People flock to NYC every year in search of the most magnificent views of the world-famous skyline. There’s even a long-running debate around where to get the best bird’s-eye view. The contenders: the One World Observatory, the Empire State Building, and the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center. Each vantage point comes with its own pros and cons, depending on your particular interests and limits. Read on to decide which of the iconic skyscrapers is right for you.
In terms of sheer size, the One World Observatory definitely comes out on top. At a dizzying 1,776 feet, it’s the tallest building not just in the United States, but in the western hemisphere. Fun fact: the building’s height is a purposeful reference to the year 1776 when the US gained independence from Great Britain. Before 2006, the Empire State Building was the reigning champion. Standing at almost 1,500 feet, this classic structure was enormous back when it was built in 1931.
If you’re here for the icons
It might feel a little ironic (Alexa, play Alanis Morissette), but to see one icon, you have to visit one first. For the best views of the historic Empire State Building itself, climb almost 850 feet to reach the Top of the Rock. Here, you can also see the rest of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. Worried about buying a ticket on a cloudy day and missing out on the view? This flexible-date ticket lets you use it within a month of purchase, which means you can choose the perfect day to see the city from above. These tickets can also be exchanged for a timed entry ticket to help you make the most of your day (and avoid waiting in line).
Vice versa, you can spot Rockefeller Plaza best from the top of the Empire State Building. But that’s not all. You’ll also see Times Square, the Hudson River, and the One World Trade Center. Guarantee a hassle-free experience with skip-the-line Empire State Building tickets. They’re the best way to put you in a New York state of mind.
If you want to take the widest panoramic selfie possible
You can get the widest Insta-worthy panoramas at the One World Observatory. Most people cluster for shots of the Manhattan Bridge or Brooklyn Bridge, but there are equally great views of the Statue of Liberty and Staten Island on the other side. If you’re committed to getting photographing the popular side, plan on coming early (between 8 AM and 11 AM) during the week to avoid the crowds.
The Top of the Rock is another good spot for photo ops because it has unobstructed views on its 67th and 69th floors. Plus, the open-air roof deck on the 70th floor is ideal for wide shots. You’re bound to find a picturesque scene at one of its three viewing areas
If you want to walk the red carpet
So much more than just an Art Deco icon, Rockefeller Center is also home to NBC Studios. Head here if posing at the red carpet entrance is up your alley. Film and TV buffs will recognize the building and its interior from the silver screen (“Home Alone 2”) and their computer screen (“30 Rock”). After you’re done voguing downstairs, swing by the photo exhibit to learn about J.D. Rockefeller’s life and the building’s history.
If you’re into art
There are lots of exhibitions and galleries worth exploring at all three of these iconic towers. The Empire State Building has several going at any one time. A crowd favorite is a 1930s-style office featuring King Kong’s giant hand coming through the wall. For classic collections, visit Rockefeller Center’s art deco motifs and sculptures.
If you’re looking for the best elevator ride of your life
It might be worthwhile to climb the One World Trade Center just for the see-through “sky pods.” These unconventional elevators carry you to the observatory from underground in just under 47 seconds. If you want to indulge in some bubbles with the view, we wouldn’t blame you.
If you’re a history buff
The Empire State Building represents one of the most iconic examples of early American capitalism and prowess. It’s been featured in tons of movies, songs, and shows. There’s no building in the city that can transport you back to the past as quickly as the Empire State Building. After you’ve seen the city from the top, stop by the second floor to learn about the site in the 1920s, the building’s construction, and more.