A visit to the Top of the Rock, in the heart of Rockefeller Center, is an absolutely must-see of any first trip to New York City!
Why? Just because it is from the platforms of this observatory that you will get one of the most beautiful views of New York! 🤩
So, if you too are lucky enough to be able to visit The Rock one day, read the article below, you will learn a lot about the building. I will tell you how the tour works, the best times to go there, and also how much the tickets cost. I'll even give you some tips at the end! 😉
Why visit the Top of the Rock?
The Top of the Rock is the observatory on the top three floors of the Comcast Building (formerly known as the "GE Building" from 1988 to 2015, and before that as the "RCA Building" from 1933 to 1988). It is a 1933 Art Deco skyscraper located in the Rockefeller Center – which itself is a 19-building complex built by the Rockefeller family.
Main attraction of the complex (hundreds of thousands of tourists climb to the top every year), the Top of the Rock is the tallest building in Rockefeller Center. Its construction required more than 100 million dollars!
Its architecture is special: three panoramic terraces have been created at the top (260 metres above sea level) on the 67th, 69th and 70th floors. From these terraces, you get an unobstructed view of the whole city, allowing you to take pictures of many of New York's mythical places.
View of Central Park and the Empire State Building
The Top of the Rock, in my opinion, offers the most beautiful viewpoint in Manhattan – with a panoramic view of both Central Park and the iconic Empire State Building (ESB). Most people rush to the top of the Empire State Building to enjoy the view, which is absolutely beautiful! But in doing so, the ESB itself will obviously not appear in your photos. If you go to the Rockefeller Center however, this iconic skyscraper will be in plain sight for you to admire!
Of course, both buildings are a must-see on a trip to New York, but if you had to choose, I would still recommend the Top of the Rock. I explain why in my article comparing the Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building 😊
Once at the Top of the Rock, it will take you less than a minute to reach the top. Done in glass lifts, the rise to the top is spectacular. And with the spectacle of the laser lights through the lift’s ceiling (also made of glass), you'll barely have time to enjoy the show before you're at the top!
You will also see the Brooklyn Bridge and therefore the Brooklyn borough, as well as New Jersey and Queens. Most notably, you will see the Chrysler Building, the Hudson River and as well as Times Square.
The only platform with neither windows nor fences
If you're planning a first trip to New York City, you'll be glad to learn this little tip. Well, even if you have already visited the ESB, it is still possible you do not know about it either. The 69th floor is represented in most of the photos of the Top of the Rock. Naturally, this floor is surrounded by windows – for obvious safety reasons.
But there is a way! If you want to enjoy a completely unobstructed view of the city, without glass reflections and metal fences, you will have to find the small hidden staircase that will lead you to the 70th floor of the Top of the Rock. This terrace is only surrounded by a ledge – which is enough, since the only risk is to fall back to the 69th floor.
The different tickets to visit the Top of the Rock
As with most of the city's attractions, there are a number of options for visiting and climbing to the top of the Top of the Rock. The standard admission ticket available on platforms such as Tiqets and GetYouGuide is priced at around £37.
This ticket also includes a guide to downtown New York, $20 worth of discounts as well as interactive activities! But there are also other tickets, which I'll tell you about just below ⬇️
The Pass Express
This ticket is available directly from the Rockefeller Center official website for $75 (about £64). It includes:
- priority access to the lift,
- priority access to the elevator, priority screening by security,
- 20% discount on all products sold in the gift shop.
Tips for visiting the Top of the Rock 👍
As with the Empire State Building, it is possible to visit the Top of the Rock in the evening, to enjoy an amazing sunset. This will be the perfect time to take out your cameras! 📸 To do so, you only have to pay an extra $10 to the standard ticket and you will access the observatory at the end of the day.
VIP admission tickets
This ticket is also only available on the official website and costs $110 (about £93). It includes a few additional benefits:
- no-queue admission,
- the visit of the Top of the Rock as well as of the Rainbow Room,
- you can visit the day of your choice between 10 am and 5 pm – you’re free to come whenever you want.
Sun & Star admission tickets
You can upgrade a standard admission ticket or sunset visit ticket to a “Sun and Stars'' admission ticket. Such a ticket will allow you to climb to the top of Top of the Rock not once but twice: once during the day and a second time during the evening, to watch the sunset.
Have you considered the New York CityPASS? 🎫
To save a lot of money, opt for one of the New York passes. If you're planning to visit several of New York City's must-see sights in addition to the Top of the Rock, this is the best way to do it!
With a New York CityPASS, you can visit five of New York's top attractions for £113/adult and £96/child. You will save 44% on the normal admission price and you will also be able to see:
Where to buy a ticket for the Top of the Rock?
As you can see, I highly recommend booking a ticket for the Rockefeller Center and its Top of the Rock in advance on the internet! This will save you precious time, especially if you choose an Express Pass ticket which will allow you to cut the queues.
If you buy your ticket online, print it or scan the QR code on your phone – you will then just have to present it when you arrive at the venue (at an automated kiosk). For the "sunset" and "2 visits in one day" options, you will have to get information on the spot, because while these do offers exist, they are not available on the official website, nor on the specialised British websites 😕
Summary table of standard ticket prices
Discounted prices only available on site
*Admission is free for children under 6 years old.
Useful information for a successful visit to the Top of the Rock
Once you have purchased your tickets, there are still a lot of points left to organise: when is the best time to go up the building? What are the opening hours? And so on.
How to get to the Rockefeller Center?
