There’s no doubt that the Big Apple is gorgeous, but just wait until you see the best views in New York City.
When we were living in Philadelphia, we took regular trips to NYC, and it was surprising that there were so many ways to see and experience the city. Of course, there are everyone’s favorite viewpoints and observation decks, which are totally worth visiting. However, there are also some hidden gems where you can get an entirely new perspective of New York. You can even hop in a helicopter and get an aerial view of New York, which is an opportunity we took during one of our trips.
To help you out and give you some ideas for your visit, I’m sharing the best lookout points in New York. I recommend adding a few of these places to your itinerary; a nice balance of touristy observatories and lesser-known parks is ideal.
Speaking of which, several top observation decks are included in the New York Pass, and other NYC city passes. With these cards, you can get free access to some of the more fun attractions in New York.
1. Brooklyn Bridge, one of the best nighttime views in NYC
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the top landmarks in the city, so you can’t miss it. While you can drive or bike across it, I think it’s better to walk the full length of the bridge so you can take in the free views of NYC.
From here, you’ll have panoramic views of the city, and the scene is beautiful day or night. If you go during the day, you can check out Brooklyn Bridge Park. In the evening, the lights of the skyline are reflected in the East River, so it’s a cool thing to see at night in NYC.
It takes about an hour to walk across the bridge, but if you’re short on time and want to make the most of your visit, consider this 2-hour walking tour. It includes a stop at the Brooklyn Bridge and a tour through DUMBO, one of Brooklyn’s best neighborhoods. Plus, it’s included in the New York Pass.
2. Top of the Rock, an amazing viewpoint in New York City
The Top of the Rock is at the Rockefeller Center in Midtown, so it’s a prime location for some of the best views in Manhattan. This NYC observation deck has several levels where you can peer out at the city and get a better view of landmarks like the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building.
Up on the 68th floor, there is an indoor viewing area, which comes in handy during the colder months of the year. The 69th floor also has viewing areas, as well as an interactive gallery. The open-air deck is on the 70th floor and offers 360° views of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Long Island. On clear days, you can even see New Jersey.
Another nice thing about this New York lookout point is that it’s close to all kinds of attractions, like MoMA, Radio City Music Hall, and Madame Tussauds. So, if you plan on visiting those or other nearby places, consider getting the New York Pass. Otherwise, you can get your ticket to the Top of the Rock online here.
3. Helicopter ride, the best panoramic view of New York City
I may be biased, but I think a helicopter tour over New York City is one of the most exciting things you can do here. Nowhere else can you get such amazing aerial views of New York.
Not only will this experience grant you incredible panoramic views of NYC, but you’ll also get to see famous New York landmarks from above, giving you a totally unique perspective. It’s an exhilarating tour and best shared with a special someone.
There are several helicopter rides available, although I like this one, which offers a few flight options. You can choose to fly over Manhattan and get a closer look at the buildings or do a more zoomed-out tour of the entire city. Depending on your choice, the ride lasts 15-30 minutes.
There is also this doors-off helicopter ride, which was breathtaking and allowed us to get even better photos. The tours are narrated, so you’ll know exactly what you’re looking at as you soar above New York. If you’re on the fence about it, I say go for it. We had zero regrets!
4. Pebble Beach in DUMBO, Brooklyn, a relaxing NYC viewpoint
Another beautiful viewpoint in NYC is in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood. Main Street Park is under the Manhattan Bridge and offers lots of opportunities for relaxing and people-watching. It’s also home to Pebble Beach, a scenic area overlooking both the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges.
While it’s not a swimming beach, you can dip your feet at Pebble Beach while admiring the cityscape across the water. The best time to go is just before sunset when the glow of golden hour descends over Lower Manhattan.
5. Brooklyn Bridge Park and Old Pier One, a place with beautiful views of NYC
If you’re going to visit the Brooklyn Bridge viewpoint, you might as well check out Brooklyn Bridge Park. This is one of NYC’s best parks and is a fun place for all ages. Kids will love the playgrounds and recreational facilities while everyone will enjoy the lovely views. This waterfront park overlooks the East River, so it’s an amazing spot to get nice photos of NYC.
There are several piers in the park, but Old Pier 1 is where you’ll get the best skyline views of New York City. At first glance, it just looks like a dilapidated pier, but it provides unobstructed views of Manhattan. The remnants of the pier add some visual interest to the foreground, while behind it, the cityscape dominates. I recommend going at dusk, when the water takes on a rosy-violet color that looks very pretty in photos.
