The Best Time to Visit The Top Of The Rock

By Stuart Bak

The Rockefeller Center – aka 30 Rock – is the iconic Art Deco centerpiece of Rockefeller Plaza, a glorious, skyscraping work of art that, at a whopping 850 feet high, ranks as one of the Big Apple’s tallest buildings. It’s no wonder then that the uppermost floors (67, 69 and 70, to be precise) have been given over to observation decks collectively known as the Top of The Rock. We’re talking 360-degree views across the entire city to Long Island, New Jersey and even – on clear days – as far as Connecticut. And (spoiler alert!) if visually stunning 1930s Art Deco treasures are your bag, you’ll also enjoy uninterrupted close-up views of the Empire State Building from up here. Read on for our guide to the best times to visit the Top of The Rock.

Opening hours

Top of The Rock is open every single day of the year including holidays from 9AM to 11PM. Come rain, hail or shine, you can whiz heavenwards in the glass Sky Shuttle elevator, reaching the 70th floor in less than a minute. Guests can visit the observation decks for as long as they like during operating hours, but the latest entry to Top of The Rock is at 10:10PM. Check the Top of The Rock website for the latest opening hours before making your booking.

A Go City attraction pass gives you access to the Top of The Rock’s three observation decks with their uninterrupted views of the Big Apple. The 67th floor deck has a large indoor space plus north and south-facing outdoor terraces. Floor 69 has yet more outdoor space, but it’s the fully outdoor 70th floor, right on top of the building, from where you’ll enjoy the clearest views of NYC icons including Central Park, the Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, the Chrysler Building and the Hudson.

Best time to visit the Top Of The Rock

As with many of the Big Apple’s most popular attractions, the best times to visit Top of The Rock tend to be early in the morning or late in the evening if, that is, your primary objective is to beat the crowds. If, on the other hand, it’s heart-soaring sunsets you’re after (and quite frankly why wouldn’t it be?), you'll need to head to the Top of the Rock about an hour before dusk, and expect lines. 3PM–9PM tends to be the busiest time of day for precisely that reason.

Just after the 9AM opening is when you’ll get the most private experience, as the morning sun glints and gleams on the Empire State Building and across the skyscrapers of Midtown. Crowds also tail off after sunset meaning that beyond 9PM is the best time to see the city lights illuminating the Manhattan skyline. Beautiful though this time of day is, do note that unlit areas like Central Park will be visible only as large dark patches on the ground after nightfall.

Generally speaking, Mondays and Tuesdays tend to be the quietest days. Holidays and weekends (especially Saturdays) are when Top of The Rock is at its most busy. Visit during the festive season to pair your visit with a pilgrimage to the enormous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, which is displayed on the plaza (but not visible from the Top of The Rock itself) from mid-November until early January.

Getting to the Top Of The Rock

There are oodles of ways to get to the Top of The Rock with ease. Most straightforward are the multiple subway services that call at the 47th–50th Streets–Rockefeller Center station (B, D, F and M trains) as well as additional trains to 49th, 50th and 51st Street stops. Discounted parking is also available at Rockefeller Center SP+ garage which you’ll find at 25 West 48th Street.

Enter 30 Rock on 50th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.


Pre-book tickets direct on the Top of The Rock website to avoid having to wait in potentially long lines at the box office on the day. There are a few different ticket options available, ranging from general admission to the three observation decks to a VIP skip-the-line experience that includes a guide and a peek into 30 Rock’s glitzy Rainbow Room restaurant, a favorite with New York’s rich and famous for nearly a century.

You can save money with a Go City Explorer or All-Inclusive pass for New York attractions, which includes entry to the Top of The Rock in addition to many more landmark attractions across the Big Apple. These include the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and 9/11 Memorial & Museum.

Where to eat

Dining options at the Rockefeller Center are plentiful and run the gamut from family favorites to fine dining. There are grab’n’go sandwich bars and those with a sweet tooth can get their fix from any number of bakeries, cookie stores and ice cream vendors. Check the Rockefeller Center website for the most up-to-date list of restaurants and to find out how to book. We love Le Rock for chic Art Deco style and French fine dining. Or choose Ace’s Pizza on the center’s rink level for Detroit and Sicilian-style slices to share with family and friends.

