Two years ago, I stepped foot into the Empire State Building for the first time. This seemed to be one of those touristy things I could never bring myself to do…until we went to the city with my SIL, Sam, and her boyfriend, Kurt. Then it became a sporadic, in the moment decision that led to some beautiful views as the sun set and the city darkened.
View of the Empire State Building from Top of the Rock
I’d heard of Top of the Rock, but couldn’t imagine how it could be better than the Empire State Building. I mean, this is THE Empire State Building. How can anything possibly top an 86th floor view (or 102nd floor view if you’re up for shelling out some extra cash)? Still, after experiencing the Empire State Building in all its glory, I knew I needed to try Top of the Rock for comparison.
The Empire State Building is iconic. It’s right in the heart of the city. It’s easy to get to and navigate its entrance, even for a city rookie.
However, even with everything the Empire State Building has to offer, after visiting Top of the Rock*, it has taken the place in my ‘You’ve Got to Go Here!’ recommendation list for first time visitors to the city.
*On a very hot, yucky, on again off again wet, chilly at points, dirtiest day of summer.
Smiling from Top of the Rock in spite of the weather!
Here are just a few reasons:
1.Our visit to the Empire State Building lasted about three hours. A healthy portion of that time was spent in line. Now, of course, the time of day and weather may effect this. We went at a time where purchasing tickets wasn’t a problem, but the line was still long. The weather that day was the perfect start of fall weather.*
*You know, the kind I’m dreaming about right now.
Our trip to Top of the Rock lasted about two hours and most of that time was spent actually enjoying the view. Our line moved at a fast pace, the only thing slowing us being an optional picture taking just before the entrance.*
*We opted out of said photo.
2. In the price category they are exactly the same*, however, with Top of the Rock you have a few options and, if we had more time, we would have gone for one of them.
*$32 covers all access to Top of the Rock, however, at the Empire State Building it only gets you to the 86th floor. To go to the 102nd floor, you’ll have to cough up another twenty bucks.
With Top of the Rock, you have the option of a Rock Pass for $44 which includes a tour of Rockefeller Center. Or, if you are a museum lover, you can go for the Rock MoMA package which includes entry to The Museum of Modern Art.
Both the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock are in the NY City Pass, along with other attractions. Personally, I find that city passes offer too much. I usually only have time to do a few of the options listed. However, the nice thing about the Pass, especially for a first time visitor to any city, is that the pass tickets tell you information like the best time to visit, amenities, and which subway lines to use.
3. Top of the Rock includes three floors of indoor and outdoor decks. The sky held a cloudy dark grey presence all morning, and of course, when we headed for Rockefeller Center little rain drops started spitting down on us. By the time we reached the 67th floor (the first stop), it was lightly raining. Though eventually we immersed ourselves into the rain in order to obtain a better view, we could have waited the rain out by sitting and enjoying the view from the spacious indoor deck lined with cozy benches and floor to ceiling glass walls. The 69th floor was the next level, with a similar layout, however, the 70th floor held the surprise of an open air view of the city with no protective glass as on the other floors.
Hubby protecting our cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery by hiding from the rain. We eventually got him a plastic bag so he could better enjoy the view.
4. While in the Empire State Building you are higher and gain breathtaking views of other skyscrapers, especially the Freedom Tower, what you don’t see at all is Central Park. Something about being able to view Central Park in its entirety played heavily on my loving Top of the Rock so much.
When you first exit onto the 67th floor there are windows you can peek out of to get your first glimpse of the view. The crowds that gather around them make it feel as though this will be the only view you get. Press on!*
*Only after you get a picture of your group huddled in front of the window you claimed.
5. It could have been the difference in weather, and I do intend to return on a cooler, sunnier day, but Top of the Rock was far less crowded than the Empire State Building. At the Empire State Building, it was a fend for yourself kind of situation. You needed to be scoping out the edge so when a spot freed up you could jump in and get a better view.
At Top of the Rock there were plenty of openings along the wall, even with open umbrellas scattered about, as well as plenty of chances to take a selfie or a group shot without some guy you didn’t know photo bombing.
How cool is this building? It makes me think of the tower of Babel…which isn’t so cool, and the fact that it is disappearing into the fog makes it kind of eerie.
Even the Empire State Building began to disappear!
Fun facts from Top of the Rock:
You can see…13,437 taxis…8,405,837 people…29,000 acres of park…over 237 skyscrapers
Look! There are some of those taxis below…
We also saw the Times Square ball from a different angle*. I love that the ball is there all year long. It’s a happy reminder of celebrations to come.
*And without having to deal with the craziness of Times Square.
Just in case I didn’t show you enough pictures of the park, here’s one more…
Top of the Rock
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10020