Should You Visit the Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building When in NYC?

The observation decks at both the Top of the Rock and at the Empire State Building offer incredible views of the city. If you have the time, we’d recommend going to both of them, but what if you don’t have the time, which one should you choose? No matter which one you choose, you won’t go wrong, but we’d recommend the Top of the Rock if we had to decide. There are several reasons that we would choose the Top of the Rock over the Empire State Building, although in the end it is probably a personal choice.

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Outside of Rockefeller Center

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View from the Empire State Building

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On the Top of the Rock with the Empire State Building Behind Us

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View from the Top of the Rock

The observation deck at the Empire State Building is an iconic experience that has provided views of New York City for almost 90 years. Featured in films such as King Kong, the Empire State Building is one of the most famous buildings in the world. If the history of the building wasn’t enough to inspire you to visit, the views from the two observation decks on the 86th and 102nd floors definitely should. The observation deck on the 86th floor is an open air deck that will take your breath away as you look out over the city, the bridges, and the Statue of Liberty off in the distance. Going to the indoor deck on the 102nd floor provides even more stunning views as you look out through the thick glass windows.

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Sign Near the Elevator in the Empire State Building

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Statue of Liberty Off in the Distance

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Looking Down from the Empire State Building

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King Kong Poster as You Exit the Elevator at the Empire State Building

The Top of the Rock may not have the history that the Empire State Building has, but it has plenty to offer anyone who visits. First of all, the “Rock” in the Top of the Rock refers to Rockefeller Center, which is where you can find Rockefeller Plaza as well as the NBC Studios and store. Regardless of the time of year, there is plenty going on at Rockefeller Plaza, which provides an extra incentive for visiting Rockefeller Center. Go early in the morning and you can watch the filming of the Today show or come later in the day and go to one of the many restaurants in the area. Located in Midtown Manhattan, the Top of the Rock provides amazing views of Central Park as you look north and the Empire State Building down to Lower Manhattan as you look south. There are indoor observation decks on the 67th and 69th floor, but the best views can be found on the outdoor observation deck on the 70th floor.

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Views of Central Park from the Top of the Rock

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Empire State Building from the top of the Rock

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Walking Towards Rockefeller Plaza

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Sipping on a Cocktail in the Garden Restaurant at Rockefeller Center

Clearly it isn’t an easy decision, which is why we would certainly recommend doing both the Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building while visiting New York City. The main reason for choosing the Top of the Rock if you have to make a decision is due to everything that Rockefeller Center has to offer. Whichever observation deck you decide to go to, be sure to take your camera with you and leave your fear of heights at home. Seeing the New York City skyline from the top of one of these skyscrapers is something that you will treasure forever.

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Another View from the Empire State Building

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Standing on the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building

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Prometheus Statue in the Lower Plaza at Rockefeller Center

 

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9 Responses to Should You Visit the Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building When in NYC?

  1. Lauren says:

    I’ve never been to the top of the Rockefeller Center, only to the top of the Empire State Building. Guess I’ll have to go to the top of the Rock when I’m in NYC next. Looks like incredible views!

  2. Jessica says:

    NYC looks like it would be so fun to visit! It is on my bucket list and I will see both Top of the Rock and Empire States Building. Thanks for a great read and amazing photos!

  3. jasonlikestotravel says:

    Completely agree with you. There’s one obvious absentee from the top of the Empire State building – the Empire State!
    The fact you can see it from the top of the rock gives it the edge for me, similarly it’s closer to Central Park and cheaper! I do agree it’s worth doing both if you can though.

  4. LTodd says:

    Good to know. Thanks for sharing. When in New York take time to go to both Top of the Rock and Empire State.

  5. thebeerwanderer says:

    I like the Rock because you can look at the Empire State Building.

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