The Best Time to Visit Top of the Rock Observation Deck NYC
Booked a trip to New York City and planning to visit the Top of the Rock? Keeping reading to find out the best time to visit Top of the Rock NYC to plan the perfect outing.
The Top of the Rock Observation deck is one of New York City’s most popular and worthwhile attractions. There is nothing like getting a glimpse of the iconic New York skyline from above. If you’re visiting New York for the first time then heading to the Top of the Rock is one of the things you simply must do in New York.
The Top of the Rock Observation Deck offers 360-degree views of the Big Apple. Consisting of three floors, visitors have the chance to take in the incredible views in every direction. You’ll be able to see Central Park to the north, Brooklyn Bridge to your west, and the Empire State Building and Lower Manhattan to the south. There’s also an unobstructed view of the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty in the distance.
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about visiting the Top of the Rock as well as the all-important question, when is the best time to visit Top of the Rock NYC?
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Getting to the Top of the Rock
The Top of the Rock Observation Deck is located at the top of the Rockefeller Building. It’s located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza between 5th and 6th Avenues and 49th and 50th Streets. The Rockefeller Center isn’t far from Times Square, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Grand Central, and the Chrysler Building.
The main entrance to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck is on 50th Street. Find it on Google Maps here.
You can get to the Rockefeller Plaza by subway (recommend), bus, on foot, taxi/Uber, or CitiBike.
Subway: The closest subway station to the Top of the Rock is 47th-50th Streets- Rockefeller Center Station, just half a block from the Rockefeller Center.
Alternatively, Grand Central Station is just 6 blocks away and 5th Avenue- 53rd Street station is also close, just 4 blocks away.
The subway or M trains are the fastest and easiest way to get to the Rockefeller Center.
Bus: If you prefer to take the bus, the closest bus stop is West 50th Street/Avenue of the Americas. Here you can catch the M5 and M7 buses from 6th Avenue.
Top of the Rock Tickets and Prices
There are two ways to buy tickets for Top of the Rock NYC; online in advance or at the door when you arrive. It is best to purchase your tickets ahead of time online. This guarantees your entry time- essential when visiting at sunset time- and also means you don’t have to stand in long lines to buy a ticket.
The Top of the Rock official ticketing website clearly states that if poor weather and visibility occur during the day and time of your reserved visit, they can reissue your ticket for another day or time.
This means that you don’t need to threat too much if you booked your ticket two weeks in advance and the weather on the day ends up miserable. This policy is another reason why it’s a good idea to book your Top of the Rock ticket in advance.
There are a few different types of tickets and ticket prices you can buy including:
General Admission Tickets: Gives you access to the three indoor and outdoor observation decks. Choose your day and time when booking.
The general admission ticket costs $40 for adults, $34 for children, and $38 for seniors (without tax). Note that visits during sunset hours cost $10 more.
Express Pass: The Express Pass means that on the day of your choice, you can visit at whatever time you like. Perfect for planning your visit according to the best weather. The ticket also includes priority entry and priority elevator access. The Express Pass costs $85 + tax.
VIP Tour: The VIP Tour includes a guided and exclusive tour of the top of 30 Rockefeller Plaza which includes Top of the Rock Observation Deck and Rainbow Room. It also includes expedited entry and security, priority elevator access, and a digital photo package. VIP Tickets cost $125 + tax
Rock Pass: This ticket includes two unique Rockefeller experiences in one. Take the Rockefeller Center Tour and learn about the iconic building, its art, and its architecture before visiting the Top of the Rock Observation Deck. The Rock Pass costs $56 +tax.
If you’re visiting New York City for the first time and you’re also planning to visit some other attractions like the Empire State Building and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum then it might be well worth your time to consider purchasing one of the many combined ticket passes that also include entry to the Top of the Rock.
