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5 BEST Observation Decks in NYC (+Our Personal Favorite!)

5 BEST Observation Decks in NYC (+Our Personal Favorite!)

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New York City is famous for its iconic landmarks and beautiful skyline, so heading to an observation deck is a must while you’re in the city. 

I mean, you didn’t come all the way to New York City NOT to take in epic views of the concrete jungle from above!

And since there are over 400 bona fide skyscrapers in New York (and over 7,000 high-rise buildings), you’re pretty spoiled for choice when it comes to observation decks. 

Between historic options like the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock, and uber-modern choices like SUMMIT One and the Edge, it can be difficult to decide which one to do, especially if you only have a few days in NYC. So you’re probably asking yourself, which is the best of all of the observation decks in New York City?

Luckily, we’ve put together this super detailed blog post comparing New York City’s top 5 observation decks to help you decide which one (or ones!) to visit. We’ve also highlighted pros and cons of each experience so you can be sure what to expect!

Don’t have time to read the full article? Our favorite observation deck in NYC is the Empire State Building! You must book your visit in advance online here!

What is the BEST Observation Deck in NYC? 

Binoculars and a view of New York City from the Empire State Building
The Empire State Building!
Daniel on the 86th Floor Observatory in New York City, Empire State Building
The 86th Floor!

We think that the absolute best observation deck in New York City is the Empire State Building.

For one thing, it’s the most iconic of them all. The Empire State Building is one of the most famous buildings in the whole world, so you can’t pass up the chance to visit! 

We also loved the museum section and thought it was really well done. It was super interesting to learn about the building’s history and see lots of examples of how prominent it is in pop culture.

And perhaps most of all, we loved the views! On the main floor, you get outdoor views with no glass which just cannot be beaten. It’s a spectacular experience from start to finish and we loved our visit.

It’s best to buy tickets in advance (especially if you have the handy New York Pass for sightseeing) as this is a SUPER popular attraction and you need a time slot to visit. If you don’t book in advance, you could be turned away. You can book your Empire State Building tickets here, and then get back to planning the rest of your trip!

5 BEST Observation Decks in NYC 

1. Empire State Building

Views from the Empire State Building in NYC
The 102nd Floor!
Bailey looks through the Binoculars on the 86th floor of the Empire State building viewpoint
Be sure to take advantage of the binoculars!
  • Location: Midtown
  • Price: $49 USD
  • Hours: 9 am – 12 pm 
  • Height: 86 floors (for the standard ticket), possible to go up to the 102 floor with an extra fee
  • Best time to visit: Morning or sunset
  • Wheelchair friendly: Yes 
  • Overall rating: 10/10 – this is one of the best things to do in New York City!

The iconic Empire State Building is home to our favorite observation deck in New York City! 

It’s such a beautiful building and its famous art deco design is said to have been modeled after the look of a pencil. 

The Empire State Building was built during the Race to the Sky and it was built in a record-breaking year and 45 days. It was the tallest building in the world for almost 40 years, and it has appeared in over 250 films! 

In fact, a section of the museum you visit on your way up displays posters and clips from some of these movies. 

We loved the museum and found that it really added to the experience. But even if the Empire State Building weren’t so iconic, it would probably still be our favorite NYC observation deck thanks to the amazing views at the top. 

The fact that there’s no glass on the 86th floor is just amazing, and its central location means that you get 360 views of Manhattan. It was one of the best experiences we had in New York (which is saying something, because there were so many great ones!) 

Standard admission tickets cost $49 USD but you can add a visit to the 102nd floor for an additional fee, although we think that the main observation deck is the best.

Sunset tickets cost $60 USD per person and we think that watching the sunset from up here would be pretty epic and worth the extra $12 USD. 

View through the wire fence on the 86th Floor Observatory in New York at the Empire State Building
View through the wire fence on the 86th Floor Observatory in New York at the Empire State Building

Pros of the Empire State Building 

The Empire State Building is easily the most famous observation deck in NYC, and it’s also the most historic. In addition to enjoying the awesome views, we learned a lot from the museum here, but we also thought it had the best views. Let’s just say that this observation deck is popular for a reason! 

Cons of the Empire State Building

This is a really small thing, but the Empire State Building observation deck doesn’t have a café or bar up top, like some of the others do. It is nice to have a drink with a view, but it’s not a huge deal. We didn’t really think about it while we were up there and drinks at observation decks do tend to be really expensive, so it saved us some money! 