In brief...

Want to beat the crowds? Visit as close as possible to opening time (9AM) or come after 9PM to experience the best of the glittering Manhattan skyline after dark. Book tickets online in advance to avoid having to wait in line at the box office and you’ll be speeding skyward in that lightning-fast glass elevator before you know it. Uninterrupted 360-degree views await on the 70th-floor open-air observation deck right at the top of the building.

Get the Go City attraction pass to make great savings when visiting this and other popular New York City attractions!

Useful links

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Official Top of The Rock website

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New York Explorer Pass Itinerary

Did you know you can save up to 43% with an Explorer Pass?  If you visited the below 5 attractions without our pass, you'd spend $279.09. With our Explorer Pass, it's only $159.  That's a total saving of $120.09. Read on for some NYC inspiration and discover how you can save on your sightseeing. Choice 1: Empire State Building Where better to have that “Oh my gosh, I’m in New York” moment than at the tip-top of the world’s most famous skyscraper? Before heading to the observation deck to recreate that perfect Sleepless in Seattle moment (or King Kong impression, we ain’t going to judge), be sure to take some time to peruse the Empire State’s indoor galleries, which document the history and cultural significance of this iconic landmark. Price without an Explorer Pass: $51.17 Choice 2: Big Bus Hop on Hop off 1-Day Classic Ticket Have you ever heard public transport being described as enjoyable? Skip the cramped subway (sometimes it's not better to do as the locals do!) and get comfy on a Big Bus tour. With two routes to choose from, it's easy to hit up all the must-see NYC spots including Times Square, Wall Street, Little Italy and SoHo. Get on and off as much as you wish, or just sit back and tune in to their digital commentary - it's a great way to learn all about The Big Apple! Price without an Explorer Pass: $80 Choice 3: Edge Can you ever really ever get bored of gazing over Manhattan from high above? Probably not. But, if you’re looking to make your skyscraper experience even more exciting, Edge is probably the place to go. Travel 100-stories high and take in those views from its tilted glass walls. They'll make you feel like you're literally, well, er, on the edge. You can also test your vertigo with a stroll across their glass-bottomed deck. Price without an Explorer Pass: $50.08 Choice 4: Central Park Bike Tour We don't know if you've heard, but Central Park is quite big. So biking is definitely a good option for exploring it. Better yet, take this bike tour from Unlimited Biking. Not only will you stop off at the park's most famous spots, but you'll also learn all about the park's history from your local guide. Notable spots you'll visit include Strawberry Fields, Belvedere Castle and Shakespeare Garden. Price without an Explorer Pass: $56.84 Choice 5: Circle Line NYC Landmarks Cruise Did somebody say photo op!? Take to the water for a close-up look at Lady Liberty along with plenty of other famous landmarks on the Best of NYC Cruise. Onboard tour guides will give you a heads up when you're about to pass another unmissable view, so you can just sit back and take in the sights with ease.  Price without an Explorer Pass: $41 By visiting these 5 attractions with an Explorer Pass, you'll have saved 43% on your sightseeing. So, what you waiting for? It's time to get planning that NYC adventure now! We calculate our savings by comparing the Go City price to the combined normal ticket values - these were last updated on April 1, 2023.
Katie Waller