CityPASS: The New York City Pass is one of the best attraction passes you can buy when visiting NYC and saving some serious dollars (almost $100 to be exact). It includes admission to 5 attractions; the Top of the Rock Observation Deck or Guggenheim Museum, Ferry Access to the Statue of Liberty or Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises, the 9/11 Memorial or Intrepid Museum as well as the Empire State Building and the American Museum of Natural History.
If you’re planning on visiting these anyway, grabbing the CityPASS is the way to go. Get your New York CityPASS here.
New York Go City Explorer Pass: This New York pass allows you to choose between 2 and 10 New York attractions out of 95+ tours and attractions. You can save up to 40% off admission prices and this pass offers full flexibility for the attractions you want to visit. Read more and get your Go City Explorer Pass here.
Ready to grab your ticket? If you’re not planning to go for the New York CityPASS, then get your Top of the Rock Observation Deck ticket below via GetYourGuide.
Top of the Rock Opening Hours
The Top of the Rock Observation Deck NYC is open from 9 am until 10 pm every day, 7 days a week and 365 days per year. The first admissions are at 9.05 am and the last admission is at 10.10 pm. Around this time you’ll also find the last elevator up.
When purchasing tickets online you can choose a time slot every five minutes. However, entry times are pretty flexible- if you happen to arrive 10 or 20 minutes early or late, the staff here will, most probably still let you up.
During the busiest times e.g. at sunset and at weekends, it can take quite a while to get in, get through security and wait your turn for the elevator to the top. If you are visiting for sunset, I’d highly recommend booking your ticket for 2 hours before sunset. This will allow you enough time to get up to the observation deck and have time to look around and take photos during ‘golden hour’ before the sun actually dips below the horizon.
When is the Best Time to Visit Top of the Rock
The Top of the Rock Observation Deck can be visited throughout the year.
Given its wide range of opening hours, there are many opportunities throughout the day to visit the Top of the Rock NYC.
If your main objective is to enjoy the space freely, perhaps take some great photos and escape the crowds, you’ll want to time your visit first thing in the morning, between the hours of 9 am and 11 am on a WEEKDAY. Monday and Tuesday in particular seem to be the quietest days.
During these times you’ll most likely be able to explore all the viewing platforms practically solo and take photos freely.
Alternatively and especially for the night owls out there, 9 pm-11 pm is also a great quiet time to visit the Top of the Rock NYC. Yes, it will be dark and the view you’ll get will be very different compared with visiting during the day, but, let’s be honest, NYC is just gorgeous at night with all those flashing lights.
Without a doubt, the most magical time to visit the Top of the Rock is at sunset. This however is the busiest and most popular time to visit. I highly suggest asking yourself what you prefer; sweeping views of NYC at sunset with huge crowds or sweeping views of NYC on a normal morning with few people around. Once you’ve decided on this you’ll know the best time to visit Top of the Rock NYC for you.
Day or Night?
As the Top of the Rock is open both, during the day and after dark, one of the most popular questions I was asked on my Instagram, after having visited is whether it’s best to visit during the day or during the night.
During the day is probably best simply because you can see more. On a clear day, you can see the entire island of Manhattan and you can even see the Statue of Liberty in the distance. This would not be the case a night.
That’s not to say that visiting after dark is a waste of time. The city that never sleeps is magical at night with all its flashing lights.
If you’re having trouble deciding whether to visit during the day or during the night, the best thing you can do is to visit at sunset. Arriving as it’s getting dark, with daylight to spare, and then watching the sun go down and all the lights come on is one of the most magical experiences.
Yes, you’ll need to spend quite a few hours up on the observation deck to make this happen but this way it is possible to experience the entire New York City skyline during the day and at night. Photographers often do this to catch the NYC skyline at its finest.
When Is the Best Time of Year to Visit Top of the Rock NYC?
So, when is the best time of year to visit Top of the Rock? The truth is that all times of year are great for visiting the Top of the Rock. The most important thing to consider is the weather on each day. Whether it’s during summer or winter, visiting on a clear, sunny day is the most important point to consider.