The only other consideration is that because you are on the Empire State Building, you won’t get photos of it in the skyline. From all of the other NYC observation decks, you’ll see the Empire State Building in the distance and it is an iconic part of the NYC skyline.

You must book your visit to the Empire State Building online in advance here!

Related Read: We wrote a complete guide to visiting the Empire State Building full of tips to know before you go!

2. The Edge NYC

Bailey leans against the glass corner at Edge NYC
This is actually so scary!
The balcony with the city view at The Edge NYC
You literally stand on the edge!
  • Location: Hudson Yards
  • Price: $42 USD
  • Hours: 9 am – 10 pm (or midnight from Friday to Sunday)
  • Height: 100 floors
  • Best time to visit: Morning or sunset
  • Wheelchair friendly: Yes 
  • Overall rating: 8/10

With a name like The Edge, you just know that this one’s going to be modern and futuristic! 

And you’d be right – The Edge is one of New York’s newest observation decks. It actually opened in March 2020 which, as you no doubt remember, was when the pandemic hit and the whole world went into lockdown. 

But despite getting off to a shaky start, we think it’s one of the best observation decks in New York City. Plus, it’s actually the highest outdoor observation deck in the whole of the western hemisphere – you can see for miles and miles up here!

The Edge is located in Hudson Yards, which is New York’s newest (and shiniest) neighborhood. The observation deck has some crazy cool features like a glass floor portion that lets you see all the way down to the city below. We actually found it quite scary! 

The Edge also has angled glass walls which you can lean against to feel like you’re flying over the city. It’s a very surreal feeling! You should also make sure to snap a photo at the Eastern Point, which is the tip of the observation deck and allows you to pose against an amazing background. 

Close up of the Empire State Building as seen from the Edge NYC Observation deck
You can see the Empire State Building!

For us, though, the real highlight was the amazing view of the Empire State Building. It was so cool to see it from up here!

There’s also a fully licensed bar up here so you can enjoy a drink with a view, and an indoor section with floor-to-ceiling glass windows. 

If you want to linger for a bit longer, you can also head to the Peak Lounge on the 101st floor for cocktails and a light meal. You access it via an outdoor staircase between 11:30 am and 2 pm, or 5 pm and 10 pm. There’s a restaurant up there too (The Peak Restaurant) but you’ll need to book that well in advance. 

Tickets for the edge cost $42 USD per person and the cheapest way to book them is through Viator here. You have to choose a time slot, but they weren’t super strict about it. 

And if you really want to kick things up a notch, adrenaline-wise and scale the top of one of NYC’s tallest skyscrapers, the awesome City Climb experience is also available here!

Bailey poses for a photo at Edge NYC
One of the best viewpoints in the city!

Pros of the Edge

The Edge is cool and futuristic, and has a ton of fun features. We absolutely loved the glass floor! It’s also nice to be able to get food and drinks at the top, and the Eastern Point provides one of the best photo opportunities in the whole of New York City!

Cons of the Edge

It’s a struggle to think of any, but if we’re being really picky, it’s not super historic. The Edge is amazing but the Empire State Building is much older and way more iconic.

Book your tickets to the Edge online here!

Related Read: Learn all about The Edge NYC Observation Deck in our blog before you go!

3. SUMMIT One Vanderbilt 

Views of Central Park from SUMMIT One Vanderbilt
Views of Central Park! Photo credit: Sainaniritu Depositphotos
Summit One Vanderbilt Views
Photo credit: Summit One Vanderbilt
  • Location: Midtown
  • Price: $53 USD
  • Hours: 9 am – 12 am 
  • Height: 91 – 93 floors
  • Best time to visit: Morning or sunset
  • Wheelchair friendly: Yes 
  • Overall rating: 8/10

SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is probably the most unique observation deck in New York City. Sure, it’s got spectacular views, but it’s also a multi-sensory art experience at the same time. 

It’s spread across three floors and includes mirrored and multisensory rooms, two glass boxes that make you feel as though you’re levitating over the city, and a digital art exhibition that lets you see your own face in the (digital) clouds.

The levitation boxes provide a pretty thrilling experience and the mirrored rooms give you enhanced and enlarged views of New York’s skyline, although it is a bit disorienting! There are even circular openings to the floors below which, thanks to all the mirrors, look like never-ending portals.