Things to Do in New York in August 2018

There's always something to do in the city that never sleeps; home to some of the world's most famous museums, iconic landmarks and unparalleled mix of cultures. Take advantage of the warm weather in NYC this summer out on the water or escape the heat at one of the great museums New York has to offer. If you’re looking for things to do in New York in August 2016, check out our list of the best local activities and attractions, including... Hop On Hop Off Sightseeing Tour New Exhibits at the MoMA Landmark Cruise Star Trek: The Starfleet Experience at The Intrepid Museum and more... Save on Attraction Admission Regular admission to a number of these popular New York attractions is available on the New York City Explorer Pass. Choose as you go from dozens of top attractions and save up to 50% on combined admission vs paying at the gate. See all available passes, attractions & prices – Learn more. Please note, the seasonal events taking place at these attractions may be separately ticketed and not included on the New York Explorer Pass. If you want a bigger list of seasonal events, then check out our suggested things to do in New York in the summer. Take a Big Bus New York Sightseeing Tour Get acquainted with New York City on this Hop On Hop Off Sightseeing Tour by Big Bus New York. This tour goes through Manhattan and passes by many landmarks and attractions. You can also get off of the bus and go check out something that caught your eye, then hop back on the bus when the next tour comes by. Getting In: Hop On Hop Off Big Bus New York Tours are available on the New York City Explorer Pass. New Exhibits at the MoMA In addition to the MoMA's famous ongoing galleries, the museum is hosting several temporary exhibits worth checking out this August. Bodys Isek Kingelez (available through January 1, 2019): see sculptures and imagined cityscapes that reflect the vision Bodys Isek Kingelez had for his nation, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) when it declared independence from Belgium. Being: New Photography 2018 (available through August 18, 2018): explore how photography as an artistic mean can capture what it means to be human in this compelling exhibit that challenges conventional photography and tactics such as masking, cropping, and more. The Long Run (available through November 4, 2018): this artistic exhibition takes a closer look at the artistic process itself, discover how invention and 'breakthrough moments' in art are a result of continued experimentation, critical thinking, persistent observation, and other social and political factors experience by artists. Getting In: Museum of Modern Art tickets are available on the New York City Explorer Pass. Take a Landmark Cruise This cruise is one of the most popular in the world and a fantastic way to see Manhattan's skyline. This is one of the "must see" attractions in New York City and will help you become more familiar with the city if you're from out of town. Getting In: NYC Landmark Cruise ticket are available on the New York City Explorer Pass. The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Become a cadet, join the Starfleet program and, learn and interact with this one of a kind exhibit. This year, the Intrepid Museum is celebrating GROWLER'S 60th Commissioning Anniversary with a new exhibition, A View from the Deep; the Submarine Growler & The Cold War. Discover how USS Growler, one of America's first nuclear-missile submarines played a role in the most tense years of the Cold War and what life was like on board. Getting In: Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum tickets are available on the New York City Explorer Pass. New Summer Exhibits at the Guggenheim Museum Visit the iconic building designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright and check out the Giacometti exhibit on view from June 8, 2018-September 12, 2018. You'll get to see almost 200 works of art by Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti including sculptures in bronze and oil, plaster sculptures, and drawings never before seen in the US. Another fascinating temporary exhibit at the Guggenheim this August is One Hand Clapping, an exhibition that explores how globalization affects our understanding and perception of the future through works of art by a range of contemporary artists. Getting In: Guggenheim Museum tickets are available on the New York City Explorer Pass. Remember to Save on Attraction Admission There you go - plenty of fun ideas for things to do in New York in August. Remember, many of these great attraction options are included on the Go New York Card, where you can save up to 50% on combined admission vs paying at the gate. Please note, the seasonal events taking place at some of these attractions may be separately ticketed and not included with the New York Explorer Pass. Consider adding a few of these fun options to your August vacation itinerary.
Lindsay Eagan

