Best NYC Observation Decks Ranked + Pros and Cons of Each
One of the best things you can do in New York City is to visit an observation deck. Currently, NYC has 5 observation decks to enjoy, and they are all a little different. So, which observation deck is the best, and how do you choose? I think the opinion of the “best” can differ a little for everyone, but as a local New Yorker, I am giving you my ranked favorites out of the 5 NYC observation decks.
Additionally, I am including the pros and cons of visiting each one, along with any travel tips you need to know for visiting these iconic attractions.
So, without further ado, let’s get right into it!
Related: First time in NYC? Make sure to check out all my Local NYC Travel Tips to Know Before You Go!
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Best NYC Observation Decks Ranked + Pros and Cons of Each
- 5. One World Observatory Observation Deck
- 4. The Empire State Building Observation Deck
- 3. The Top of the Rock Observation Deck
- 2. The Edge at Hudson Yards Observation Deck
- 1. The Summit One Vanderbilt Observation Deck
- Most Expensive NYC Observation Deck
- If I Could Only Choose 2 Observation Decks To Visit
- The Best Way to Visit the NYC Observation Decks
- New York Observation Decks by Height
- Best NYC Observation Deck for Photography
- Best NYC Observation Decks Wrap-up
5. One World Observatory Observation Deck
The One World Observatory is, in fact, the One World Trade Center. This building is located in Lower Manhattan, near where the Twin Towers used to stand.
Also known as the “Freedom Tower,” this impressive building offers a 1,268 ft. high observation deck, and the building itself stands at 1,776 ft. tall.
Fun NYC Fact: One World Trade surpassed the height of The Empire State Building, making it the tallest structure in New York City and the Western Hemisphere.
The One World Trade Center observatory holds importance to New York City after 9/11, and this NYC observation deck provides a lot of multimedia experiences as well as New York City History.
It also has one of the fastest and most unique elevator rides to the top. Some of the best close-up views you will see from the observation deck are of the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and Governors Island. It is the only true observation deck in lower Manhattan. Therefore, it has a different view from the rest on this list.
On the 101st level, you can find a restaurant where you can stop by for something quick to eat, buy a drink or book a reservation to indulge in a gourmet meal.
Nearby attractions include the 9/11 Memorial, The Oculus, Wall Street, the Statue of Liberty, and the Brooklyn Bridge (one of my favorite free skyline views).
Related: How to use the NYC Subway
Best time to Visit: Any time during the day is fine, and at night can be fun
Building Height: 1,776 ft. high
NYC Observation Deck(s): 101st floor (restaurant) and 102nd floor
Ticket Prices: start at $44
Address: 117 West St, New York, NY 10006
Hours: Everyday 9 AM – 8 PM
One World Observatory Pros:
- All Indoors for cold or rainy days
- The tallest building in the Western Hemisphere
- Lots of added history during the visit
- Holds Importance to New York
- 360 degree views around the whole building
- Relatively less crowded
One World Observatory Cons:
- No outdoors option
- Further viewpoint from iconic sky-scrapper buildings
- Pricer than other NYC observation decks
4. The Empire State Building Observation Deck
The Empire State Building needs no introduction. Likely one of the most famous buildings in the world, this NYC landmark is on the top of most bucket lists.
The Empire State building started construction in 1930 and was complete by 1931. The building took a total of 1 year and 45 days to complete. That is just mind-blowing to me!
It was the first 100+ story building ever to be built, and the largest building in New York City until the Freedom Tower was complete.
Aside from the incredible art deco architecture of the Empire State Building, it holds a lot of nostalgia that you just don’t get from the other NYC observation decks.
When visiting, you can experience two observation decks. The 86th floor observatory deck you will see views of the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, and Central Park. This one is outdoors and comes with general admission.
For more views, you can go higher onto the 102nd floor (1,250 ft.). This view offers floor-to-ceiling views that stretch for 80 miles when the weather is clear. Visiting this floor costs extra, however. Some debate if the extra money is worth it – especially if you plan on doing more than one NYC observation deck.
Nearby, you can check out famous attractions like Madison Square Garden, Herald Square, Macy’s for some shopping, Fifth Avenue, and Koreatown.
Best time to Visit: Sunrise, sunset, or night-time are fun times to visit. Avoid crowds by going early in the morning
Building Height: 1,250 feet, with the antenna 1,454 feet
NYC Observation Deck(s): 86th and 102nd
Ticket Prices: Starting at $44 for just one deck. Seeing both start at $79
Address: 20 W 34th St., New York, NY 10001
Hours: 11 AM – 9 PM
Empire State Building Pros:
- Located in Midtown and nearby many attractions
- One of the most iconic buildings in NYC
- Both indoor and outdoor views are available
- History and nostalgia items like King Kong additions
Empire State Building Cons:
- Metal bars around the observation deck obstruct the view
- You can’t see the building in the skyline when you are on top of it
- One of the more expensive decks. To visit both floors starts at $79
3. The Top of the Rock Observation Deck
The Top of the Rock was likely the most popular NYC observation deck up until 2020. Top of the Rock Observation Deck gained so much popularity because it has been offering some of the best NYC skyline views since 2005. These epic views include the Empire State Building smack in the middle.