Spring and Summer
For longer, brighter days visiting the Top of the Rock during the spring or summer is a great idea. Not only do you have more daylight hours to spend exploring New York City, but the probability of scoring a sunny day to visit the Top of the Rock is also much higher.
With temperatures also being much warmer during these times of the year, it’s also more comfortable on the outdoor Observation decks up top.
Spring and summer, especially, however, are busy times of year in New York City so you’ll need to consider that attractions, in general, will be busier compared with the winter months.
The fall is an excellent time of year to visit NYC and the Top of the Rock. As you have an amazing view of Central Park from the observation deck, catching the park with its orange, golden, and red hues, as the leaves change is beautiful.
Crowds are fewer in New York at this time but remember to wrap up warm as it can be quite cold at the very top on the outdoor observation platform.
Winter can be a very magical time to visit New York and the Top of the Rock Observation deck.
The main pros of visiting during the winter are that, except for Christmas and New Year, there are far fewer visitors in New York. If you’ve wanted to visit during sunset you’ll have to share the deck with far fewer people.
Another pro is the late sunrise time. Due to the later sunrise time in NYC during winter e.g. 7 am, by the time you visit at 9 am, providing it’s a beautiful clear day, you’ll still have this wonderful golden, diffused light perfect for photography. This is simply impossible in the summer.
If it snows, the views from the Top of the Rock of the city covered in a white blanket must be truly stunning.
The main downfall of visiting during winter is the lack of clear days. It’s a gamble. You might visit NYC for 5 days and never have a clear day- this is the only major downside and gamble when visiting in the winter.
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Top Tips for Visiting Top of the Rock NYC
↠ Book the Express Flexible ticket. It is more costly and probably not ideal if you’re on a tight budget but if you are visiting during a season when the weather tends to be more unpredictable it’s worth it. The Express Pass allows you access the Top of the Rock Observation Deck at any time on the day of your choice so you can plan for the weather.
↠ Make sure to bring warm clothes or at least a sweater or jacket in summer as it can get much colder at the top. Make sure to also bring your camera or phone (duh!), a tripod- for great photos, a reusable water bottle, and sunscreen on a sunny day. Water is permitted to the top of the Rock.
↠ There is no time limit to how long you can spend at the top. Once you have entered at your booked time slot you can stay for as long as you like. That said most people spend about an hour up there.
↠ There are both indoor and outdoor viewing areas. This is great if it gets too cold or too hot or you experience a sudden downpour. While the outdoor viewing areas are the best, the indoor view areas do provide you with some shelter while checking out the views.
What to Expect When Visiting
Once you have entered the building, you’ll need to clear security and then wait your turn for the elevator. An elevator will take you all the way up to the 67th floor- the first of the three observation decks. Once here you can explore at your own pace.
You can then continue up to the 69th and 70th floors on foot (there is an escalator).
I found the 67th floor to be mostly indoors and a little underwhelming, but you will find the gift shop on this floor too. Here you can also see the Radiance Wall, a wall of glass panels, fiber optic lighting, and crystal created by Swarovski.
If you’re all about the views, I personally recommend heading straight up to the 69th floor and then the 70th floor for the best views of the NYC skyline right away. You can later make your way down to the 67th floor after.
The 69th and 70th Floors are all both outside. They run around the perimeter of the building so you can walk around and enjoy the 360-views of the city.
The vistas from the Top of the Rock will seriously take your breath away, whichever time you decide to visit. Particularly at sunset, when the sun goes down over the city and the city starts lighting up is when the real magic happens.
Is Top of the Rock Worth Visiting?
The simple answer is absolutely, yes! Getting an incredible view of the New York City skyline is one of the best things to do in New York. Having said that there are many skyscrapers in NYC that offer stunning views, SUMMIT One Vanderbilt and NYC Edge are just the latest two.
If you like taking photos note that the Top of the Rock is one of the only places you can take pictures of the view without a glass panel in your way- the lower outdoor deck has a glass panel, but with the gaps between them, it’s possible to get photos without. The upper deck has no glass panels at all ensuring your photos stay reflection free.
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