6. Empire State Building, a famous lookout point in New York City
Without a doubt, the Empire State Building has some of the best views of New York City. It’s also one of the most iconic symbols of NYC, an Art Deco-style skyscraper that stands tall over Midtown. You need a ticket to go inside, but it’s totally worth it. You can buy yours in advance here or use your New York Pass.
Once you’re in, you can go to the main deck on the 86th floor, which is 1,050 feet high. The wraparound open-air deck grants you panoramic views of NYC, and you can even see neighboring states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut.
However, the most spectacular views are from the 102nd floor, which is 1,224 feet high. You need to take a glass elevator to get there, and you can peer out for up to 80 miles. The 102nd floor has an indoor observatory with 360° views, which are even better at night.
7. The EDGE, one of the most breathtaking views of NYC
The newest and most exciting observatory in New York City is The EDGE. It stands out for having an innovative design and some of the highest views of NYC. At 1,131 feet high, it’s the tallest outdoor observation deck in the Western Hemisphere, making it something you truly have to experience for yourself.
The viewing platform, which is on the 100th floor, isn’t just any old observation deck. It juts out 80 feet from the side of the building and has angled glass walls to immerse you in the scene. If you go to the very edge of the deck, you’ll feel like you’re flying over the city.
The EDGE is at Hudson Yards, so it has the perfect vantage point for you to see all of Manhattan. The sweeping views extend beyond Manhattan and include the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and other landmarks.
If you want to go, be sure to book your ticket in advance here (it’s also included in the New York Pass). Your admission ticket includes access to the outdoor sky deck, its angled skyline steps, the champagne bar, and a souvenir photo. For those who are super adventurous, there is an additional attraction, the City Climb at Hudson Yards, which involves climbing up a staircase on the side of the building. It’s guaranteed to give you some of the best views of NYC if you dare!
8. SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, one of the most unique New York City viewpoints
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is a place you can go year-round for beautiful NYC views. It’s an interactive observation deck with several levels and digital art installations. The entire attraction was designed to be an immersive place where you forget time and space and merge with the outside world.
You can read more about it in our guide, but I’ll tell you here that the SUMMIT consists of various galleries and decks including Air on the 93rd floor. The work of designer Kenzo Digital, Air is made of floor-to-ceiling reflective glass windows and features silver orbs and balloons to evoke a feeling of floating on clouds.
The next level, Levitation, is a stunning 1,063-foot-tall ledge from which you can take a glass elevator to a total height of 1,219 feet. Throughout your visit, you’ll be able to spot familiar attractions like Central Park, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and One World Observatory.
I’ll also say that the SUMMIT has some of the best sunset views in NYC, so I recommend going around golden hour. You can book your ticket here to reserve a time slot.
9. One World Observatory, an unforgettable lookout point in New York
Visiting the World Trade Center Complex is a must-do in New York, not only for the poignant memorials and museum but to see One World Observatory. Also known as the Freedom Tower, this observation deck is easily considered one of the overall best lookout points in New York.
As a curiosity, its total height of 1,776 feet corresponds to the year 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed. The viewing platform itself is on the 100th floor and is 1,268 feet high. Its 360° views include the entirety of New York City, as well as its waterways and most of its bridges.
While taking in the incredible views, check out the other activities here, such as the Sky Portal, a 14-foot-wide translucent disk. As you walk across it, you’ll see a real-time view of the streets below. There are other attractions inside the tower, including the Global Welcome Center, the multimedia Horizon Grid, the See Forever Theater, and the SkyPod elevators, which travel 28 mph to the top of the deck.
One World Observatory is one of the few places that offers the best views of Manhattan and New York’s other four boroughs, so I recommend reserving a ticket. You can get your advanced ticket here or use your New York Pass.
10. Liberty Island, another spot with iconic views of NYC
Another place to get a scenic view of NYC is Liberty Island. Escape the busy streets of Manhattan by hopping on the ferry and sailing through New York Harbor.
Liberty Island is best known for its namesake attraction, the Statue of Liberty. She sits atop a 155-foot pedestal, giving her a total height of 305 feet. There are different Statue of Liberty tours available, and they all include boat transportation to Liberty and Ellis Islands and access to the Statue of Liberty Museum. Some of these tours are included in the New York Pass.
