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This post covers how to get tickets to Top of the Rock, the observation deck at Rockefeller Center, including tips on discount tickets, best times to go and other tips to help you plan your visit. Get flexible tickets with 24-hour cancel now.
PLAN YOUR VISIT
Top of the Rock is located 850 feet (260 m) above street level and has been offering stunning panoramas of the city since 1933 that include Central Park and the Empire State Building and more. It’s a wonderful experience with and requires some planning.
The closest subway is the B, D, F and M trains to 47-50 St, Rockefeller Center. Other trains nearby are the 1 train at 50th Street and the N, Q and R train at 49th Street.
The main entrance to Top of the Rock is on 50th Street in between 5th and 6th Avenues.
You can use this Google link to get exact directions from your departure location to Top of the Rock.
TIP: If you are considering a hop-on-hop-off bus ticket, keep in mind that all such buses stop at Rockefeller Center.
What to Expect
Top of the Rock is open 365 days a year, 7 days a week. They open at 8 am and close at 12:30 am (the last elevator up is at 11:55 pm). Note that Rockefeller Center itself is open at 7 am, so why not explore if you book an early ticket?
According to several visitors, lines at Top of the Rock are typically very short and manageable. Guests report an average wait time of 0-15 minutes depending on crowd size.
In comparison, you might spend up to an hour in line waiting to see the observation decks of the Empire State Building. For a more in-depth look at the differences between these attractions, make sure to check out our comparison.
Customers who went to Top of the Rock indicate that it is normal to spend anywhere from 1-2 hours at the observation deck. Once you are there, you should be able to take your time and enjoy the views for as long as you wish.
It is recommended to set aside at least an hour for this activity.
Sunset is the most popular time to visit Top of the Rock. Even though several visitors indicate that this attraction almost never gets busy enough to increase wait times by much, you should expect longer lines and larger crowds from the hours of 3 pm – 8 pm.
If you want to avoid the crowds, consider visiting between the hours of 8 am – 11 am or 8 pm – 11 pm.
We recommend purchasing flexible date tickets with 24-hour free cancellation so that you can get a good idea of what the weather will be like before committing. Bad weather might not stop you from seeing Top of the Rock, but it could take away from your view.
You might be able to save money on your tickets by buying them ahead of time (read about discounts below). But keep in mind, those tickets may not have a 24-hour cancelation policy.
Exhibits at Top of the Rock
When you arrive at Top of the Rock, you’ll discover several exhibits on your way to the three observation decks. These exhibits, (with the exception of the Joie Chandelier), are only accessible on your way to the top. You cannot reenter to see these exhibits so enjoy them along the way.
When you enter the building at the 50th Street entrance your eyes will immediately be drawn to the incredible chandelier made of 14,000 Swarovski crystals hung along in 450 cascading strands.
This is one of the largest and most impressive chandeliers in the world. From upside down, the Joie Chandelier looks like Rockefeller Center.
After passing through security scanners, you are led to the mezzanine where you will find yourself in a long corridor leading to a larger exhibit area, similar to a museum with artifacts and walls covered with mural-sized photographs and information about the history of Rockefeller Center.
Even if you are excited to get to the observation deck, spend a little time learning the very interesting history of Rockefeller Center.
On the mezzanine level is this optional interactive exhibit inspired by Charles C. Ebbets’ world-famous 1933 photograph, Lunch Atop a Skyscraper. This iconic photograph shows the original construction workers sitting on a steel beam, comfortably eating their lunch, while 850 feet (259 m) above street level!
The exhibit has a replica of the beam where, if you choose, you can sit and pose for a photo from the staff photographers. There is a green screen so that the final product of your photo shows you on the sky-high beam way above the city. If you want, pose like you are hanging on for dear life!
You are not obligated to buy the photograph. When you reach the 67th Floor, you will be able to view your photo and decide if you would like to purchase it or not.
The mezzanine exhibit hall leads to a small seatless theater showing a looped short presentation about Rockefeller Center and the history of NBC. If it is a crowded day, you may have to wait in the theater as the staff lead limited size groups of people to the elevators to the top.
The process is very smooth. Expect to wait about 10 minutes when it is very crowded. If it is not crowded, you can head straight to the elevators up, or watch the short presentation in the theater. TIP: You can get free wifi here!
This is not your typical elevator. The Sky Shuttle elevators take you to the 67th floor in under a minute. Along the 42 second journey, you will see historic images from the 1930s until today projected onto the ceiling. It’s colorful, fun and fast!
