If you’re looking for the best views of NYC, there is nothing better than gazing out from one of the top NYC observation decks. Among the most popular observatories in the city, the majority of them are in Manhattan, so you can get spectacular views of New York Harbor and several iconic landmarks.
Even if you’re afraid of heights, I recommend mustering up the courage to visit at least one of New York City’s overlooks. Besides, many roof decks in the Big Apple are part of larger tourist attractions, so it’s worth checking them out.
Also, while there are some free observation decks in NYC, the best ones cost quite a bit. So, if you’re thinking about visiting several observatories, get an NYC attraction pass to save money. I recommend the New York Pass, which is perfect for first-time visitors.
Finally, be sure to bring your camera, because nothing beats the view from the tallest buildings in NYC!
1. Empire State Building, one of the tallest buildings in NYC
The Empire State is one of the most famous buildings in NYC, so it should be at the top of your list. Besides offering the best views in Manhattan, the Empire State Building is a national symbol synonymous with human engineering and possibility.
The Art Deco skyscraper is over 90 years old and, at 102-stories (1,250 feet) high, it towers over Midtown Manhattan, one of the most popular neighborhoods in Manhattan. There are currently three observation decks in the building, as well as several different tickets and tour options, and it’s a great couple’s activity in NYC.
The 80th-floor observatory is entirely indoors and contains various exhibits and galleries about the Empire State Building’s history and legacy. A few stories up, you’ll find the main observatory on the 86th floor. It has indoor and outdoor areas so you can visit throughout the year. From here, you’ll get 360° views of the city, including the East and Hudson Rivers, the Statue of Liberty, and Central Park.
Finally, the 102nd-floor observation deck is smaller and enclosed with floor-to-ceiling windows. As one of the highest points in New York City, you can see up to 80 miles into the distance if the skies are clear. Unlike the other observatories in the building, this one is exclusive and requires an additional ticket.
2. One World Observatory, the highest observation deck in NYC
Visiting the One World Observatory is a must-do in NYC, as it’s one of the city’s top observatories. Looming over Lower Manhattan, one of the top neighborhoods in NYC, this observation deck is part of One World Trade Center (One WTC) and is part of the World Trade Center complex.
The observatory’s total height is 1,776 feet, to correspond with the year the Declaration of Independence was signed. This makes it not only the tallest building in NYC but also the tallest in the Western Hemisphere. Going up to the observation deck, which takes up three stories from floors 100 to 102, is an experience in itself.
Technically, the viewing platform is on the 100th floor, as the 101st and 102nd floors contain restaurants and event spaces. Even so, the deck is 1,268 feet tall, so it’s one of the highest observation decks in NYC. When you first enter the building, you’ll take the 47-second ride on the SkyPod elevator up to the 102nd floor.
From there, you can take in the incredible views as well as the other attractions and exhibits. Among them is the Horizon Grid, a multimedia installation comprised of 145 screens that display memories of famous visitors to One WTC. There is also an immersive theater that simulates aerial views of the city, and the Sky Portal, a circular glass platform that displays real-time footage of the streets 100 floors below.
One World Observatory is included in the New York Pass, but if you don’t have a pass, you can get your ticket in advance here. Another option is this combo ticket, which includes the observation deck and a tour of the 9/11 Museum.
3. Top of the Rock, another place to see the best views of New York
An equally impressive observation deck in NYC is the Top of the Rock at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Along with shorter wait times, the Top of the Rock offers one of the best places to view the New York skyline, especially at sunset when the city is bathed in brilliant pinks and purples.
That said, you can visit this observatory at other times during the day and still get amazing panoramic views of Manhattan, including the Empire State Building. Not only that, but the Top of the Rock involves several other experiences, so it’s a fun place to go in NYC with kids.
First, 30 Rockefeller Plaza’s Grand Atrium Lobby is quite a sight to behold. Besides its ornate décor, it has the Joie Chandelier, which was specially made for the Top of the Rock and contains 14,000 Swarovski crystals.
Then, take the impressive Sky Shuttle elevator and ascend 850 feet to the observatory in less than a minute. You can visit the indoor observatories on the 67th and 69th floors, then check out the outdoor deck on the 70th floor for unobstructed views of the Big Apple.
There is also a theater that shows a brief documentary about the history of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, and an interactive, multimedia Breezeway exhibit. Finally, the Beam Walk attraction invites you to walk across a virtual steel beam hanging over the city, referencing a famous photograph of New York construction workers sitting atop a suspended steel beam in 1932.
4. The EDGE at Hudson Yards, a beautiful NYC observation deck
One of the newest sky decks in NYC is The EDGE at Hudson Yards, and it’s not for the faint of heart. The EDGE, which opened in 2020, boasts the tallest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere, as well as the highest rooftop bar in the city.