However, some tours include the Statue’s pedestal lookout while others go up to the crown (when it’s open). The views from the Statue of Liberty are beautiful and include Ellis Island, Manhattan, the Jersey City skyline, and parts of Brooklyn.
We have a complete guide on how to visit the Statue of Liberty, so I recommend reading that to get more insight into the available tours and what they include. If you prefer a self-guided option, you can book your ticket online here.
11. Staten Island Ferry, the best way to get free views of NYC
Speaking of the Statue of Liberty, you can see it for free from the Staten Island Ferry. While you won’t get very close to Lady Liberty, you’ll enjoy a nice boat ride, during which you can admire free views of NYC.
The ferry operates 24/7 and departs every 20 minutes or so from Whitehall Terminal at Battery Park. The ride lasts about 25 minutes and takes you through New York Harbor, past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. You’ll also be able to see the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, Governors Island, Jersey City, and a view of the Manhattan skyline.
Once the ferry drops you off, you might want to check out one of the best outlets in NYC, the Empire Outlets, visit some of the other attractions on Staten Island, or you can get in line for a ride back to Manhattan. In any case, the ferry is one of the best free things to do in NYC, and since there is no cost, you can take the boat ride day and night to compare the views.
12. Brooklyn Heights Promenade, another Brooklyn Bridge view of New York City
Back in Brooklyn, I suggest taking a walk along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. It runs from Pierrepont Place and Montague Street and travels along the waterfront, ending between Brooklyn Bridge Park and the western end of Orange Street. This tree-lined pedestrian walkway is a beautiful place to take a stroll, and it’s considered one of the nicest places in Brooklyn, NY.
Plus, there are lots of benches along the way, so you can sit and enjoy the views of New York City. From here, the skyscrapers and full expanse of the Lower East Side are on display. You can also see Governors Island, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island.
The promenade leads to the Brooklyn Bridge, so you’ll also get some scenic views of Brooklyn Bridge Park, which I recommend visiting if you have time.
13. Liberty State Park, the best NYC view from New Jersey
If you’re visiting Jersey City, then you must stop by Liberty State Park. This waterfront park is known for having the best views of the Statue of Liberty from New Jersey, so bring your camera!
The park is nestled along Upper New York Bay, so it’s a picturesque spot for photographers and those seeking a break from the city. As you can imagine, it offers an obstructed view of Liberty Island as well as Ellis Island, and you can see the NYC skyline in the distance.
While you’re here, don’t forget to check out the Empty Sky Memorial, which is dedicated to the victims of 9/11 and is also a beautiful place to see the NYC skyline. Then, follow the Liberty Walkway to the Statue of Liberty overlook and enjoy the free views. There is also free parking at Liberty State Park, which is an added bonus.
14. Sinatra Park, in Hoboken, another gorgeous New York City view from NJ
Over in Hoboken, New Jersey, Sinatra Park has some of the best views of the NYC skyline from NJ. As the name suggests, this park is named after singer Frank Sinatra, who was originally from Hoboken. There are some cool things to do in Hoboken, so if you have the time and want a break from New York, you can easily take public transit over to this city.
Sinatra Park is definitely one of the top places in Hoboken, thanks to its clear views of NYC. It’s also a nice spot that offers some great photo ops. The Frank Sinatra statue is super popular, and you can snap a picture of him with the New York skyline in the background.
The park has lots of recreational activities, too. You can even take a kayak tour from the boathouse and view the New York City skyline from the water. Next door, don’t forget to visit Pier C Park, a floating park with panoramic views of NYC and some scenic walking trails.
15. Roosevelt Island Tram, one of the best views of NYC to enjoy with kids
Back in Manhattan, the Roosevelt Island Tram is a fun way to see the city. To ride the tram, you just need a Metrocard with enough money to cover the fare ($2.75 one-way).
Along the way, you’ll travel 250 feet above the East River and get a one-of-a-kind aerial view of New York. The route runs parallel to the Queensboro Bridge, so the perspective is very interesting. Try to stand by the doors so you can get a clear and unobstructed view.
The passenger cars were designed for sightseeing, so the windows are large and wide. You’ll want to look all around to see the infrastructure of the bridge, the busy streets below, and the skyscrapers rising above the horizon.
Of course, the Roosevelt Island Tram is part of NYC’s public transportation system, so it takes you from the Upper East Side to the Tramway Plaza on Roosevelt Island. It runs every 7-15 minutes from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. (3:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays).
