We had a lot of free time on our recent spring break trip to New York City. My kids wanted to visit some of the more popular tourist attractions, like Times Square and the Empire State Building. On our first full day, we headed to the Empire State Building to take in the gorgeous view (see this post for my tips for visiting the Empire State Building). Toward the end of our vacation, we visited Rockefeller Plaza and we decided to visit Top of the Rock. So, which one is best – the Empire State Building or The Top of the Rock? Here is my opinion:
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Top of the Rock vs Empire State Building
The Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is an iconic tourist attraction that I think everyone needs to visit at least once. It’s crowded, however – because of its icon status, it gets visitors from all over at all times. While you can avoid the crowds by visiting earlier in the day, there is really no true “slow” time.
We visited right when they opened, and while we definitely were able to enjoy all of the views that the Empire State Building had to offer, but we did have to wait at times to squeeze in places. The standard admission (which is comparable in price to the Top of the Rock), is for the 86th floor, where you get 365 degree views. A VIP experience, as well as a top deck upgrade (102nd floor) are available.
For our visit, we purchased the standard admission. It was definitely enough for us to get to the 86th floor, and I didn’t feel any need to go up to the top deck.
Top of the Rock
On our last day of our New York City vacation, we decided to visit Top of the Rock. It’s located in a much more touristy location, so you can combine your visit with our popular things to do in NYC, like Rockefeller Plaza and Fifth Avenue. Because our visit was a last minute decision, we arrived midday, rather than first thing in the morning.
We found the Top of the Rock to be crowded as well, but not nearly as crowded. We were able to access the elevators quickly, and while we did wait in line, they moved fast.
Your tickets will take you to the 67th, 69th, and 70th floor, and it’s definitely worth visiting all three. Floors 67 and 69 have a clear glass around individual outdoor terraces, so you do need to walk around a bit to get the different views. But, the top floor is open air, so you get a better view around and can get some great photos.
While the Empire State Building is indeed higher than Top of the Rock, we did get great views from the Top of the Rock. In addition, we were actually able to see the Empire State Building from Top of the Rock. So those pictures definitely look more like quintessential NYC. Because it was a shorter line with less crowds, we had more time to see other things in the city that day.
So, in the battle of Top of the Rock vs Empire State Building, which one did we prefer? As I stated, I definitely think it’s worth going to the Empire State Building at least once if you haven’t been. But, we probably had a better experience at Top of the Rock. So, that will be our choice if we decide to go to one of them again.
If you are looking for discounts, check out these pass options for New York City attractions.
Do you have a favorite between Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building?