The Rockefeller Center is located in the heart of Manhattan. The Top of the Rock observation deck is located atop the Comcast Building. The Top of the Rock’s main entrance is on 50th Street, between 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue.
The exact address is: Top of the Rock, Comcast Building, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112.
By underground, take the B, D and F lines and get off at the 47th-50th Streets — Rockefeller Center station (you will arrive in the shopping centre below Rockefeller Center). You can also take the E and M lines and get off at the 5th ave/53rd st station.
When is the best time to visit?
The three floors of the observatory are always very busy, but if you go very early in the morning (as soon as it opens) you can avoid the queues. The best part is that you will get to take pictures of New York as the city slowly wakes up. The sun (which will be at your back) will illuminate the Empire State Building and the southern tip of Manhattan.
In the afternoon, the Empire State Building will be backlit, but Central Park will be very well lit.
At sunset, you'll be able to take some unique photos, and you'll be treated to some incredible colours! And after dark, it will be a breathtaking spectacle of twinkling lights!
The twilight visit is the most popular time, so make sure you get there at least an hour before dark 😉
If you want to enjoy two different views of the city, I recommend the 'double entry' ticket – you will visit the observatory once during the day, and then a second time when night has fallen 😉
As for when to visit during the year, the Top of the Rock is beautiful all year round. If you go in the spring, you may avoid the tourist waves of the summer and Christmas period. The most important is to visit on a day with blue skies, so as to enjoy an exceptional light for your photos. Personally, my favourite time to go to New York City is December, as that's when Rockefeller Center puts on its most beautiful decorations.
To better make your own decision, you can read my article on when to go to New York, which will give you all the info on the city’s weather conditions and more.
The Explorer Pass New York to visit the Top of the Rock 🎫
I was talking about the New York CityPass earlier, but here I present you a new pass, more adapted to stays of a week or more: the Explorer Pass New York. This pass includes:
- 2 to 10 must-see activities (depending on the package you choose),
- A visit to the Empire State Building & the Top of the Rock,
- A visit to the Guggenheim Museum.
This pass is very interesting financially – especially if you choose 10 activities. It costs £185/adult and £151/child.
What are the opening hours?
The Top of the Rock is open every day of the year from 8 am to midnight, regardless of weather conditions.
However, for safety reasons, some areas of the observatory may be closed temporarily. Tickets are non-refundable, but you may return another time.
Opening hours vary on:
- Christmas Eve: 8 am - 10 pm,
- New Year's Eve: 8 am - 10 pm,
- New Year's Eve: 10 am - 12:30 am.
Note that the first lift goes up at 8 am and the last one at 11:15 pm.
How long does a visit take?
Once you're on top, you can stay as long as you like (all day if you feel like it 😅). Most visitors usually stay between 45 minutes and an hour.
However, before you can get to the top, expect between 30 minutes (outside peak hours) and two hours (during peak hours) of waiting time.
The Top of the Rock is organised on 3 levels and can accommodate up to 500 people at a time.
It is accessible to people with reduced mobility (lifts to platforms, equipped toilets) and guide dogs are allowed. So are holding prams.
What to do in and around the Rockefeller Center?
Once in the building, admire the art-deco style of the lobby decoration (entrance is free), but also the murals and the bas-reliefs. After that, check out the Mezzanine exhibit, which tells the story of the Top of the Rock and Rockefeller Center. There are also many statues to discover within the complex (Atlas, Prometheus...).
Throughout the year, you can shop in the lobby for New York souvenirs. Indeed, there are over 100 shops in Rockefeller Center (chief among them the Lego and Nintendo shops) as well as a host of visitor services (health and beauty, banking, etc.).
The Rockefeller Center complex, which covers 9 hectares, is mainly made up of offices, but there you’ll also find NBC studios, the famous Radio City Music Hall and Christie's auction house. In short, you will always find many things to do in New York City, and not just in the Rockefeller Center! 😁
Visiting the Rockefeller Center during Christmas time is a must!
In winter, don't miss the ice rink installed on Rockefeller Plaza as early as November! Nor should you miss the famous Christmas tree, on display from the beginning of December! 🎄 To learn more about this time of the year in the Big Apple, I invite you to read my article New York in November, which will explain more about where to go ice skating, for example ⛸️
Similarly, don't forget to go and attend the Radio City Christmas Spectacular if you have the chance. This is the end of year show at Radio City Music Hall. Now that’s another good reason to go to New York City in winter! Alternatively, if you don’t plan on visiting the city in December, you can simply visit the venue on a guided tour for £28 per person.
Why not eat near the Rockefeller Center?
Food and drink are not allowed on the viewing platforms, but Rockefeller Center is full of places to eat before or after your visit. There is even a restaurant at the top where you can dine with a breathtaking view! It is a great place for an unforgettable tête-à-tête! 😊
My tips for visiting the Top of the Rock
- To get the most out of your visit to Top of the Rock, remember to book it well before your trip to New York.
- Download the free Top of the Rock app (for iPhone and Android). This app will give you access to an audio tour (also free). This guide will also show you the best viewpoints and how to get there.
- Don't forget to take your camera with you! Note however, that professional video cameras and tripods are not allowed, and selfie poles are only tolerated so long as you don't disturb anyone.
- There is free wifi on site.
This is the end of this article! I hope it proved useful in preparing your visit to the Top of the Rock. Speaking of preparing your visit – if you are still wondering where to spend your nights during your stay, I hope you’ll find the time to read my article on where to sleep in New York City as soon as possible – I share a lot of helpful information that I wish I had known before my own first trip to the City That Never Sleeps! 😁