Empire State Building vs Top of the Rock
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Top of the Rock o Empire State Building: quale scegliere?

So, what's the difference between the Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building

Both are historically and culturally important buildings and offer some of the best skyline views New York City has to offer, but the two experiences can be very different. 

Although the Empire State Building might be the most iconic building on the New York City skyline, keep in mind you don't have much of a view of it from the building itself (the same goes for Top of the Rock).

We've put together a list of the key similarities and differences between the two attractions to help you decide which one best fits your New York itinerary, we're talking... 

  • What's included with general admission 
  • The different locations 
  • The difference between the views 
  • Top tips for visiting both 
  • How to save on entry to both 
 View of Manhattan

Both observation decks feature educational exhibits and experiences included in the general admission price. Think modern displays and historical explanations, and of course, fantastic views. Here's a summary of what you can expect at each experience. 

Empire State Building general admission includes: 

  • Access to the Main Observation Deck, a 360-degree, open-air 86th-floor Observation Deck. 
  • Admission to The Empire State Building Experience, including 12 interactive displays on the 2nd and 80th floors. 
  • Access to a self-guided multimedia tour that helps identify the landmarks you can see in the skyline. 

Please note: Access to the 102nd floor is not included with general admission tickets, other add-ons like express passes can also be bought for an extra charge. 

View from Empire State building

Top of the Rock general admission includes:

  • Access to three floors of indoor and outdoor observation decks on the 67th, 69th, and 70th floors. 
  • Sky shuttle elevator ride up to the top with a light show. 
  • Admission to exhibits that feature Top of the Rock and Rockefeller Center history and the interactive Beam Walk, which simulates what it's like to walk on a construction beam 69 floors above Manhattan. 

Comparing locations

Binocular view of Empire State Building

The biggest difference between the views from each building's observation deck is the view of the actual buildings themselves. If you're interested in the best views of the Empire State Building, head up to the Top of the Rock. If you want one of the best views of Rockefeller Plaza, get yourself to the top of the Empire State Building. 

View from the Empire State Building 

The observation deck in the Empire State Building is slightly higher than the Top of the Rock's deck, which stands at 1,050 feet above the ground. The building is located further south in Manhattan, so offers better views of the cluster of skyscrapers near the water in the Financial District. Landmarks you can see from the Empire State Building: 

  • Rockefeller Plaza Center, Chrysler Building, One World Trade Center (closer views than at Top of the Rock), Central Park (further away views than from Top of the Rock), Times Square, Statue of Liberty (closer views than at Top of the Rock), the Brooklyn Bridge and more. 

View from the Top of the Rock 

Slightly lower than the Empire State Building observation deck, the deck at Top of the Rock is 800 feet above the ground. The building is located further north in Manhattan, so it offers better views of Central Park. Landmarks you can see from the Top of the Rock: 

  • Empire State Building, Chrysler Building (partially obscured), One World Trade Center (further away than at the Empire State Building), Central Park (closer than from the Empire State Building), Bank of America Tower, Flatiron Building, and more. 

Girl looks out at NYC skyline

Tips for visiting the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock 

View from the Empire State Building

Empire State Building tips: 

  • To beat the crowds, it's best to visit early in the morning or late in the evening. 
  • Plan to spend 2-3 hours visiting the Empire State Building. 
  • If you want to catch the sunset, plan to get to the top well before - the hour before sunset is excellent for pictures, too! (Leave extra time to wait in line, sunset is a popular time to visit.) 
  • Kids under six can visit for free with an accompanying adult. Strollers are allowed, but you must be able to fold it before taking the elevator ride up. 
  • Prepare for the security line and help speed up the process by making sure you don't have any prohibited items. 
  • Dress for the weather and remember it's colder and windier up there. 
  • Bring a camera to capture the best views. 
View from Empire State Building

Top of the Rock tips: 


  • To avoid the largest crowds, plan to visit Top of the Rock early in the morning. Weekday visits tend to be less busy. 
  • Plan to spend at least one hour visiting the Top of the Rock and take your time at the exhibits. Once you pass through, you can't return to the exhibits. 
  • If you want to catch the sunset, plan to get to the top well before. Those golden hour pictures can come out even nicer than ones of the actual sunset! 
  • Download the Top of the Rock app for a skyline guide that identifies the buildings you're looking at. It's also got audio tours you can listen to as well. 
  • As with the Empire State Building, it's colder and windier at the top, so make sure to bring some spare layers. 
  • Don't forget your camera, portable chargers, and binoculars to guarantee the best views and best pics.
View from Top of the Rock Observatory

So, which New York observation deck should you choose?

Both attractions are extremely popular and offer unique experiences. The main difference is genuinely the view. So if you can only fit in one, pick the view you'd prefer to see. If you want the most iconic picture of New York's skyline, go to Top of the Rock because then your pictures will have the Empire State Building in them.  

But if you're more keen to tick the Empire State off your bucket list, you can capture stunning views featuring the water and Rockefeller Plaza instead. It'll be a winner, whichever you choose. 

Can't choose? No need, see both with Go City®

Now for the best bit, how to visit both observation decks without breaking the bank! 

With a pass, you can save up to 50% on entry compared to buying individual admission tickets at each destination. Take a Hop-on, Hop-off bus tour or visit the American Museum of Natural History. Or, (if you haven't had your fill of stunning views yet) head up to the Edge or One World Observatory for even more thrilling city panoramas. 

Discover our full line-up of New York attractions including landmarks, museums, tours, and more.

🤩 >> If you want to see and do as much as you can, our All-Inclusive Pass is for you.  

😎 >> If you want to pick just a few attractions and visit at your own pace, our Explorer Pass is the perfect option. 

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