This deck is entirely enclosed with windows which is great if you end up with bad weather. You still get great views without being uncomfortable in rain, sleet or snow! If you plan to take pictures through windows, try not to wear white that day. This way you can minimize any reflections of yourself.
The picture below is from behind the glass windows. Still looks quite good!
Also on the 67th floor is the Radiance Wall, covering several walls. It is an unusual piece of art featuring a variety of glass panels with blown glass, crystal clusters, and fiber-optic lighting. Guests who choose to take a little more time might even spot a few interesting shapes on the wall.
This deck is outdoors with glass enclosures but still fine for taking clear photos.
You will also find the Breezeway, a small room that connects the south side and the north side of the deck. It features a display full of LED lights.
Upon entering, you will be assigned a color which will follow you around the room. As you move, your color will light up. It is especially fun if there are a few people in the space.
About every 30 seconds, all the lights along the walls and ceiling start flashing, like a dancing rainbow.
This is the top at 850 feet (259 m) above street level. This deck is completely outdoors without any glass enclosures – a photographer’s dream come true. With 360-degree views of New York City, it is a wonderful place to stay a while.
There are some benches to sit on, relax and be mesmerized by the views before heading back down to the busy streets below.
Security and Prohibited Items
All visitors must go through a security check. There are several items you cannot bring with you to the Top of the Rock. Most of these items are prohibited to keep everyone safe and secure.
The following items are allowed:
TICKETS TO TOP OF THE ROCK
Top of the Rock offers timed tickets, which usually means that it is less likely that you will encounter huge crowds. Before you pay full price, be sure to read our section on discounts just below.
Prices as of July 2018
TIP: If you want to avoid getting a timed ticket, you can also get a flexible date ticket which allows you to cancel up to 24 hours before your date of choice. This skip-the-line admission ticket will allow you to visit at any time within one month of the date listed.
That being said, some reviewers indicate that they were allowed to just walk right in without any issues (read reviews here). This is a great way to plan around the weather and pick the perfect time for your visit. There is no extra charge for this ticket.
6 WAYS TO GET DISCOUNTED TICKETS TO TOP OF THE ROCK
(1) Save 10-15% off retail tickets to Top of the Rock with Trusted Tours with the code NYTO5. Trusted Tours, a 3rd party ticket seller, offers discounted tickets.
This may be the best deal, if you are only interested in Top of the Rock and not in other city attractions. You will only see the full discount reflected at checkout once you enter the code. NOTE: You will need to print out your voucher with this option.
(2) Access to the observation deck is included for free with the purchase of the New York Pass, the Sightseeing Pass, the Explorer Pass and the CityPass booklet. These passes can save you a lot of money if you are planning on visiting several attractions and usually include bus tours and boat cruises.
We break down which tourist pass might be good for you if any.
(3) CitySights, one of the large hop-on-hop-off bus tour companies in town offers their FreeStyle Pass, which combines 3 days of bus service and 3, 5 or 7 attractions (including Top of the Rock). The price depends on the # of attractions, but you will likely get Top of the Rock for free.
(4) Rock Pass – Rockefeller Center’s own pass. $44/ticket gets you access to Top of the Rock as well as the Rockefeller Center Tour. Retail price for both would be $52 for an adult, so you would save $8 per adult and $2 per child (6-12). .
(5) AAA – Triple-A members get $3 off tickets. Must present valid AAA card when purchasing.
(6) Military Discount – Although not published, Top of the Rock offers a great military discount (at least as of April 2016). The price for military tickets is $15/adult/child with valid military ID. Each member of the military can bring an additional 3 people, who can also enjoy the discount. We recommend calling Top of the Rock to confirm.
(7) Bar 65 – is a very nice bar/restaurant located on the 65th floor. This is literally two floors below the first observation deck for Top of the Rock. Although they have a dress code (at least business casual), adult visitors who want to get a drink might want to consider a stop at Bar 65 for a very similar view of New York City.
They serve excellent cocktails, and at $20/drink, it’s almost half the price of Top of the Rock. If you’re not interested in the exhibits and attractions at Top of the Rock, this could be a good alternative.
WHY CHOOSE TOP OF THE ROCK?
There are a few different observation decks to choose from in New York City. With a variety of options to consider, some visitors have trouble deciding on just one. With that in mind, let’s talk about some of the reasons you might want to consider Top of the Rock over their competitors.