Empire State Building vs The Shard - Comparing the Major Differences

World travelers often wonder how the globe’s most famous observation decks stack up against one another. While there are some obvious differences, when it gets down to the tiny details it can be a difficult task to sort out when the attractions are in different countries. If you’re trying to compare the Empire State Building and the Shard, we’ve put together a handy guide to help you consider which attraction appeals to you the most. Visit one, or visit them both on different trips. Both observation decks are located at significant heights above street level, and both have plenty to offer adventurers looking for an exciting view of the city below. Each is also located in a building of cultural significance. However, there are many differences between the two, the most basic of which is their location: the Empire State Building is located in New York City and the Shard is located in London. For your convenience, we’ve put together a list of the more nuanced differences and similarities between the two attractions, arranged by: What’s Included with General Admission Location Scenic Views Building History Tips for Visiting Thinking about Visiting the Empire State Building or The Shard? Save up to 50% on admission to the Empire State Building plus your choice of other popular New York attractions with the New York City Explorer Pass. Tickets to The Shard are separately priced and are not included with the New York City Explorer Pass. Another fun alternative in New York City the Top of the Rock, which also provides stunning aerial views of the city and is also available on the New York City Explorer Pass. Or, if your trip takes you to London, a great alternative is the Coca-Cola London Eye, a famous observation wheel that’s an iconic part of the London skyline. What’s Included with General Admission Both attractions include admission to the relevant observation decks, as well as informative exhibits and guides. Empire State Building General Admission Tickets Access to the Main Deck, which is an 86th-floor open deck observation space. Access to the popular multimedia Sustainability Exhibit and Dare to Dream Exhibit. The Sustainability Exhibit showcases the Empire State Building’s admirable efforts to reduce carbon emissions and energy waste. The Dare to Dream Exhibit offers an engaging collection of historical documents, photographs, sketches, architectural drawings, and more, which recount the story of this famous building’s construction. Access to the legendary Art Deco Lobby, which is one of the very few building interiors in New York to be officially designated as a historic landmark. Recently restored to the original early twentieth-century beauty, this striking lobby features stunning ceiling murals (overlaid with 24-carat gold leaf) and an intricate etching of the building on a wall. Access to the recently revamped Visitor’s Center, located on the second floor of the building. Learn more about the attraction, pick up tickets, or scan your Explorer Pass here. Access to the elevator ride that escorts you from the 2nd floor to the 86th. The Shard General Admission Tickets Access to the observation decks on the 69th and 72nd The 72nd floor is the open-air observation deck, while the 69th floor is entirely enclosed. Access to a high-speed elevator ride that whisks you from the base of the building all the way up to the 69th Access to the 68th floor Sky Boutique, which is a nice place for Shard-related souvenirs and other London accessories. Access to the friendly Guest Ambassadors who are there to answer any questions you might have about the views below. Access to London’s highest champagne bar – excellent for those of you looking to make it a romantic experience. The London Landmark Guarantee, which ensures that if the weather is bad and obstructs your views, you can come back another time for free. Location Empire State Building: Located in Midtown Manhattan by Penn Station, Grand Central Terminal, and the famed NYC Macy’s. The Shard: Located in Southwark, London, near the iconic Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and the HMS Belfast. Comparing the Scenic Views Each observation deck offers unique views of their respective cities, and both are located at a significance height above ground level. The Empire State Building offers panoramic views of Midtown Manhattan, as far north as Central Park, and as far south as the Statue of Liberty. The Empire State Building offers open-air and enclosed observation decks. The Shard offers excellent views of the Thames, the Tower of London, and the London Bridge, as well as London riverfront. You can also see as far as 40 miles in any direction on a clear day. The Shard also has both open-air and enclosed observation decks. View from the Empire State Building The Main Deck of the Empire State Building is on the 86th floor, providing lovely aerial views of Central Park, the rivers, the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, the bustling Times Square, and the Statue of Liberty, as well as the wealth of attractions in Midtown Manhattan below. View from the Shard The indoor observation deck of the Shard is found on the 69th floor, while the open-air observation deck can be found on the 72nd floor. From the Shard, you can see up to 40 miles in any of their 360-degree views on a clear day. Highlights include the Thames, the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge, Big Ben, the Coca-Cola London Eye, and more. Building History The Empire State Building Credit Empire State