The Top of the Rock also offers excellent views of Central Park, which often gets overlooked.
At this sky deck, you can experience three levels of observation decks – 2 of which are outdoors. Each observation deck offers a different view, so you will see the whole city!
If you are looking for that Instagrammable photo, have someone from the upper deck take a picture of you from below!
Related: Most Instagramable Places in NYC (Your Local Guide)
To be honest, it was really hard for me to put Top of the Rock at number 3 on this NYC observation decks list. It feels more like a tie for 2nd because I really believe this is a fantastic observation deck. It is also the OG for giving the best Empire State Building views!
Additionally, starting in 2023, they are working on bringing new experiences to Top of the Rock to be more immersive and competitive with the newer observation decks.
Located right in Rockefeller Center, this Art Deco building is in a prime New York City location, with Central Park, the Theater District, NYC Museums, and Grand Central just a stone’s throw away.
While there is no bar at the decks, you can find bars and restaurants throughout Rockefeller Plaza.
Ticket prices vary per package but start at $34. They will reissue your tickets if the weather is poor.
Best time to Visit: Early in the morning or for sunset
Building Height: 850 ft. to 872 ft. * (The information available is conflicting)
NYC Observation Deck(s): 67th, 69th, 70th
Ticket Prices: Start at $34
Address: 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112
Hours: Everyday 9 AM – 11 PM
Top of the Rock Pros:
- Both indoor and outdoor observation decks
- Great location in NYC
- Prime spot for sunset in New York
- A great view of the Empire State Building.
Top of the Rock Cons:
- If the weather is lousy, the indoor views are not that great
- One of the smallest observation decks in terms of height, but this can also be a pro because you feel like you are among the other buildings
- No bar or dining at the top
2. The Edge at Hudson Yards Observation Deck
The Edge at Hudson Yards just opened in 2020 and has become one of the most popular NYC observation decks to visit. Its unique design has this NYC observation deck suspended in mid-air with angled-out glass, making you feel like you’re really on the edge.
This observation deck is 1,131 feet, and the outdoor part of the deck spans almost 80 ft. out into the air, making it the largest outdoor observation deck in the western hemisphere. It even has a glass section to look 100 stories down.
There is also a section with areas to sit and relax – which I really liked.
For any adrenaline seekers, you can consider adding the Climb to your visit. This experience allows you to climb up even higher on the Edge and actually lean off at 1,271 ft. in the air – it is wild looking!
You can find The Edge on Level 4 of The Shops & Restaurants at Hudson Yards.
In terms of facilities, they have a bar where you can lean out over the city while sipping champagne and even grabbing a bite to eat while you are there.
NYC Observation Deck Tip: All bars/food at these decks are wildly expensive – but it is an experience.
The elevator ride up to the top is also pretty unique.
From the Edge, you will get really incredible skyline views of the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center.
The deck is conveniently located near the famous Vessel and the High Line. Additionally, you have a variety of stores to shop or browse within the Hudson Yards.
Related: NYC Bucket List
Ticket prices vary depending on the package that you choose, but they start at $40. It is recommended to purchase tickets ahead of time.
Best time to Visit: All times are good
Building Height: 1,271 ft.
NYC Observation Deck(s): 100th floor; the climb is higher – about 1,271 ft up
Ticket Prices: $40 (cheaper if you book online). City Climb is $185
Address: 30 Hudson Yards, New York, NY 10001
Hours: Everyday 10 AM – 10 PM
The Edge Pros:
- The highest outdoor observation deck
- A Unique vantage point of protruding out
- Both indoor and outdoor views
- Have the option to do the Climb
The Edge Cons:
- If the weather is not great, the indoor views are not as great
- Not as close to public transportation as other observation decks
- It can get very busy as it is one of the most popular observation decks
1. The Summit One Vanderbilt Observation Deck
The Summit One Vanderbilt is the newest observation deck greeting the Manhattan skyline and is located in Midtown Manhattan, right next to the famous Grand Central Terminal.
The Vanderbilt combines art, architecture, and technology to present an experience “that brings you to new heights.”
With two glass ledges at an elevation of 1,100 feet above the iconic Madison Square, adrenaline will be high as you look out at New York City from above.
I am almost positive this is my favorite NYC observation deck because the views are just incredible, and there are more unique aspects at the Summit One Vanderbilt.
