Empire State Building View at Night

My New York guide book had both the Empire State Building and the Rockefeller Centre in the Top 10 list of things to see while I was there.

I really wasn’t sure if it would be worth going up both.  Don’t get me wrong, the photographer in me loves getting shots over New York, but would they be different enough to warrant the (not cheap) entrance fee into each of them?

Being the good blogger that I am, I did indeed check them both out…

Rockefeller Centre (Yes I spell it centre and not center, because I’m British, deal with it!)

Was a bit of a difficult visit for me, I’ve been actively avoiding the Freedom Tower since they starting building it, so this was my first time seeing it in the flesh, which clouded my opinions of our visit, so I’m going to get Philip to write about this one.

The Rockefeller is one of those landmarks in New York that you’ve seen in a thousand films, but often without really connecting with the actual place itself.  It has a famous ice rink that has been in loads of Christmas films, and a fountain with golden Greek statues, but when we went up to the observation decks ($29) (which are on the 67th, 69th and 70th floors), unlike the Empire State Building,  I have to admit it felt a little ‘meh’.  There was nothing wrong with the view, which was spectacular, but the place itself had no sense of theatre at all – it felt mostly like a shopping centre with a view.

Empire State Building View at Night

Empire State Building

Built in 1931, for 40 years this iconic building was the tallest in the world. There are two observation decks, offering incredible views across New York.

One is on the 86th floor and another up on the 102nd.  But as the price jumps up from $29 to $46 to see both, I just went with the 86th.

The queueing to get into the building and then again to buy your ticket and then again go through security and then again for the lifts is tedious to say the least and the ‘Dare to Dream’ exhibit held my attention for all of 15 seconds. But that was all forgotten once I got a look at that view.

There are a couple of shops and cafe’s down in the lobby, plus there is the NY Skyride on the 2nd floor, otherwise the ESB is mainly offices. It turns out they make more money from visitors to the observation decks than they do from renting out all the other floors!

I would suggest visiting Top of the Rock during the day, so you can really enjoy that view of Central Park and save the Empire State Building for when it’s dark, so you can get the most from all those lights.

Have you been?  Which was your favourite observation deck?


  • I have never been up the Rockefeller Centre but I did the Empire State Building years ago with friends living in NY who had never been up. We had a bit of a scare afterwards when we got back to their apartment as a few hours after our visit their was a loner shooter who decided to fire randomly on people…You obviously have those “what if” moment running through your head. It was really weird. Obviously, this was before 2001 so no security to speak of to go up the tower. But you are right, the view is quite impressive though I hadn’t realized it had gotten so expensive. (Suzanne)

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