It’s hard to appreciate the magnitude of New York City from the ground. Unless you’re going to fork out for a chopper ride over the city, you’ve got three major observation decks to choose from: The Empire State Building, the Top of the Rock or the newest of the three, the Freedom Tower. I spent an evening during golden hour at the Top of the Rock. Golden hour is the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset and is known as one of the best times of day for photography.
Despite being in New York City for two months, I only made it a priority to get up one tower – there’s so much to do in New York on the ground, I couldn’t justify spending too many evenings in a queue. I’m really glad we chose The Top of the Rock – it’s one of my favourite places for an amazing view of New York City.
The Top of the Rock is an observation deck on the top floor of the Rockefeller Center in Midtown. One of the key advantages of choosing the Top of the Rock is that it has a million dollar view of the iconic Empire State Building as well as Central Park and the rest of the city. Just as the best view of Paris is not from the Eiffel Tower, but rather, of the Eiffel Tower from locations such as Tour Montparnasse or the Arc de Triomphe, I wanted a view of the Empire State Building more than I wanted the view from it.
Next time I’m in New York, I’d like to go to the OneWorld Observatory in the Freedom Tower – it doesn’t have the classic Midtown Manhattan views but when I saw the view from the observation deck advertised on a billboard, I mistook it for an ad for helicopter tours. Yep, that tall.
We booked tickets online, which gave us a very specific time slot for entry. Once you’re up there, there’s no rush to come down. We arrived just before sunset, so we got to watch the sun go down and Manhattan light up. You can add an extra $15 to get a “Sun and Stars” pass that lets you return twice in 24 hours but we went up during the last daylight minutes, watched the sunset and then enjoyed the city lights by night. You have to be a bit patient but I think it’s worth it!
It was crowded but we hung around long enough to drink up as much of the views as we could. Afterwards, we went down a few floors to Bar SixtyFive. I’ve read online that it’s better value to get a drink at the bar and enjoy similar views rather than pay the entrance fee to the observation deck. Having done both, I’d recommend paying the $32 for the ticket.
Not only were the views much less obstructed from the observation deck, it wouldn’t have worked out that much cheaper to buy a drink. A $28 USD cocktail, for example, worked out to cost approximately $50 AUD once you included tax, a tip and the exchange rate. I’d rather spend that kind of money (tickets were approx $42 USD) on a ticket to a custom built observation deck with a variety of clear views than an overpriced drink and limited balcony space. We didn’t end up ordering a drink but instead shared a snack: approximately five potato crisps artfully arranged in a bowl for $12USD. Um.
BarSixty Five has amazing views for a bar – but it comes at a steep price. If I wanted Manhattan views with my cocktail, I’d go to the Top of the Standard or The Skylark instead. As for straight up amazing views? Golden Hour at the Top of the Rock takes the cake.
Have you been to the Top of the Rock or any of the other observation decks? Where is your favourite city view in the world?