How To Choose Your NYC Observatory: Top of The Rock vs. Empire State Building vs. One World Observatory

There is hardly anything more spectacular than standing high above the city streets, gazing at the expansive magnificence of New York City. As a visitor or resident, a particular profound appreciation for this mega-city’s grandeur and excellence is experienced when viewed from an observation deck, especially Top of the Rock, the Empire State Building, and One World Observatory. Here is a comparison of these three world-famous and highly sought after observatories so you can make the most of your NYC trip!




Famously in such films as Ghostbusters, Home Alone 2, Spiderman, and Elf, while holding a special place in the hearts of 30 Rock fans, the Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center is centrally located, and contains both indoor and outdoor observation deck viewing!

It provides stunning views of the Empire State Building, other buildings and landmarks surrounding Midtown and Times Square, and provides excellent views of Central Park. Housed in a gorgeous 1930’s national landmark with original Art Deco architecture and interior design, mounting this observation deck takes you to the 67-70th floors versus Empire State Building and 1 World Observatory mentioned below, which ascend you to the 101st-102nd floor.



Take note that you must remember to bring quarters to use their binoculars, and the different exhibits and attractions offered at Top of the Rock seem to not have been updated for quite some time. All in all, this deck offers the best views of the Empire State Building, as well as Central Park.

\ Down to the point

  • $42 Adults; $35 Children
  • 5/5 Stars rating on Trip Advisor
  • 850 feet above the ground
  • Matchless views of Central Park and the Empire State Building

\ When to visit Top of the Rock

We recommend to visit Top of the Rock during the day to catch the best views of Central Park, or late afternoon to enjoy its impeccable sunsets.

\ How to book tickets to Top of the Rock

> Click here to book tickets to Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock admission tickets are also included in the New York Citypass and the Sightseeing Pass NYC:

> Click here to book a New York CityPass

> Click on the links below to book a Sightseeing Pass NYC:





Having provided its photogenic charm in such classics as Taxi Driver, Sleepless in Seattle, On the Waterfront, North by Northwest, Manhattan, King Kong, Independence Day, Funny Face, and Annie Hall, to just name a few, this exclusively exterior observation deck, opened in 1931, is one of the most iconic landmarks in New York, and certainly one of the most famous buildings in the world. Although the Empire State Building does not offer views of Central Park nor of the usual Manhattan skyline, for its history alone is an excellent reason to get your building-top NYC views at this historic edifice.

There are three viewing platforms for 360-degree sightseeing: an outdoor open-air one and an indoor climate-controlled one on the 86th floor. And for an additional charge, there’s the more private indoor platform located on the 102nd floor.



The oldest observation deck of them all, it is also one of the most popular, so expect longer lines at this attraction. If you don’t have a VIP Express skip-the-line ticket, be sure to not go during peak times as time scheduling is not available. As this deck is outside, it is noteworthy to mention that you will not have glare in your photos (as opposed to One World Observatory.) The Empire State Building also reportedly contains the best gift shop of the three, and provides free binocular viewing.

\ Down to the point

  • $42 Adults; $35 Children; Under 6 free
  • Centrally located in Midtown
  • 1050 feet above ground
  • 1930’s beautiful Art Deco Interior reflecting the Golden Age of New York City

\ When to visit the Empire State Building

To avoid long line, visit the Empire State Building early in the morning when it opens at 08:00am or after 09:00pm so you can also enjoy all the shining lights of New York City. The Empire State Building is the one of the three with the latest closing hour at 02:00am.

\ How to book tickets to the Empire State Building

Click here to book tickets to the Empire State Building

We can also offer VIP Express skip-the-line admission tickets. Please contact us at for more info.

The Empire State Building admission ticket is also included in the New York Citypass.

Click here to book a New York CityPass






One World Observatory is the main building of the World Trade Center. It is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and the 6th tallest building in the world, culminating at 1776 feet (1776 being the year of Independence in the USA.)

Your experience starts from the moment you step in the elevator which walls display an incredible timelapse of New York City spanning over six centuries in 47 seconds. Once One World Observatory’s deck exclusively offers indoors views; therefore your pictures may contain a glare. But with such jaw-dropping views from this altitude, this slight drawback may be forgivable! Although this observation deck does not provide a view of Central park, as the tallest observation deck of the three, you do have 360-degree views of the Financial District, its surrounding buildings, The Statue of Liberty, the harbor, East River, Hudson River, Governor’s Island, the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg bridges, and on a clear day, views of the entire borough of Brooklyn, including Coney Island, the Rockaway Islands, and luckily stunning views of The Empire State Building.



As tickets are timed, this deck is consequently less crowded than the Empire State Building, and it offers the most advanced technological features of the three, including an app for an extra purchase which provides tons of information about the most famous landmarks and sights in the Big Apple at the touch of a button. Also, their cafe serves alcoholic beverages and soft drinks, so you can enjoy a glass of wine or a Shirley Temple while taking in the striking scenery.

\ Down to the point

  • $38 Adults; $31 Children
  • 1368 feet above ground (highest of the three)
  • Most high-tech and modern of the three

\ When to visit the One World Observatory

Since tickets to the One World Observatory are timed, there is no particularly better time to go there. Views are just as beautiful during the day than in the evening!

\ How to book tickets to the One World Observatory

Click here to book tickets to the One World Observatory

The One World Observatory admission ticket is also included in the New York Citypass and the Sightseeing Pass NYC:

Click here to book a New York CityPass

Click on the links below to book a Sightseeing Pass NYC:





Depending on the duration of your stay, you might not have the chance to visit all three observatories. We do however recommend that you visit at least one of them, ideally two, at different times of day. For instance, start with Top of the Rock in daylight for incredible views of Central Park and Downtown Manhattan. Then choose between the Empire State Building or One World Observatory at sunset or at night to admire all the lights of the city that never sleeps more another perspective!




A visit to New York City just wouldn’t be the same without viewing it from a high-rise observation deck. The three aforementioned ones: Top of the Rock, The Empire State Building, and One World Observatory all offer spectacular views, history, and extras for an unforgettable experience. If you can afford and have enough time for all three decks, go for it! If not, choose the one most suitable for your upcoming trip. If views of Central Park are primordial, Top of the Rock is for you. If ascending one of the most popular buildings in modern history, and history itself, excites you, choose The Empire State Building. And if you want to see New York from its tallest building, go for 1 World Observatory! For more remarkable views, having drinks at a rooftop bar or lounge is also always a fun alternative! Here are our Staff Picks of the Best Rooftop Bars in NYC so you can get your drink on, or enjoy a sit down meal while basking in phenomenal views of the legendary New York City skyline.

What is your favorite NYC Observation deck? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to like and share this article if you enjoyed it!


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