In fact, my favorite room was the Mirror rooms which are both upstairs and downstairs. Also, the views from the bathroom are pretty incredible too.
Just make sure you are wearing pants, as the mirrors will show right up a dress or skirt. I learned the hard way.
Even though it gets seriously packed, it will not hinder taking photos of the iconic New York City skyline. I also believe this is the best NYC observation deck to see the Empire State Building, the Crysler Building, a nice view of Central Park, Roosevelt Island, and you can still see the Edge at Hudson Yards and the Freedom Tower.
The Summit also has a cafe where you can have something to eat and drink amazing cocktails that can be enjoyed indoors and outdoors.
If there were any observation deck I would highly recommend experiencing at night, it would be this one.
They also offer the Accent, which is a glass elevator that goes up an additional 12 stories. I don’t think it is worth it, but some people like it.
Related: Best Things to do in NYC at Night
Ticket prices begin at $39, which I think is great for what you are getting here.
When visiting, you can stop by some of the best free things to do in NYC, including Grand Central, Byrant Park, and New York’s Public Library.
Best time to Visit: Early in the morning and at night
Building Height: 1,401 ft.
NYC Observation Deck(s): 91st floor, 92nd floor, and 93rd floor
Ticket Prices: $39
Address: 45 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017
Hours: 9 AM – 10:30 PM
The Summit Pros:
- Best views to see all of New York City from a 360 perspective
- Located in Midtown around other main attractions
- Unique artsy rooms designed by Kenzo Digital
- Areas where you can stand on the glass looking down at the street
- Even the bathrooms have awesome views
- Both indoor and outdoor viewing
- Relatively low cost
The Summit Cons:
- More crowded than other NYC observation decks
- The views from the outdoor deck are not as good as others
- Harder to get tickets on short notice due to the popularity
- Some people say you can’t go back to a room, but we were able to
Most Expensive NYC Observation Deck
Currently, both the Empire State Building and One World Observatory are the most expensive, starting at $44 per person.
The Edge is the 3rd most expensive observation deck at $40 and the Summit at $39.
The Top of the Rock is the cheapest NYC observation deck to enjoy starting at $34.
If I Could Only Choose 2 Observation Decks To Visit
Most people visiting New York tend to do 1-3 NYC observation decks. So, if I could only choose 2 observation decks, it would definitely be the Summit One Vanderbilt and then the Edge at Hudson Yards.
This will give you two different perspectives of the Manhattan skyline since they are in two different areas of Manhattan. I love Top of the Rock, but it is pretty close to the Summit, therefore you will have more similar views. However, I think the sunset at Top of the Rock is the best.
The Best Way to Visit the NYC Observation Decks
Now that you know my favorite New York City observation decks ranked with all the pros and cons, you may be wondering the best way to see them.
You can, of course, always purchase the tickets individually. Or you can get a New York City Pass that includes all the observation decks (except Summit One), along with a bunch more New York attractions.
It is always best to compare the prices first to make sure it adds up, but generally speaking, if you plan to visit a lot of attractions, the passes are worth it. 9 times out of 10, if you are spending a couple of days in New York, the pass will save you money!
In terms of visiting, you can technically visit them all in one day, but I would not recommend it. I wouldn’t do more than 2 NYC observation decks a day.
Related: Get my detailed 4 Days in New York City Itinerary – Very popular!
City Sightseeing Pass | New York City Pass | Tickets for Summit
New York Observation Decks by Height
A question I see the most is, “what’s the highest Observation Deck in New York City?”
The One World Observatory is the tallest building in Manhattan at 1,776 ft. high.
The second tallest observation deck building in New York City is the Empire State Building at 1,454 feet, including its antenna.
Summit One Vanderbilt comes in at number 3 for the highest observation deck building at 1,401 ft tall.
The Edge at Hudson Yards is 4th on the list for tallest NYC observation decks at about 1,271 ft. tall.
At number 5, the Top of the Rock is the shortest building of the observation decks, but it is still fantastic at about 850 ft.
Best NYC Observation Deck for Photography
In terms of photography, I believe Top of the Rock and Summit One offers the best photography opportunities. The only caveat with Summit One is that you should bring a polarizing filter to help with glare for shots taken inside.
I found getting good skyline photos at the Edge were tougher. Maybe it was the time of the day.
Best NYC Observation Decks Wrap-up
This concludes the best New York City observation decks ranked, in my opinion. At the end of the day, I believe they are all great, and if you don’t get to visit them all on your first trip, I am sure you will be back in the Big Apple again!
If you haven’t found your hotel yet, I have a detailed guide for you on Where to Stay in NYC (Best Neighborhoods).
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Have any questions about these NYC observation decks, or feel like I missed something? Let me know in the comments below!