Building Official Website In 1931, the Empire State Building came into the world as a symbol of hope in a dark time. Designed and executed by the architecture firm Shreve, Lamb & Harmon Associates, this iconic NYC landmark was among the most beautiful of all Art Deco buildings in the city. Designed to honor American industrial strengths and capitalist progress, the Empire State Building still stands today as a monument to commerce. It was awarded the distinction of being classified as one of the seven greatest architectural achievements in the United States in 1955, and its reputation has only grown since. Today the building is home to a variety of companies – nearly 1,000 all told (including restaurants and bars that are worth a quick trip to snag a cocktail and some photos) – as well as the observation deck and historical exhibits. It is located on Fifth Avenue between 33rd and 34th Streets. The Shard The Shard is a much newer construction, begun in 2009 and opened to the public in July of 2012. The View from the Shard (the official name of the observation deck) opened in February of 2013. It was designed by iconic Italian architect Renzo Piano (who is also known for his work on the Art Institute of Chicago and the Whitney Museum of Art in NYC). Piano intended for the Shard to evoke the feeling of emerging from the Thames, so the design is very modern and sleek. The Shard was part of the redevelopment of the then very industrial Southwark neighborhood of London, in an effort to revamp the area and bring new business to the city. Today it is home to a number of businesses, including restaurants and a hotel on the ground floor (as well as the luxurious Shangri-La Hotel located on floors 34-52). There are also residential floors above the hotel but below the observation deck. Tips for Visiting The Empire State Building and The Shard Tips for Visiting the Empire State Building If possible, plan to visit the Empire State Building early in the morning or during weekdays to avoid elevator lines. Keep in mind that during busy times like the summer or around spring break, even these times may be busy. Give yourself at least an hour to see the exhibits and the observation deck itself. This does not include the time spent in the security line, so plan to budget a bit more. After you check on the second floor, proceed directly to the Sustainability exhibit Be sure to download the FREE app before your visit, available via Google Play or the Apple App Store. Use your New York City Explorer Pass to skip the ticket line and get to the top faster. Bring a camera or binoculars to get the best views of the city below. Don’t forget to wear layers! The observation deck on the 86th floor is open-air, so you’ll really feel the effects of being up so high – especially on a breezy day. If you’re in search of those perfect sunset photos, be sure to arrive at least an early before sunset. This is the best time for lighting. Check out our in-depth guide to visiting the Empire State Building before you go to make the most of your visit. Tips for Visiting the Shard If possible, time your visit during the early morning or weekdays to avoid crowds. Again, bank holidays or other school holidays may increase crowds even during those times. There is no time limit for the View from the Shard, so plan in as much time as you think you’d need to see all the amazing views (and perhaps sip on some champagne). Take advantage of their interactive photography studio, which can create incredible photo albums filled with pictures of you and your family at the top. This requires an additional fee, but may be worth it to get studio-quality photos. If you’re traveling with kids, consider getting their Family Experience tickets, which are offered at a discount versus buying all those tickets individually. Drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and snacks are available for purchase throughout the attraction, so you don’t need to bring your own. In Summary (The Biggest Differences) Each of these attractions is incredibly popular with tourists, but both offer different views and cultural perspectives. The Empire State Building is an iconic historic structure with a long legacy of standing tall and proud in NYC’s skyline. It also features gorgeous Art Deco décor and a variety of special exhibits on multiple floors. The Shard is much newer, but also boasts a beautiful, striking design – by none other than Renzo Piano. The Empire State Building offers views in Midtown Manhattan, where you can see as far north as Central Park and as far south as the Statue of Liberty and New Jersey. The Shard offers views along the Thames waterfront, including Big Ben, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, the London Eye, and much more. Visit the Empire State Building and Save on Admission Remember to visit the Big Apple with the New York City Explorer Pass! You’ll get admission to the Empire State Building plus tickets to dozens of other top attractions in the city, like the American Museum of Natural History, a Statue of Liberty Ferry, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Top of the Rock, and many more. Save up to 50% on combined admission versus paying at the gate with the New York City Explorer Pass – it’s a smart choice for savvy travelers! If you are planning your trip to London rather than NYC, consider picking up a London Explorer Pass. You can save up to 40% on the city’s top attractions, including another great observation option in the Coca-Cola London Eye.
Katie Sagal

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