Top of the Rock vs Empire State Building: which is better?
Are you in New York and wondering which one to choose: Top of the Rock vs. Empire State Building?
This article from my NYC BLOG is written for you!
In fact, here you’ll find out everything you need to know about two of New York City’s most famous panoramic observatories.
I will analyze the choice between Empire State Building vs Top of the Rock from many perspectives.
Among them: location, cost of tickets, best view.
I also invite you to check out the other articles on my Blog. They will help you plan your next trip to the Big Apple.
Let’s go now to find out which observatory to choose: Empire State Building vs Top of the Rock.
Which NYC observation deck has the best location?
Both the observation decks are in Midtown Manhattan, New York.
The Empire State Building is at the intersection of 34th Street and 5th Avenue.
The Top of the Rock is between the 5th and the 6th Avenue and between the 49th and the 51st Street.
To give you more information about the geographical location of the first one, consider the following:
34th Street is the same street as Macy’s. The department store is less than a 5-minute walk from the observation deck.
5th Avenue is the most famous street in New York City. Walking north from the observatory you will see, in order: Bryant Park, Saks Fifth Avenue (and its Christmas show), Rockefeller Center (with its Christmas tree), St. Patrick Cathedral, the Plaza Hotel, and Central Park (ever wonder how long it takes to explore it?).
The exact address of this iconic New York City landmark is 20 West 34th Street. The Top of the Rock, instaed, is located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza New York, NY.
In contrast, the Top of the Rock is more centrally located. In fact, it is located at the top of Rockefeller Center, so it is less than a 5-minute walk from Times Square.
So, in the Empire State Building vs. Top of the Rock choice regarding location, the Top of the Rock wins.
If you are looking for some food ideas in the area check out the following posts: the Best Pizza around Times Square or the Best Burgers in NYC. The Winter Garden Theater is also a few steps away from the Top of the Rock. Check out the best restaurants near this iconic location in Manhattan.
Empire State Building or Top of the Rock: which is closer to Times Square?
The answer to the question of which scenic observatory is closer to Times Square is very simple. In fact, while the first one is on 34th Street, the Top of the Rock is on 49th. This street is the same as downtown Times Square and its Red Stairs.
So, Empire State Building vs. Top of the Rock on which one is closer to Times Square: point to the second one.
In between the Top of the Rock and Times Square is Radio City Music Hall. Check out the my guide on the Best Seats for Radio City Christmas Spectacular and on what to wear to Radio City Music Hall
Empire State Building or Top of the Rock: which is the tallest building?
The Empire State Building is taller than Top of the Rock.
When visiting its observation deck you will be 1,454 feet (443.2 meters) above the ground. This data includes its antenna.
On the contrary, the Top of the Rock, is an observation deck situated atop the GE Building (also known as 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY.
The GE Building is significantly shorter than the observation deck on the 34th Street: 850 feet (259 meters).
So in the challenge of who is taller between the Empire State Building vs the Top of the Rock, the first easily wins.
The fact this iconic New York City landmark is considerably taller also has an impact on the view during the visit. With the increasing number of huge skyscrapers in the city, it is increasingly important to be up high to see more!
Tickets price: which is more expensive, Empire State Building vs Top of the Rock?
When purchasing tickets for the Empire State Building or the Top of the Rock, ticket prices may vary depending on the type of experience you choose.
Generally, both attractions have similar price ranges for general admission.
However, tickets for the Top of the Rock are usually cheaper than the ones of the most iconic skascraper in NYC.
As of March 2023, the general admission price for tickets online to the Empire State Building’s main deck (86th floor) was approximately $44 for adults.
For Top of the Rock, the general admission price was around $36 for adults.
Observation deck with the best experience at Sunset Time
Visiting a scenic observatory at sunset is the most beautiful experience there can be.
The New York sky with all its skyscrapers tinged pink and red.
Tickets to go up to the Top of the Rock or Empire State Building during sunset hours cost an extra $10.
Is it worth the extra $10 per person to go up to these scenic observatories?
In my opinion, yes. The view of New York City is even more special.
In terms of sunset views, both observatories are great. Given the equal ticket price increase, the Empire State Building vs Top of the Rock challenge is even in this situation.
Which observatory has the best views of NYC
It is impossible to choose which between the Top of the Rock vs. the Empire State Building has the best view.
In fact, both of them have an open air observation deck.
Both have good points that the other does not.
For example: the view from the Empire State Building is unique. It is the only observation deck in NYC with a 360-degree exterior terrace.
The Central Park view from the Top of the Rock, on the other hand, is the only one completely unobstructed. This observatory also has, in its outdoor platform, glass windows that allow for “cleaner” photos and videos.
Instead, the Observation Deck on the 34th Street has metal grates to protect visitors.
The challenge “Empire State Building vs Top of the Rock” on the best view of the Big Apple is even.
If I really have to pick a winner, then I would say Top of the Rock for one simple fact. In fact, from Top of the Rock you can see and photograph the most iconic skascraper in the Big Apple: the Empire State Building!
VIP Experience at the Empire State Building
So many tourists don’t know this information: the most famous skyscraper in New York City has two panoramic observatories.
The first, and most famous, is the one on the 86th floor. This is the only outdoor viewing platform with a 360-degree view of NYC.
The second is on the Empire State Building’s 102nd floor. it is a VIP experience and to visit it you have to buy a ticket at a higher cost. Buying the Empire State Building express pass will allow you to skip the line for both the floors.
The view from the 102nd floor is even more spectacular.
The biggest difference though with the viewing platform on the 86th floor is that it is indoor.
In contrast, the view from the Top of the Rock is solely from the outdoor observation deck that we discuss in this article.
Empire State Building or Top of the Rock: which one can I see the Statue of Liberty?
From both viewpoints, the view of the Statue of Liberty is greatly reduced. This iconic landmark is too far from Midtown Manhattan to allow a clear view in close proximity.
The vantage point where the Statue of Liberty can best be seen is the One World Trade Center, in Lower Manhattan.
The big difference though between the One World Observatory and the two skyscrapers in Midtown Manhattan is that the former does not have a rooftop terrace outside.
As a result, the view from the Top of the Rock and the view from the Empire State Building are more special, allowing the visitor to go outside.
Which panoramic observatory has a restaurant on the top floor?
The challenge between Empire State Building vs Top of the Rock on who has a rooftop restaurant is even.
In fact, neither has a restaurant on the top floor.
The only observatories with a rooftop restaurant are The Edge and One World Trade Center.
The restaurant at the top of The Edge is called The Peak and in my opinion it is one of the best restaurants in New York. The Peak is a little expensive but definitely worth trying.
Top of the Rock or Empire State Building: which one offers a better view of Central Park?
To the question of here, between Empire State Building vs. Top of the Rock, has the best view of Central Park, the answer is very simple.
Visiting the Top of the Rock simply wins out over the Empire State Building.
Its view of Central Park is indeed “clean,” without any skyscrapers in front of it.
On the other hand, the Central Park’s view from the observation deck on the Empire State Building is not optimal. Between the observation deck and the world’s most famous park are too many skyscrapers.
So, if you want to take a picture of Central Park and don’t know which one to choose between Top of the Rock vs Empire State Building, choose the former.
In conclusion, the challenge between Top of the Rock vs Empire State Building has no clear winner.
Each observatory has clear reasons to visit.
If you can, try to visit at least two viewing platforms during your trip.
The best would be by doing a mix of experiences.
For example, you can visit one observatory at night and the other at sunset.
That way the view from the Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building will be different. You will then take home lots of photos of the Big Apple and lasting memories.