In addition to Top of the Rock, you will also find observation decks at both the Empire State Building and One World Observatory (and soon one at Hudson Yards). Although these are wonderful and historic locations to visit, there are some clear advantages to choosing Rockefeller Center instead.
Much Less Crowded
While you might have to wait in line for up to an hour at the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock usually doesn’t have long lines or unreasonable crowd sizes. This makes it a lot easier to visit and enjoy your experience without worrying about long waits or too many tourists.
Great All Year Long
Although the Empire State Building charges roughly an extra $20/person to reach its higher, enclosed observation deck, you’ll find both open and enclosed decks at Top of the Rock included in the price of a standard ticket.
This makes a big difference during the winter season and bad weather. Who needs to worry about the wind or the rain when you’re enjoying the views from indoors?
See the Empire State Building and One World Observatory (Freedom Tower)
One thing you can’t see from the Empire State Building’s observation deck is the building itself! Same for One World Observatory. Going to the Top of the Rock allows you to get photographs of these two world-famous buildings. A very popular photo (or selfie) is with the ESB and OWO in the background.
See Central Park
In addition to offering an awesome look at historic buildings in New York City, Top of the Rock also has one of the best views of Central Park from above. Experience one of the most famous parks in the world from an entirely different point of view.
Get More Done
Thanks to the short waits and timed tickets, you can actually plan on spending at most 2 hours at Top of the Rock without worrying about this activity taking too long.
As a result, it’s much easier to plan other activities for the day and rest assured that you probably won’t be late or run out of time.
If you need more help deciding which observation deck to visit, check out our comparison of all three locations.
And remember, several tourist discount passes include both the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock as well as One World Observatory at the World Center, so you may not need to choose one over the other.
OTHER ROCKEFELLER CENTER TOURS
A behind-the-scenes look at some of your favorite NBC shows. We give you tips to help plan your visit as well as analyze the reviews left by previous tour attendees.
Discover the history, art, and architecture of this grand city space. The tours will be every 30 minutes from 10 am to 7:30 pm, excluding 6 pm and 6:30 pm. $22.50/person (with discount). Read our post which reviews this tour, which also provides a free, self-guided version. The tour is included for free with both the New York Pass and Explorer Pass.
Inside look at this majestic Art Deco treasure. Tickets cost $21.56/adult and $15.96/child (with discount).
ROCKEFELLER CENTER – A BRIEF HISTORY
Be sure to read our self-guided tour of the art and architecture of Rockefeller Center.
This beautiful Art-Deco complex was built in the 1930’s by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. He originally acquired the land because he had promised to build a new opera house for the Metropolitan Opera Company, who was looking to move further uptown.
Rockefeller took out a 27-year lease on the property (with the option for three, 21-year extensions). After the stock market crash of 1929, the Metropolitan Opera started to stall, wanting to hold out for a better lease. Rockefeller decided to commence building the complex without them.
He then began what would become the most expensive private building project ever undertaken in modern times. Over 40,000 people were employed during the construction, which was completed in 1939.
The complex today encompasses 22 acres and has more than 8,000,000 square feet of interior space. Today it is a favorite spot to visit for visitors, particularly at the holidays. Rockefeller hosts the famous annual Christmas tree, which ranges in size from 60 to 100 feet tall from year to year and is covered with over 30,000 LED lights!
The tree is positioned in front of the central feature of Rockefeller Center: the GE Building. The GE Building is located at 30 Rockefeller Center, or “30 Rock.”
Both places are fantastic experiences! While the Empire State Building is a classic tourist experience, Top of the Rock can offer some advantages, depending on the type of traveler you are. One of the benefits of Top of the Rock is that you purchase your ticket for a specific time slot. This keeps the crowds a reasonable size and cuts down on a lot of time spent waiting in line. It also makes it a little easier to plan the rest of your day so that you can get the maximum amount of time for sightseeing! Also, Top of the Rock offers great photo opportunities; including a great view of Central Park (during the day) and a great shot of The Empire State Building (can’t get a photo of it standing on top of it!) The observation deck is indoor/outdoor, so depending what time of year you are visiting it may be a better choice. If you are on a tight time budget or hate waiting in line, this may be a better choice for you.
TIP: Because your entry is timed, try to go a little before sunset. That way you can get day and night views in one trip!
Some Other Things to Know…
Written by Katherine Weatherford