Over two trips to NYC in 2022 and 2023, we have seen the city from the three major mid-town Manhattan observation towers.
In 2023 we used the New York Pass by Go City. For a high upfront fee, we were able to visit all of the observation attractions. Although the cost was $190 per adult for two days, there was a lot of value in bundling Edge NYC and the Empire State Building with other high priced-admission attractions.
In this blog:
- Edge NYC
- Empire State Building
- Top of the Rock
Midtown- Hudson Yard
Edge NY is the newest of the observation decks in Midtown Manhattan (and the tallest if you don’t count the small 102nd floor of the Empire State building). Tickets can be purchased in advance, but we were using our New York Pass, so we purchased at a kiosk onsite. There were plenty of times available when we arrived at 6pm on Saturday night, but if there had been a wait shopping at the Hudson Yards mall would have easily filled the time. An express option was also available for purchase; we found the wait after entering the queue to be longer than the other observation decks and, despite its newness, the elevator capacity was surprisingly low.
EdgeNY had more upsell opportunities than Empire State Building and Top of the Rock. Visitors were enjoying dinner and from a champagne bar and food cart and “skating” on a tiny faux ice rink.
The Glass Floor
One of the draws to Edge was the opportunity to walk on a see-through floor, and it was just opaque enough to get the idea without being terrifying.
The Observation Deck
We looked forward to the view, but dreaded the weather as we walked to Hudson Yards. We were surprised to find that the glass blocked the cold temps and wind, making it even more pleasant than 1100 feet below.
Empire State Building
Midtown- Fifth Avenue
The Empire State building may not have the expansive floor to ceiling views that the other observation decks do, but the history of the iconic building make up for it. (However, there is an upsell option for the 102nd floor that we didn’t take, so I can’t compare that to other venues.) The queue to get through security took 20-30 minutes on a Sunday night, but then opened to an area documenting the nearly one-hundred year history. One of my favorite parts was a screening room with the many iconic movie and television scenes filmed on the Empire State Building, and King Kong makes multiple appearances in the adjacent galleries.
Watching the PBS Series New York City: A Documentary Film was the perfect research for the trip.
Ascending the Empire State Building
With many elevators available, the wait for us was short to get to the observation area, and it included more exhibits and large windows for viewing the city. A second elevator (and another line) is required to get to the iconic outdoor 86th floor observatory (and a third if you have a ticket to the 102nd floor).
Exit Through the Gift Shop
After descending, we made our way through an expansive gift shop, then exited in the lobby for the obligatory mural photo.
On a cold late winter evening, 20 minutes was plenty for me to enjoy the view with low crowds. During sunset and busier times, I can imagine the space being much more crowded, so I was happy with the windy weather trade-off.
Top of the Rock
Top of the Rock is the “shortest” of the three observation towers we visited, but has the best panoramic view of the city’s major landmarks. Seeing the vastness of Central Park and looking at St. Patrick’s Cathedral from above were the highlights for me. There are three floors; entering on the 67th floor offers indoor observation for the height and cold weather averse.
Top of the Rock Updates
Top of the Rock has been open since 2005 in its current incarnation. We visited in spring of 2022, and a year later the website notes that renovations are taking place and some spaces may be inaccessible to the public.
Outdoor Photo Ops
The viewing decks on this floor and the 69th floor have high glass barriers, while the smaller 70th floor rooftop is open air with just shoulder high fencing.