler Building first opened, the Celestial, its observation deck on the 71st Floor, operated for about 15 years. Later, the 66th through 68th floors of the Art Deco building was home to the exclusive Cloud Club, before closing in 1978.
Now, new owners of the historic building are planning to reinstate this observatory in New York City. The former Club inspires plans for its style, but this time on the 61st and 62nd floors. No expected opening date has been announced yet for our last addition to the list of best observatories in New York City.
Questions Before Booking an Observatory in New York:
Map for this guide
Here is an interactive map of New York City I made for you that outlines where all of the best observatories in New York City are located.
What factors should I think of when picking the best observatories in New York City for my trip?
There are so many components to consider! Which of the following determinants are most important for your New York City experience?
- Time – How much time do you have on your trip? Will you have time to take in the view from multiple observation decks, or do you only have time for one?
- Location – Where will you be spending most of your time in the city? Are you willing to travel to a different part of the city for the views? Is your accommodation near any observation deck?
- Views – What view do you want to see when you’re looking out over the city? Central Park? The Hudson River? Madison Square Park?
- Time of day – When do you have time to go? Do you prefer a daytime view or the bright lights of New York City illuminating the skyline?
- History – Are you a history buff or a classic movie lover? If so, one of the older, iconic buildings will satisfy your interest. In contrast, if you love modern architecture or innovative new designs, the newer observation decks are for you.
- Cost – How much are you willing to spend on tickets?
Which of the best observatories in New York City are included in the various discount passes?
|Name||The Sightseeing Pass||CityPASS||CityPASS C3||New York Pass||The Explorer Pass|
|Top of the Rock||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|One World Observatory||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Empire State Building||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|The Edge at 30 Hudson Yards||Yes||No||Yes||No||No|
|Statue of Liberty Crown Access||No||No||No||No||No|
|The Summit at One Vanderbilt||TBA||TBA||TBA||TBA||TBA|
So, which is the best observatory in New York?
Personally, I would argue that they are all the best observatories in New York City because they all offer unique experiences. However, if I have to pick…
Highest Observatory in New York: The newly minted winner of this category, the Edge at 30 Hudson Yards stands as the highest observatory in New York City. You’ll get a beautiful view of the Hudson River, Jersey City, and all the way to One World Trade Center. Most importantly, the glass floor staring down onto the city street below is not to be missed!
Most Historic New York City Observatory: King Kong. Elf. An Affair to Remember. Sleepless in Seattle. On the Town. What do all of these movies have in common? These films all feature pivotal moments that incorporate the Empire State Building. The tallest building in the world for 40 years. The most notable example of Art Deco architecture style and New York City’s “setback” zoning laws. The observation deck at the Empire State Building is truly one of the most quintessential New York City activities.
Best views of Central Park: Since it is the most northern observation deck in Manhattan, Top of the Rock is sure to provide you with gorgeous views of Central Park at all times of the year. You might even catch a glimpse of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the winter while the trees are Baron. You’ll also get an incredible view of all of these other best observatories in New York City in one photograph.
Least Expensive: The Crown of the Statue of Liberty is the least thought-of as an observatory in New York City because it’s a bit further out of the way and much harder to acquire tickets. However, if you can plan your New York City itinerary at least a few months in advance, you will have an opportunity to see a view that not many have the chance to see.
It’s also the least expensive Observatory ticket if you’re purchasing tickets individually without a pass. And you get so much! Access to the Statue of Liberty, the Crown, the Liberty Museum, as well as Ellis Island, the Ellis Island Museum, and all three boat rides in between.
Favorite: The One World Observatory in New York is my personal choice for the best observatory in NYC. Although it’s no longer the highest observatory in New York, the One World Trade Center building itself is the sixth tallest building in the world, standing at 1,776 ft tall in honor of the Declaration of Independence.
Even though it’ll be missing from your pictures of the New York City skyline since, y’ know, you in it, you will have remarkable views of the 9/11 Memorial, every other structure on this list, as well as distant views of the other boroughs. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see as far off as 50 miles away. It truly is one of the best observatories in New York City.
Above all, no matter which view you decide to take in, you’ll have a phenomenal experience. All of these are truly the best observatories in New York City. Please, on your next trip to the Big Apple, I hope you will consider taking in a view from at least one of these observation decks.
Do you have a favorite observatory in New York City? Let me know below!