Manhattan is a beauty from any angle, but it really shines from above. Shift your perspective on NYC sightseeing with a visit to the following five landmarks – from a skyscraper to a bridge to a museum – which each offer a bird’s-eye view from vastly different vantage points. Get ready to be wowed – you've never seen NYC views like this before!
Top of the Rock
No windows or fences obstruct the view between you and the Manhattan skyline at Top of the Rock, an observation deck set 70 stories above Rockefeller Center. This open-air deck (plus two indoor observation rooms, with floor-to-ceiling windows on the 67th and 69th floors) offers 360-degree views. As you move around the perimeter of the deck atop this 1930s art deco skyscraper, snap photos with quintessential Manhattan backdrops including Central Park, the Empire State Building, and the Hudson River. With a timed ticketing system, you won’t have to wait to climb to the top of 30 Rock. Coincide your visit with sunset, when the light and electricity of New York is at its most magnificent. W. 50th St. at 6th Ave.; from $25/person.
Empire State Building
Many New York landmarks could stake the claim as the most romantic attraction in town, but the Empire State Building takes the crown. This icon has played a role in romantic films from Sleepless in Seattle to An Affair to Remember. Follow in the footsteps of your favorite characters, and ascend 1,050 feet to the 86th floor. This space has both an indoor climate-controlled room for chilly days and an outdoor observation deck equipped with high-power binoculars for taking in views of the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, and more. Complete your experience by zipping up even further, to the 102nd-floor observatory, with a smaller, quieter deck that soars 1,250 feet above the Manhattan streets. 350 5th Ave.; from $30/person.
One World Observatory
When views are what you’re after, turn to the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. Located on the 100th, 101st, and 102nd floors of One World Trade Center, the One World Observatory has been a smash hit since opening in May 2015. The experience begins before you even reach the observation decks, with a memorable 60-second elevator ride. As the Sky Pod elevators rocket to the 102nd floor, a time-lapse depiction of the New York City skyline from the 1500s to the present day comes to life with floor-to-ceiling LED technology. The main observatory is on the 100th floor, featuring 360-degree views that include the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, and the entire skyscraper-speckled island of Manhattan. Slow down and take it all in on the 101st floor, home to three dining options, including a casual café. 285 Fulton St.; from $30/person; get tickets
The Brooklyn Bridge
To find the best views of Manhattan, one strategy is to leave the island behind. Hop on the subway and ride it to High Street in Brooklyn, where a short stroll will bring you to the staircase on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge – starting on this side affords the best views of the Manhattan skyline as you cross the East River. Climb the stairs and get your bearings; there’s one lane for pedestrians and another for cyclists, who often cross the bridge at high speeds. Completed in 1883, this bridge stretches for 1,595 feet between the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Traffic will zip along below as you stroll; stop at the spacious scenic points in the middle of the bridge for the best photo opportunities. Crossing on foot is free, of course, but you can sign up for some excellent guided tours for some additional context, like those on offer from Inside Out Tours or BQE Tours: the Brooklyn Queens Experience (note that the latter is run by About.com's very own Elissa Garay).
The Roof at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
For views with a cocktail in hand, wander through the galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art toward its roof garden bar. This open-air, seasonal rooftop (open from May through October) is one of the most stylish places in town to raise a glass overlooking the Manhattan skyline and Central Park. Cocktails, beer, wine, soft drinks, and light fare are served in an intimate space with a unique perspective on the classic buildings that line the edge of the park. To reach this roof garden oasis, enter the museum and aim for the elevator in the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Galleries. 1000 5th Ave.; suggested admission from $22.50/person.