As you take the 52-second elevator ride to the 100th floor of 30 Hudson Yards, you’ll get uninterrupted views of the Manhattan skyline and, on cloudless days, New Jersey in the distance. When the elevator doors open, you’ll step into the enclosed observatory, where you can grab drinks and prepare yourself for the heart-stopping views.
The EDGE has one of the most unique designs of any observation deck, with glass floors and angled glass walls. Moreover, it juts out from the edge of the building and appears to be suspended in mid-air. The far tip of the deck is a small, triangular spot just big enough for one person, so when you stand here, you truly feel like you’re on top of the world. In reality, you’re 80 feet from the building’s exterior and 1,100 feet above the ground!
As if that weren’t enough, the EDGE has a City Climb attraction for adrenaline junkies in which you scale the building as you hover over 1,200 feet in the air. If you ask me, walking onto the sky deck is thrilling enough, and it’s unlike any other observation deck in NYC. You can get in with your New York Pass, or by booking a ticket here.
5. One Vanderbilt, one of the best observation decks in New York City
The Summit at One Vanderbilt, another new observation deck in NYC, opened in 2021. The sky deck’s unparalleled design combines elements of city and nature, incorporating the highest urban alpine meadow in the world, interactive art galleries, and a three-part observatory.
One Vanderbilt is the 4th-tallest building in NYC, standing 93 stories tall at 1,301 feet. As for The Summit observation deck, it’s located above floor 73, 1,210 feet above the ground. As I said, the deck is composed of three unique parts that create an immersive experience for visitors.
First, the Ascent takes you up to the observation deck in the world’s largest exterior glass-floored elevator. The Levitation portion of the deck is comprised of two glass-enclosed balconies that jut out slightly from the building’s façade, dangling you 1,063 feet above the city streets. Finally, the Summit’s infinity room has a glass parapet, 40-foot ceilings, a bar, and Air, a media art installation by Kenzo Digital.
Like The EDGE, The Summit invites you to feel like you’re floating in mid-air while the rest of Midtown Manhattan shuffles underneath you. Come for the views and stay for the NYC rooftop scene, but be sure to bring sunglasses since the sunlight reflecting off the building can be particularly bright.
If you want to visit this new NYC observation deck, be sure to book a ticket in advance here.
6. The Vessel, a unique NYC observation deck
The Vessel is another cool overlook in New York City and one that I recommend if you don’t mind doing some climbing.
This intriguing structure looks like a giant honeycomb, but it’s actually a series of connected staircases that lead to various vantage points and lookouts. While the spiraling staircases make The Vessel quite dizzying, there is also the fact that it’s 50-feet wide at its base and 150-feet wide at the top.
There are 154 flights of stairs comprised of 2,500 steps, so take your time climbing The Vessel and admiring the views of Manhattan, the Hudson River, and Hudson Yards Public Square. Once you explore the entire structure and make it to the top of the 16-story honeycomb, you’ll have traveled about a mile. Without a doubt, visiting this NYC observation deck is one of the coolest things to do in Manhattan, and you can find it while walking the High Line. Tickets are available here for free during the first hour of each day; otherwise, they’re $10/person.
7. Statue of Liberty Crown, a popular overlook to get the best views of NYC
|Note: The Statue of Liberty’s crown is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.|
Finally, one of the most coveted views of New York is the one from the Statue of Liberty’s crown. Most visitors to Liberty Island end up going up to the Statue’s pedestal, which is 154 feet tall. The crown is a much more exclusive vantage point and about twice as high, so it’s quite impressive.
If you want to go up to the Statue of Liberty’s crown, there are a few things you should know. First, there are only about 500 tickets available each day and they sell out quickly, so you should book well in advance. Second, the only tour company that has the authorization to sell crown tickets is Statue Cruises. Your ticket purchase will include ferry service to Liberty Island, an audio guide, and admission to the Statue of Liberty Museum and Ellis Island Museum. Check our guide to visit the Statue of Liberty for more information.
Finally, keep in mind that, unlike the pedestal, the crown doesn’t have elevator access, so you’ll have to climb all 354 steps by yourself. The stairs are very steep and, the crown’s lookout area is a tight squeeze, so if you’re claustrophobic, it might not be the best option for you.
Whether you visit the crown, the pedestal, or just see Lady Liberty up close, it’s worth taking a Statue of Liberty tour. I recommend this one that goes to Liberty and Ellis Islands, or you can see the Statue of Liberty with your New York Pass.
That’s it for the seven best observation decks in NYC. Visiting any of these sky decks will grant you the best views of NYC, so don’t pass them up! To help you easily locate each one, I’m sharing this tourist map of NYC.
If you have any questions or you’d like to share your experience at one of these NYC rooftop decks, leave me a comment below. Have a safe trip!