The New York City skyline is one of the wonders of the world, an instantly recognizable collection of famous buildings, fabled landmarks, and classic attractions. Seeing it up close and personal can be a breathtaking experience, for sure—but what’s the only thing better than seeing it up close and personal? How about seeing it from hundreds of feet in the air at one of New York City’s incredible viewing platforms?
With so many outstanding observation decks to choose from located throughout New York City, it can be a challenge to decide which one to visit. That’s why we’ve compiled this helpful guide comparing all the top viewing platforms in New York City. Read on to discover which viewing platform is perfect for your next New York adventure.
Top of the Rock Observation Deck
Top of the Rock may not be the single most famous observation deck in New York City, but it provides some of the most beautiful views of the city’s greatest landmarks. For instance, if you want to not just visit the Empire State Building, but to snap the perfect photograph of it from among the clouds, then Top of the Rock has you covered with just about the best view possible. Top of the Rock’s location at the heart of Midtown Manhattan in the iconic Rockefeller Center complex also provides great sightlines of Central Park, and there’s plenty of shopping and dining options onsite, too. Many visitors report being pleased with the smoothness of Top of the Rock’s timed-entry ticket system—which will keep your day rolling right along as you check out nearby attractions like the Museum of Modern Art, Times Square, and Madame Tussauds.
Empire State Building
How many different movies and TV shows have you seen the Empire State Building appear in? On second thought, don’t waste your time trying to count them all up, just go see it in person already! The Empire State Building is probably just about the most famous skyscraper in the world, and as befits a building of its stature, it’s home to not one, but two distinct viewing platforms. An open-air observation deck on the 86th floor is very popular with visitors from all over the world, but there’s also an enclosed space on the 102nd floor. If you’re uncertain which one to go with, stick with the open-air 86th floor. It’ll provide you with better camera angles, and it’s also less expensive, which will leave you with extra time and money to go on one of the Empire State Building’s guided, behind-the-scenes tours—if you’re so inclined.
Edge at Hudson Yards
The Edge at Hudson Yards is one of New York City’s newer viewing platforms. Situated on the 100th floor of 30 Hudson Yards, Edge is one of the highest viewing platforms in the world—it proudly bills itself as containing the highest open-air observation deck found anywhere in the world. While there’s a lot to experience at Edge, including notably its Outdoor Sky Deck and Skyline Steps (insider tip: this is THE place for that dream selfie in the clouds), it’s perhaps best well-known for its glass floor. Yes, you read that correctly: Edge has its very own glass floor, and you can walk out onto it and stare down some 100 stories all the way below to the New York City sidewalk. If you’re feeling especially daring—and willing to cough up a pretty penny in additional ticket fees—you might want to consider City Climb, the world’s highest open-air skyscraper ascent.
One World Observatory
One World Observatory is located at One World Trade Center, the 1,776-foot-tall skyscraper that stands today as the tallest building in the United States—in fact, it’s the tallest building found anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, and one of the tallest buildings on the planet. One World Observatory occupies the 102nd floor of this remarkable structure, and features wonderful views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, New Jersey, and Lower Manhattan. Ticket prices usually run near the high-end of the New York City observation deck market and One World Observatory is entirely indoors (meaning there’s no outdoor viewing platform), but the cutting-edge multimedia presentations that are a part of the experience here mean most visitors depart more than satisfied. If you’re in the mood to go next level, consider splurging and enjoying a meal, snack, or drink at ONE Dine, located near One World Observatory on the 101st floor.
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is the newest viewing platform to open in New York City, and it’s a welcome addition to the scene. SUMMIT is located on the 92nd floor of the One Vanderbilt building near Grand Central Terminal, over 1,000 feet in the air. Given those details, the views on display from SUMMIT One Vanderbilt are, naturally, something special. However, that’s not all you’ll find here. SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is also home to Air, an immersive art installation designed by Kenzo Digital. Honestly, it’s the sort of thing that just has to be seen to be believed. As a result, if you’re in the market for a viewing platform experience that is about more than just looking out and identifying the farthest point you can see in the distance—not that there’s anything at all wrong with that—this is the observation deck for you.
Vessel is not your typical New York City-style observation deck. It doesn’t sit a quarter-mile in the sky, it doesn’t occupy some triple-digit story of an immense skyscraper, it doesn’t offer sweeping views as far as the eye can see. Still, it’s a unique viewing platform that has its own set of special charms. Essentially a piece of elaborate sculpture, Vessel was designed to function as the artistic centerpiece of the massive Hudson Yards redevelopment project. Standing 16 stories tall, Vessel consists of a labyrinth-like 154 interconnected flights of stairs that present visitors with a multitude of landings, nooks, and crannies calling out to be photographed.