Top of the Rock Tips – Experiencing the Best Observation Deck in NYC!
Top of the Rock Tips For This Observation Deck in NYC
The Top of the Rock is one of the best observation decks in New York City! In all the years I’ve been visiting New York, I can’t believe that I’d never made it up here. We had a 22-hour layover on the way back from St. Lucia, and we wanted to see if it was possible to fit this experience in! With a little planning, the answer is YES! Here’s how we did it and how you can too. Here are some Top of the Rock Tips to help you make the most of this bucket list experience!
How high is the Top of the Rock?
The upper decks are actually 850 feet above the street level and you’ll take an elevator up almost 70 floors! The panoramic views of New York City are well worth the visit and all the trouble that it takes to get up there. Being at Top of the Rock will make you feel like you’re sitting on top of the world!
Since the Top of the Rock is such a popular tourist attraction, you’ll really want to plan ahead and allow some extra time to make the most of your visit. The first thing that I recommend to do is to purchase your tickets beforehand. The lines are insane for every part of this experience, and that of course even includes the line to purchase a ticket. Buy your tickets online to save time and money!
Top of the Rock Admission – Get Your Tickets Before Your Trip
The general admission ticket is the most popular ticket. It will save you the most money, but it will most likely cost you the most time. The lines can be unpredictable, so I suggest getting there early before 8 am if you choose this type of ticket. You’ll be able to choose your time slot, but make sure to reserve it as far in advance as you can. This will be the best option to ensure the best availability.
Another economical ticket choice for Top of the Rock admission is the New York City Explorer Pass. With this pass, you can see much more of New York at a lower price of admission to several top sights. This pass is customizable and does offer skip-the-line access on a few select attractions. Unfortunately, this pass does not offer skip-the-line access for Top of the Rock admission. However, with this pass, you do have the option to experience the other most popular observation deck in NYC, The Empire State Building.
Last but not least, the absolute best pass that you can buy for Top of the Rock admission is the New York Pass with Fast Track Access! You can customize this pass and choose how many days that you’d like to use it, depending on your itinerary. Visit up to 90 different attractions with many of them offering skip-the-line access!
Most of the popular sites in NYC are crowded with tourists and known for long wait times. You can easily skip the lines at the sites listed below with this pass!
- Carnegie Hall Tours
- Tour at Lincoln Center
- Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
- Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
- Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
- The Cloisters Museum and Gardens
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Top of the Rock Observation Deck!
- Madame Tussauds New York
- Brooklyn Botanic Garden
- Rockefeller Center Tour
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum
Activities and attractions
- 1-Day Big Bus hop-on hop-off bus pass: Uptown, Downtown and Midtown Loops
- 9/11 Tribute Center
- Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Immigration Museum (includes ferry and entry)
- Whitney Museum of American Art
- Brooklyn Museum
- Empire State Building Observation Deck
- American Museum of Natural History
- Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
- Radio City Music Hall Stage Door Tour
- Central Park Bike Tours and Rentals
- THE RIDE theatrical experience
Just remember that certain tours and activities must be reserved in advance. Buy your ticket in advance and reserve your space as soon as you know about your trip. You can use your online confirmation number to reserve your space as soon as you’ve purchased your pass.
Attractions, tours, and activities that can be booked ahead of time include:
- Food on Foot Tours
- Wall Street Walks
- On Location Tours: Central Park TV and Movie Sites
- The Brooklyn Bridge and DUMBO neighborhood tour
- Greenwich Village Walking Tour
- Inside Broadway Tours
- SoHo-Little Italy-Chinatown Walking Tour
- NYC Gospel Walking Tour
- South Bronx Renaissance Tour
- High Line-Chelsea-Meatpacking Tour
Your pass also comes with:
- 200-page pocket guidebook that details all attractions and special offers for pass holders
- Tourist map and subway map to help you plan your trip
Top of the Rock Opening Times
The Top of the Rock opens at 8:00 am and closes at 12:30 am, just after midnight. We used the New York Pass with Fast Track Access since we were super pressed for time. If you choose this option, then you can arrive whenever you like and you’ll be escorted right up to the top and walk down a red carpet to the entrance! 🙂 Otherwise, you’ll really need to get there as early as you can before the crowds hit. You don’t want to waste your time in New York standing in a boring line.
You’ll definitely want to take endless photos when you’re at The Top of the Rock because the views are breathtaking and the experience is one of a kind. I always charge up my camera and my phone before heading out for the day.
We didn’t have cell phone service at the top, just so you know. This will actually drain your phone battery faster because it’s searching for a tower. A trick I use to prolong my battery life during these times is to turn my phone on airplane mode so it doesn’t search and my battery lasts longer. If you have an iPhone, you can also try using low power mode.
Most people use their phones as a camera these days and you don’t want to miss any shots. I always travel with a solar powered battery pack to make sure my phone is always ready. Since it’s solar powered I don’t have to remember to charge it up or use up my extra adapters for my international trips.
Dress Extra Warm
It’s a bit more chilly and windy at The Top of the Rock than you’d expect, so make sure you’re prepared. My toes were frozen by the time we left! You definitely don’t want to get all the way up there and then be so cold that you can’t even enjoy it. Because…
You’ll Need to Budget Extra Time
Skipping the line to the Top of the Rock was amazing and I felt like a celebrity walking down the red carpet! There’s just one little problem. Once you get to the top, there’s no VIP line for photos. You simply have to be patient and wait for the masses to move out of your way to get the photo you came for.
Sorry ya’ll, there’s no hack for this. Make sure to pack your patience in your carry on for this one. You can always go around to the other side of the building that overlooks Central Park. There aren’t nearly as many people over there. If you want a photo with The Empire State Building, then you’ll have to be patient with the crowds. Allow yourself an hour or more just for photos, just to be safe.
If you’re planning to capture a stunning sunset photo at The Top of the Rock, then make sure you get there about an hour before the sunset starts. The earlier you arrive, the more time you’ll have to get to the top and scope out the best spots. Everyone else will have the same idea so be prepared to work quickly to capture the shot.
Explore Every Floor
The Top of the Rock has several observation decks and they all offer a slightly different view. Take your time and go up to each of the floors to get different angles. This one was taken inside the building before I even went outside. There weren’t any crowds or a line of people waiting around the windows so I quickly went for it. I think it turned out well! 🙂
Budget Extra Time to Get Back Down
What goes up, must come down, right?! 🙂 Well, that’s easier said than done at this top observation deck in NYC. Even with the New York Pass with Fast Track, you’ll still wait a few minutes to get back down via the elevator, but it’s definitely the quickest option. With the regular pass, you’ll wait until there’s a spot open on the elevator in a line of people. The elevator only holds about 10-12 people so you can expect to wait for a bit to get back down to street level.
Get the App
Download the Top of The Rock App for a skyline guide that identifies what buildings you’re looking at and has audio tours that you can listen to as well. I wish I’d known about this before our visit, but I learned about it afterward, so I wanted to share with you. Let me know if you find it helpful!
Bonus Tip – BYOB
If you really want to enjoy the view to the fullest, then make sure to BYOB! Bring your own binoculars, that is. 😉 If you don’t own a pair of binoculars then make sure you stock up on quarters before you arrive. The bad news about the binocular stands that are provided by the Top of the Rock is that they won’t take your credit card if you forget your change. The good news is that no one remembers to bring change and so they’re actually very available. You likely won’t have to wait in line to use them.
Do you have any other Top of the Rock tips to share?
Let me know in the comments!