You get 360 views as you work your way through the exhibit and although you’re indoors the whole time, the floor-to-ceiling glass windows mean that the view is still spectacular. 

After you’ve finished exploring the art exhibition, you’ll reach the Apres bar where you can stay for a drink if you want. There’s an indoor lounge area as well as an outdoor terrace with glass panels. 

SUMMIT One Vanderbilt gets really busy and there’s a lot to see, so we recommend allowing 2 or 3 hours for your visit, especially if you’re going at sunset. 

Tickets for SUMMIT One cost $53 USD most days but there are some off-peak days where you can snag them for $46.

We like this observation deck in NYC because it offers an entire (sometimes slightly mind-bending) experience and it’s totally unique!

Views from SUMMIT One Vanderbilt and the art installation in NYC
Photo credit: Sainaniritu Depositphotos

Pros of SUMMIT One Vanderbilt

SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is so creative and cool, and it’s totally different from all of the other observation decks in NYC. We think it’s really good value for money because you get tons of unique experiences to go along with the incredible views. 

Cons of SUMMIT One Vanderbilt 

The views at SUMMIT One are undeniably spectacular, but nothing beats outdoor views, like the ones you get at the Empire State Building. 

Plus, you have to be mindful of what shoes you wear. No heels or steel toe caps are allowed, and you have to wear shoe covers to protect the mirrored floors. This isn’t a big deal but they don’t look that great in photos!

Also, the whole experience is one way, so you can’t go back once you’ve left a floor or room. Again, this isn’t a huge deal but it is something to bear in mind before you go! 

You can book your tickets to Summit ONE online here!

4. Top of The Rock

Views of Central Park from the the Top of the Rock Observation deck in NYC
It’s one of the best views of Central Park!
View of the Empire State Building from the Top of the Rock in NYC
And the Empire State Building!
  • Location: Rockefeller Center
  • usdPrice: $44
  • Hours: 9 am – 12 am 
  • Height: 67th floor, 69th floor, and 70th floor
  • Best time to visit: Morning or sunset
  • Wheelchair friendly: Yes 
  • Overall rating: 8/10

Rockefeller Center is a famous complex that was built by the even more famous Rockefeller family. It’s home to NBC Studios, Radio City Music Hall, and, best of all, the Top of the Rock Observation Deck!

The views up here are amazing. You get a fantastic view of the Empire State Building and crystal-clear views of Central Park, too! It really gives you a sense of just how huge it is. You can also see the One World Trade Center, the Chrysler Building, and the Brooklyn Bridge

To be honest, I wasn’t even planning on going to Top of the Rock. However, I ended up going at the last minute because it was covered by my CityPASS®, and I was so glad that I did. It was one of my favorite things that I did in New York City!

On the 67th floor, you’ll pass by the Swarovski Radiance Walls Exhibit. This is basically a giant wall made of glass and crystal, and it’s lit up with fiber optic lights. There’s also an outdoor section where you see the city through glass panels.

The 69th floor is all outdoors and enclosed with glass, but the real highlight is the 70th floor. It’s all open air and there are no glass panels, so you get insane views. This is also fantastic for taking photos, too, as there’s no reflection or flash back. 

Tickets for Top of the Rock cost $44 USD per person or you can purchase a CityPASS® to have the admission covered. The views from here are stunning and it’s one of New York’s classic observation decks, so it’s definitely worth visiting. The views of the Empire State Building are especially amazing! 

Top of the Rock in New York City
The Top of the Rock!

Pros of Top of the Rock 

The Top of the Rock is one of the cheapest NYC tourist attractions to visit and the views really are wonderful. I had already been up the Empire State Building when I visited Top of the Rock, and I really appreciated being able to admire it along with the rest of the skyline. Plus, I loved that there were no glass barriers on the 70th floor. 

I think that if you just want a good old-fashioned observation deck with awesome views, then Top of the Rock is the perfect choice.

Cons of Top of the Rock

The views are undeniably amazing but I wouldn’t say they’re quite as impressive as the views you get from the Empire State Building observation deck. However, you do actually get to admire the Empire State Building, so it kind of balances out! 

