Visiting the Top of the Rock Observation Deck

The Empire State Building and the New York City skyline, as seen from uptown

Michele Falzone/Getty Images

The observation deck at Rockefeller Center originally opened to the public in 1933 but was closed in 1986. A newly restored and improved Top of the Rock reopened to the public in November 2005. The observation deck offers 360-degree views of the New York City skyline.

Top of the Rock Facts

  • Top of the Rock is a six-level observatory atop the Art Deco 30 Rockefeller Plaza
  • The upper decks are 850 feet above street level
  • Views include some of the city’s most prominent landmarks from the Chrysler Building to the Brooklyn Bridge; from Central Park to the Hudson and East Rivers
  • Originally designed to evoke the upper decks of a 1930s grand ocean liner, the observation deck was outfitted with deck chairs, goose-neck fixtures, and large air conditioning vents intended to look like the stacks on a ship’s deck
Visitors at the Top of the Rock
 Mario Tama/Getty Images

How to Visit Top of the Rock

The timed-ticket system eliminates the aggravation of waiting on line and even allows you to select the time of day that most appeals to you. Want to enjoy great views of Central Park and see New York City's waterways? Plan to visit during the day. Want to see the sunset? Buy your ticket for about 30 minutes before sunset. Want to experience the sparkle of New York City at night? Plan to come after dinner.

The views are best on clear days and, depending on availability, you can book your tickets online with just 3 hours of notice. You can also collect your tickets at the box office or at one of the kiosks selling tickets at Rockefeller Center.

If you have to choose between Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building Observatory, you may want to prioritize the former, as it's far less crowded and the timed ticketing can save you a ton of time. In addition, the views of Central Park are fantastic and you can actually see the Empire State Building. Although the Top of the Rock isn't as high as the Empire State Building, you feel closer to other buildings.

View from the Top of the Rock
 Rob Kim/Getty Images

Tips for Visiting

  • Dress for the weather—the wind is stronger and it's always a bit chillier on the Observation Deck than it is at street level and, f you get too cold, duck into one of the enclosed viewing areas to warm up
  • If you arrive shortly before sunset, you can enjoy both the day and night views
  • The security guards can be very helpful in identifying landmarks if you're not sure what you're looking at
  • Be sure to climb up from the main deck to enjoy the view from a slightly higher and take better pictures
  • There are both indoor and outdoor viewing areas, which is convenient when it's cold out

Visiting With Kids

  • Strollers are allowed and children under 6 are admitted free, with a paid parent or guardian
  • The Student Activity Guide includes worksheets for kids in grades 4-7 who visit the Top of the Rock
  • The Teacher's Guide includes information on visiting the Top of the Rock and has helpful information about Rockefeller Center for all sorts of visitors

Top of the Rock Basics

  • Entrance: 50th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues
  • Visit the website for the most up-to-date admissions information, hours, and special events
  • Nearest Subways: B, D, F to Rockefeller Center/47-50th St. Station

Tourism Deals

If you're interested in exploring Rockefeller Center more thoroughly, you can take the Rockefeller Center Tour. There is also a Rock MoMA pass, that covers admission to both the Top of the Rock and the Museum of Modern Art (available at the Top of the Rock box office).