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New York City’s Best Skyscraper: Empire State Building vs. Top of the Rock

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Many New Yorkers will tell you that the two best observation decks in New York City are the observation deck in the Empire State Building and the Top of the Rock Observation Deck in the Rockefeller Center.

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Many New Yorkers will tell you that the two best observation decks in New York City are the observation deck in the Empire State Building and the Top of the Rock Observation Deck in the Rockefeller Center. Both skyscrapers are located in Midtown Manhattan, feature open-air observation decks and cost about the same price to visit. However, there is always a debate about which one of these two observation decks offers the best views of New York City.

The Empire State Building

The Empire State Building features:

  • 1050 feet above street level
  • Excellent view of the Chrysler Building (which is partially obscured by another building when looking from the Top of the Rock) and the Flatiron Building.
  • The extra 200 feet in height (1050 ft vs. 850 ft) does help you see farther on clear days. You really do feel like you can see forever.
  • Its location farther to the south gets you closer to Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty (keep in mind that they’re still pretty far away).

Top of the Rock

the Top of the Rock Observation Deck in the Rockefeller Center features:

  • 850 feet above street level.
  • Exceptional view of the Empire State Building, providing wonderful photography opportunities and a great chance to get a photo of your family in front of the famed landmark.
  • Its location farther to the north allows for a neat view of the Upper West Side and Central Park.
  • Something about the observation deck or maybe the building itself makes it more difficult to look down at the street life below. The best views are definitely out and across the city.

In the end, we recommend Top of the Rock because of four things:

  1. The space on the observation deck is much better. This means that you get a less crowded observation deck with Top of the Rock
  2. There are much less queues at the Top of the Rock. The Empire State Building is notorious for its long queues and huge crowds.
  3. Top of the Rock is much more modern. Although both buildings were built in the 1930s, Top of the Rock feels more modern, having undergone major renovations in 2005. The Empire State Building feels somewhat dated.
  4. You can still view the Empire State Building. The Empire State Building is one of the famous buildings in the world. You can’t see the Empire State Building from the top of the Empire State Building but you can see it from Top of the Rock.
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