It also doesn’t have anything like a glass floor or levitation boxes like some of the others on this list, and there’s nowhere to get drinks and snacks at the top. So if you’re looking for more of an experience, you might prefer the Edge or SUMMIT One Vanderbilt.

You can book tickets to Top of the Rock online here!

5. One World Observatory

Views from the One World Observatory in New York City'
The One World Observatory!
Views of the river and bridge in NYC from the One World Observatory
The Brooklyn Bridge!
  • Location: Lower Manhattan
  • Price: $44 USD
  • Hours: 9 am – 9 pm  
  • Height: 100th floor
  • Best time to visit: Morning or sunset
  • Wheelchair friendly: Yes 
  • Overall rating: 8/10

The One World Observatory is the highest indoor observation deck in New York (and the entire western hemisphere) at 1,268 ft (386.5 meters) tall! It’s spread across the 100th, 101st, and 102nd floors of the One World Trade Center, which is the tallest building in NYC!

One of the highlights of the One World Observatory is actually the ride up! After you show your tickets at the entrance, you can check out the Horizon Grid, a multimedia wall showing photos and videos of iconic places and historic moments in New York City. 

Then, once you get into the elevator, you’ll see that all of the walls are LED screens. As the elevator heads up to the 102nd floor, the screens play an awesome time lapse of New York City to show how it has grown and evolved over the past few centuries. Watching all of the skyscrapers springing up is amazing!

After the elevator, you’re taken into a cinema room on the 102nd floor where you’re shown another time lapse, and then you enter the observatory to enjoy those birdseye views of New York.

Then, you head downstairs to the 100th floor, which is the main observation deck. There are floor to ceiling windows and you can loop around the building to get amazing 360 views of New York, and you can even see New Jersey to the south. There’s also a Sky Portal which allows you to see through all 100 stories below, right down to the ground. 

There’s a restaurant and cocktail bar where you can drink and dine with insane views on the 101st floor, but it’s wise to book in advance! 

General admission costs $44 USD but there are a couple of different ticket options. If you want to get a cocktail at the top, we recommend choosing the all-inclusive ticket for $65 USD which includes flexible entry so you can turn up whenever suits you and a $15 USD voucher for the bar. 

Views of the Brooklyn Bridge from the One World Observatory in New York City
What a view!

Pros of One World Observatory

The One World Observatory is the tallest observation deck you can visit in New York City (unless you plan to do the City Climb at the Edge.) We also think that the time lapse in the elevator is an awesome bonus and the fact that you can see all the way to New Jersey is pretty cool! 

Cons of of One World Observatory

There’s no outdoor area you can visit at the One World Observatory, and it closes earlier than the other observation decks in the city. Saying that, we usually like to go in the morning or at sunset so it’s not a big loss, but it’s a bit annoying if you were hoping to go up at night.

You can book tickets for One World Observatory online here!

Are the NYC Observation Decks suitable for those afraid of heights?

New York City as seen from the Empire state Building
New York City!

If you’re afraid of heights, we don’t recommend going to one of the decks that has glass floors or portals, like The Edge and SUMMIT One Vanderbilt. You’re probably better off sticking with the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock

The One World Observatory could be a good choice as it’s enclosed, but you’ll just need to avoid the Sky Portal! 

It really depends on how severe your fear is, though, and what triggers you. 

Are the Observation decks in NYC suitable for kids? 

Bailey stands above the Edge NYC Observation deck
There were lots of kids around!

Yes, kids love them! SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is especially great for kids as it’s so interactive, especially the cloud and balloon rooms. But as long as your kids don’t have a big fear of heights, they’ll love any of the observation decks in New york City. 

Related Read: For an even better view, consider joining one of the amazing helicopter tours in NYC!

Is it worth doing more than one Observation deck in NYC? 

Views of NYC and the Empire State Building from Top of the Rock
Top of the Rock!

Yes, they’re only around $40 USD to $50 USD each (well worth it, in our opinion), and you get different views at each one. 

We highly recommend the Empire State Building, but it’s still worth visiting at least one other observation deck so that you actually get to see the Empire State Building in the NYC skyline, too! Plus, when you visit different observation decks you get different perspectives on the city. 

On top of that, you can visit different observation decks at different times of day. Many are open late so you can even go after dark to see the city lit up at night. I did this and I loved it! 

