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

 

Central Park in New York City

When visiting Manhattan in New York City, taking a stroll in Central Park is a must. Especially during the summer months, it is amazingly beautiful in the center of city of skyscrapers. You can take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage, until they ban them, but we didn’t want to based upon reports we had heard about how the horses were treated. Until you actually see it from above, it is hard to believe how large Central Park actually is, which is over 843 acres. There are activities throughout the year, so it is worth checking out their official website before you come to New York to see what is happening when you are there.

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View of Central Park from the Top of the Rock
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Walking in the Park
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Sitting in Loeb Boathouse

In addition to special events and concerts, there is the Central Park Zoo and Belvedere Castle as well as a variety of statues located throughout the park. Renting a bike is a great way to get around and see even more of the park than just by walking its many paths. During the summer, there are many artists selling artwork or willing to paint your caricature if you have the time to sit for one. There are also ball parks and open spaces to toss a Frisbee or kick a soccer ball around. You can even rent a rowboat on the lake, which they have been doing for over 150 years, or take a ride on a gondola.

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Gondola Ride on the Lake
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Fountain by the Lake
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Take a Stroll in Central Park

There are concession stands throughout the park as well, which is a great way to get an inexpensive meal, but there are restaurant choices as well. The most famous of which is probably Tavern on the Green, but we were warned that their reputation has fallen slightly in recent years. We enjoyed a Sunday brunch at the Loeb Boathouse, which has wonderful views of the lake and a delicious variety of food. If you are in the mood for some French food, there is Le Pain Quotidien, which features a variety of quiches, although we did not eat there.

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Loeb Boathouse
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Beautiful Green Trees in the Park
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Getting a Caricature Done

Central Park is truly an oasis in the heart of Manhattan with so much to do that you can certainly spend a full day there. It is possible to get a walking tour of the park, which is a great way to learn more about the history of the park and see some its lesser known attractions.

Fettuccine with Pork and Spinach

Needless to say, there are hundreds of restaurants in New York, many of them Italian. Many, if not most, of them serve wonderful food from family recipes that they brought with them from the Old World. During our stay in Manhattan, we came across one of these small, family owned and run, restaurants and stopped there for lunch as we walked the streets of the city. We ended up trying a couple of their daily specials, one ravioli and the other fettuccine. Both of them were wonderful, but we especially liked the fettuccine as it was different than most pasta dishes that we have had. In our attempt to replicate it, we had little to go on other than the picture that we took during our meal, but it turned out to be delicious as well as very simple to prepare. As is often the case, simple dishes with only a few ingredients can often be some of the best.

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Fettuccine in New York

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb Fresh Fettuccine
  • 1 lb Baby Spinach
  • 1 lb Ground Pork – unseasoned
  • 2 tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1 tbsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tbsp Red Pepper Flakes – more or less depending on how spicy you would like it
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 4 tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 6 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

Be sure to use plain ground pork and not a seasoned pork sausage. In a large bowl, combine the pork, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, red peppers, salt and pepper and be sure to incorporate the spices throughout the meat. It is best to work the meat and spices with your hands as you would if you were going to make meatballs. Set the pork aside for about 30 minutes to let the seasonings infuse the meat and allow the meat to come to room temperature. Heat a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil to medium-high heat. Add the pork, breaking it up into rough bite size chunks as it browns. Sauté the pork until it is fully cooked and slightly browned, about 10 minutes while stirring frequently. Remove the pork, leaving as much of the oil and fat, and set aside on a plate with a paper towel to drain. Add the baby spinach in batches and heat until it is wilted and soft. The spinach will reduce to about 1/4th as it wilts. Once all of the spinach has been cooked, reduce the heat to low and combine the pork and spinach. Cook the fettuccine according to the package directions, being sure to reserve about a cup of the pasta water. In a large bowl, combine the butter and the fettuccine and mix thoroughly until the pasta is coated. Combine the pork, spinach, and pasta water and toss gently together. Divide onto plates and shred the parmesan cheese over top and serve.

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Browning the Pork
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Wilt the Spinach
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Our Version of the Fettuccine with Pork and Spinach