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The Empire State Building or The Top Of The Rock?

Seeing New York from a bird’s eye view is an experience you can’t miss out on in the Big Apple. To see the city from this unique perspective there are 2 main options: The Empire State Building or The Top Of The Rock. But which one do you go for? Which experience is better and which building offers the most breath-taking view? To help you decide, here are a few pointers to help you figure out if you want to visit the Empire State Building or The Top of The Rock!

Empire State Building or Top of the Rock

The Empire State Building

How much does it cost to visit?

The adult entry fee for the Empire State Building is $32. This price gets you up to the 86th floor where you can see spectacular views of New York. If you want to go to the very top of this iconic building you can pay $49 and catch the lift up to floor 102 for a view that’s out of this world. If you want to purchase tickets in advance you can do so online or, if you prefer, you can buy them direct from The Empire State Building!

How long do you have to queue?

Unless you pay $55 dollars for an express pass up to the 86th floor, it’s very likely you’ll come across some sort of queue. How long that queue is really depends on the time of day and how busy it is. The Empire State Building website recommends visiting between 8am and 11am if you don’t want to wait. icelolly.com visited around 10am in the morning and the queue was only a few minutes long!

What is the view like?

Well, the view is amazing. From the 86th floor you get to see iconic New York landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, the Chrysler Building and One World Trade Centre. Walk around the 360° platform to see upper Manhattan, lower Manhattan, the Hudson River and the east and west village at its finest. The view is only obstructed by the wire mesh barrier around the edge of the platform but that doesn’t take away from its grandure. You can even get a close up view through the binoculars to see your favourite sights up close.


view from Empire State Building

Is it all in the open air?

The main viewing platform is in the open air but if the weather is not so great when you visit, the Empire State Building has an indoor viewing area if you need some shelter. Stepping outside though is a once in a lifetime experience which we can recommend come rain or shine.

What time can you visit The Empire State Building?

The Empire State Building is open from 8am until 2am, 365 days a year. This means if you fancy seeing New York just after dawn, you can. If you want to see New York as the sun sets, you can. If you want to see New York at night, when all the city lights are sparkling, you can.

Empire State Building view at night

Are there any added bonuses?

Well, the $32 entry fee does include a free audio guide. This added bonus is great if you want to know what you’re looking at as you walk around the platform. This guide not only tells you which views are on each side of the Empire State Building but it also explains to you how The Empire State Building was constructed and the history behind the building. Alternatively, try out the mini quizzes built into the handset – they’re a great way to pass some time if you do have to queue for a little bit.

The Top of The Rock

How much does it cost to visit?

The adult price for entry to The Top Of The Rock is $30. For this fee you get entry to the 67th, 69th and 70th floors of the Rockefeller Centre. You can either purchase tickets in advance or buy them at the ticket office, whichever is easiest for you!

How long do you have to queue?

Unlike the Empire State Building, when you buy your ticket for the Top of The Rock you can choose a preferred time slot. This means if you want to go up at 1pm, you reserve that time either online or at the ticket office and then turn up at that time. Doing this allows you to organise your day a bit better – you can explore the surroundings of the Rockefeller Centre or grab a bite to eat while you’re waiting! Once you’re inside the Rockefeller Centre itself, queueing time is minimal as you wait to go up in the lift.

Rockefeller Centre ice rink

What is the view like?

Although the viewing platforms aren’t as high as the Empire State Building, it doesn’t mean the views are any less spectacular. Venture to the South side of the viewing platform and you’re treated to uninterrupted views of the Empire State building, lower Manhattan and Times Square. Cross over to the opposite side of the platform and you get to see Central Park in all its glory. You really get to see the size and scale of this park from 70 floors up so remember to take your camera to capture this spectacular view!


view from Rockefeller Top of the Rock

Is it all in the open air?

All the main viewing platforms are in the open air, although you are somewhat sheltered from the elements by the glass wall which circles the viewing platform. There is also an indoor space with comfortable seating and large windows where you can sit if the weather is poor.

view from Top of the Rock

What time can you visit the Top of The Rock?

You can visit the Top of The Rock from 8am until midnight, with the last lift going up at 11pm. Watch the sunset with your loved ones in the evening or see New York at its finest during the day.

Are there any added bonuses?

Although there isn’t a free audio guide, the Top of the Rock offers more novelty factor than historic information. In between viewing platforms, check out The Breezeway, an interactive light and sound installation which is great fun for both kids and adults. The indoor area also has a “Radiance Wall” by Swarovski which sparkles and glistens in the light.

Top of the Rock radiance wall

So, The Empire State Building or The Top of The Rock?

For an iconic experience with world class views, then the Empire State Building is the one to go for. It’s one of those bucket list experiences, right? The Empire State Building is also more informational and explains more about the history of the building which is a great way to find out about how it became one of the world’s most famous sky scrapers. For a view with more of a novelty factor, then head to the Top of The Rock. The whole experience isn’t as grand as the Empire State Building but it sure is a lot of fun! With the art installation, the beautiful indoor viewing area and panoramic views of Central Park, the Top of the Rock is well worth a visit. Which one will you go for?