16. Gantry Plaza State Park, a little-known place to see the best NYC views
If you get off the beaten path, you’ll be greatly rewarded with some nice views of NYC. For example, Gantry Plaza State Park, one of the best places to visit in Queens, is a hidden gem where you can see the city from a unique perspective.
The park is part of a former dockyard, so the scenery includes old gantries and transfer bridges, but there is also a waterfront promenade and a playground for the kids. It’s along the East River in Long Island City and boasts some of the most underrated views of Manhattan from Queens.
Since it’s not as popular, you won’t have to battle crowds to get a great viewing spot. From here, you get a panorama of Manhattan, including its most prominent skyscrapers like the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building.
17. Washington and Water Street, the best New York City view for photographers
Savvy photographers know that the intersection of Washington and Water Streets has one of the best views of New York City. Washington Street is one of the most famous streets in NYC, not only for its photo opportunities, but also for its proximity to DUMBO’s top attractions, shops, and restaurants. The entire street runs through two boroughs, passing the High Line, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and more.
When Washington meets Water Street, you’re in for a treat. This is where you can capture one of the most iconic images of the Manhattan Bridge with the Empire State Building nestled beneath it. For the best results, position yourself between Water and Front Streets, where you can perfectly frame the Manhattan Bridge between red brick buildings.
18. Tudor City Bridge, another underrated view of New York City
The Tudor City Bridge is another bridge you should be aware of. This is where you’ll get the best views of NYC in the summer.
During the Manhattan Solstice or Manhattanhenge, the sun perfectly sets between the skyscrapers on 42nd Street. You’ve probably seen this image online but seeing it in person is just breathtaking. The Manhattan Solstice takes place twice a year, usually at the end of May and in the middle of July, so if you’re visiting during those times, don’t miss it!
Some people position themselves along 57th Street, while others prefer moving further away to 34th, 23rd, or even 14th Street. However, I think 42nd Street is the ideal place to set yourself up for an epic photo. You’ll capture the beautiful tree-lined avenue, the towering buildings, and in the center, the Chrysler Building backlit by the golden sun. Hands down, it’s one of the best views of Manhattan, but also one of the most popular, so you need to get there early.
19. The High Line, one of the best places in Manhattan to get NYC views
The High Line is an elevated park and walkway that stretches 1.5 miles from Manhattan’s Meatpacking District to Hudson Yards. It might just seem like a useful pedestrian shortcut, but it actually has some lovely lookout points over New York.
What started as an old railroad track is now a modern park and walking path that travels past countless buildings, skyscrapers, and attractions, including the Whitney Museum, Chelsea Market, and the IAC Building, which has a façade that resembles the sails of a ship.
The High Line also winds past The Vessel, a dizzying observation deck with multiple viewing platforms and a unique, inverted beehive shape. You can learn more about The Vessel and the High Line on this guided tour, which is also included in the New York Pass.
In addition, the High Line has beautiful features like public art, the Pershing Square Beams, which kids will love climbing on, and tiered seating above 10th Avenue. It’s one of the coolest places to visit in Manhattan, so take your time walking along and admiring the beautiful NYC views.
20. 230 Fifth and other rooftop bars, the best New York City views to enjoy as a couple
Last but not least, you can’t go wrong with viewing the Manhattan skyline from a roof deck. There are dozens of rooftop bars in New York City, but my favorite is 230 Fifth. It’s a multi-level cocktail bar with an enclosed lounge on the 20th floor and an open-air deck on the 21st. So, you can sip on delicious drinks while taking it all of Midtown Manhattan.
In addition, 230 Fifth has an excellent vantage point of the Empire State Building, and its relaxed atmosphere makes it a fun place to go with friends or as a couple. Even if you visit NYC in wintertime, you can stay comfy thanks to the heated igloos they install.
Another spot with the best rooftop views of NYC is none other than the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Its Cantor Roof Garden Bar is on the 5th floor and has a stunning ambiance with tea lights, light appetizers, and lots of greenery. It’s a gorgeous place to see the New York City skyline and a birds-eye view of Central Park. So, if you need another reason to visit one of the most prestigious museums in NYC, this rooftop bar is it.
And now you know where to find the best views in New York City! I know it’s hard to choose, but hopefully, this guide helped you narrow down your favorites. You can also locate each lookout point on this map:
Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any other questions about these viewpoints, and if you think I missed one, leave me a comment below with your recommendation. I’d love to hear from you!
Have a fantastic time exploring the most beautiful views of NYC!