I think a good idea is to do one of the “classic” observation decks, like the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock, and then one of the newer ones that have fun features like glass floors, fancy bars, and digital art displays! This way, you get the best of both worlds. 

One of the best ways to visit the observation decks in NYC is with one of the sightseeing passes in New York. If you go with The New York Pass, it lets you pay for a certain number of days of unlimited sightseeing. But the CityPASS® and the pass by Go City are other great options to bundle together top attractions and save money!

Other Things to do While You’re in New York City

Daniel with his pizza at the Chelsea Market on our food tour
This was one of the best slices we tried in NYC!
bailey walks along the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City
A must-do!

As the biggest city in the USA, there is no shortage of things to do in New York! I mean you could spend weeks here and still not see a fraction of what the Big Apple has to offer. But if you only have a few days and want to see the highlights, these are other top attractions and activities we highly recommend checking out.  

  • Eat pizza! – New York was home to the first pizzeria in the US way back in the early 1900s and it’s still something this city is known for. I dare say the pizza here is legendary! Top pizza joints include John’s of Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, Prince Street Pizza in Nolita, and we also loved 2 Bros Pizza. You can even eat pizza (and lots of other treats!) on a food tour of Chelsea Market which is a foodie’s paradise!
  • Fly above NYC – Exploring on the ground is fun, but to truly appreciate the New York skyline, take to the air! Joining a helicopter flight in NYC gives you a front-row seat (or hopefully a window seat!) to all the iconic sights like the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty. We chose this 15-minute helicopter flight that flew over Manhattan and it was a highlight, if not THE highlight of our whole trip!
  • Cross the Brooklyn Bridge – New York can be expensive, but strolling over the Brooklyn Bridge is completely free! The views of the skyline are stellar and there are lots of vendors if you get hungry. We recommend walking all the way across to Brooklyn Bridge Park for the best views of Manhattan.

Where to Stay in New York City

Bailey with her luggage in New york City
Ready to check in!

New York City is huge – there is just no other way to put it! Even Manhattan (the area you’ll want to base yourself in) is a lot bigger than you think. That’s why choosing the right hotel in the right location is so important during your stay in New York.

Below, we’ve simplified it all for you by choosing a couple of the very best hotels available in the city. All three of these options have ideal locations close to attractions and the subway system. They all have amazing reviews, too, so just choose the one in your budget category and you’ll be ready to pack your bags!

Motto by Hilton – $$$

Motto by Hilton is a gorgeous hotel located in the Chelsea neighborhood only 600 meters from the Flatiron Building. The hotel features modern decor that has “speakeasy vibes”. In fact, they have a beautiful bar onsite that looks like the perfect place to sip an Old Fashioned. There are a variety of rooms on offer including some that are a little more budget-friendly, and some that are pure luxury with city views! Prices start from about $400 USD per night plus tax.

You can check prices and availability for Motto by Hilton online here!

Delta Hotels by Marriott New York Times Square – $$

Delta Hotels by Marriott New York Times Square is where we stayed the last time we visited New York, and honestly, we loved it! This hotel is the perfect combination of comfort and value for money. It was clean, modern, and our room had all of the amenities we needed for an enjoyable stay (air conditioning, k-cup coffee maker, steamer, large shower, big windows, etc). Plus, the location is ideal – it’s only a couple blocks from Times Square!

Prices do range, but they do go as low as $200 USD per night plus tax depending on the time of year and day of the week. You can check prices and book online here!

Nap York Central Park Sleep Station – $

For those traveling on a tight budget, Nap York is a budget hostel that’s an ideal choice. Although affordable, this property is immaculate and offers a ton of amenities for a great stay including air conditioning and a shared kitchen. The rooms are modern and the location is about as central as it gets! This property only offers dorm rooms, but they are affordable at as little as $150 USD per night.

You can check prices and book Nap York online on either Booking.com or Hostelworld

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie on the Edge NYC with the Empire State Building in the background
Thanks for reading!

Now, you should be armed with all the information you need to choose the best Observation Decks in NYC to visit. The truth is, they are all amazing and seeing the New York skyline from above is an experience you don’t want to miss!

If you enjoyed this blog, be sure to rea dour other blogs about visiting the USA including a couple related reads below:

The BEST Food Tours in NYC

12 Things to Know BEFORE Visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, NYC

5 BEST Manhattan Helicopter Tours

Guide to Dinner Cruises in New York