The "Top of the Rock" is a sightseeing attraction in midtown Manhattan, with three observation decks on the top of 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
- the decks start are on the 67th, 69th, and 70th floors, and reach 850 feet above street level at the top deck
- Rockfeller Center is an NYC landmark, fondly known for its outdoor skating rink, also home to NBC Studios (take a tour) and tourist favorite Radio City Music Hall
Top of the Rock is a classic attraction that dates back to the thirties and the place makes the most of its retro history, but it's also a 21st-century visitor experience. Visitors will love the timed admission (read: no lineups), and an audio podcast provides details and background.
Bottom line: A first-rate sightseeing attraction in New York City, not only because of its terrific views and decades of history but also because the visitor experience is top-notch.
Always check destination websites for updates!
Compared to Empire State Building
Most visitors to New York long to head to the top of a famous art-deco building and take in the panorama of the great city below.
For legions of people, that building is the Empire State Building. It's an icon; its Observation Deck is where Cary Grant waited for Deborah Kerr, and Tom Hanks comes back to get Jonah's backpack in "Sleepless in Seattle"... However, all too often in the past, long lineups (even after you've bought tickets) have taken the glow off the experience.
The Empire State Building has recently changed its visitor procedures, and hopefully, long line-up problems are history; check a site like TripAdvisor.com for the latest comments.
Meanwhile, Top of the Rock is also an opportunity to head to the top of a famous art-deco building --Rockefeller Center-- and view the panorama of the great city below, and Top of the Rock has worked hard to ensure a great visitor experience. Visitors buy timed tickets in advance so that a limited number of people have admission during a specified time window. No wait; no lines; no crowds.
Again, always check recent visitors' comments at TripAdvisor.com!
Of course, if you have time, do visit both these classic buildings.
View over Central Park
Top of the Rock has three upper observation decks, 850+ feet above street level, on the 67th, 69th, and 70th floors.
Views are great in all directions, but one of the best is this angle above, looking out over Frederick Law Olmsted's masterpiece of urban planning, Central Park. Other fine sights include: the Chrysler Building, Brooklyn Bridge, and the Hudson and East Rivers. Check out the audio podcast that can add interesting details and background.
The "Rockefeller Center Observation Deck" opened to the public in 1933 and was designed after the grand ocean liners of the day. The 70th floor was even fitted with deck chairs and fixtures to look like a ship's deck.
The Rockefeller Center was built in the Depression, and provided much-needed jobs; the entrance area has construction photos that evoke the times.
Rockefeller Center was built in the art deco style and has been a National Historic Landmark since 1988. The Observation Deck was closed for twenty years, before re-opening in 2005 as "Top of the Rock".
Entrance on W. 50th Street
Entrance to Top of the Rock is on West 50th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues; hours are from 8:00 a.m. to midnight, 365 days a year; the last elevator goes up at 11 p.m.(Always check Top of the Rock web site for latest info!)
Special feature: Swarovski chandelier
Top of the Rock has been designed to be a peak visitor experience, even before you get to the observation decks. Gaze, for example, at this massive crystal waterfall chandelier, inside the entrance on West 50th Street: a piece called "Joie", by Swarovski, an Austrian company famed for cut crystal.
Special Feature: Crystal Wall
Also by Swarovski is the "Radiance" wall on the first level of the Observation Deck: a 180-foot geode crystal wall. Check it out at night.
--continue to Light-up Breezeway
Kids will like the Target® Breezeway, where motion-detection technology tracks visitor movements. As in: the green color changes when YOU move.
Another plus about Top of the Rock: in addition to the open-air observation decks, the 67th floor has an area with glass walls and seating; nice place to warm up on a windy day, and still enjoy the views.
Visitors Tips for Families
One great thing for families about Top of the Rock is the timed admissions: no waiting in line with impatient kids.
Families will also be happy to know that kids under six are admitted free, with a paying adult; and strollers are allowed.
Also, head to the Top of the Rock site for a worksheet to print out: one sheet shows major landmarks that kids can find from the observation deck, another compares 1969 to today, etc.
Kids will definitely enjoy the GPS-enabled audio tour which also displays photos and videos. At time of writing, rental for these devices costs $10, and -- as long as you have plenty of time for your visit-- you can probably take turns with the units among family members.
Also at Rockefeller Center are two other prime attractions: NBC Studio Tours (a great idea with teens who watch NBC shows), and Radio City Music Hall.
Read more about Top of the Rock including visitor's tips, prices, where to buy tickets, etc.