New York City has many observation decks that give you spectacular views of the city. There is hardly anything more spectacular than standing far above the city streets and looking down over the expansive concrete jungle. Which observation decks there are, which ones are free, and a few insider tips are all included in our list of best observation platforms in NYC.

The Best Observation Platforms in New York

NameOne World ObservatoryEmpire State BuildingTop of The RockStatue of Liberty-crown
BuildingOne World Trade CenterEmpire State BuildingRockefeller CenterStatue of Liberty
Claim to fameHighest observation deck in New YorkNYC’s most famous observation deckBest view of NYC, Empire State Building & Central ParkObservation deck in the water
Imageone-world-observation-deck-new-yorkempire-state-building-new-york-observation-deckobservation-deck-top-of-the-rock-rockefeller-center-new-yorkstatue-of-liberty-and-ellis-island-observation-deck
LocationLower ManhattanMidtownMidtownLiberty Island (Lower Manhattan)
Opened2015193119361886
Observation deck elevation381 m320 m259 m93 m
Open floor(s) of observation deck86th Floor70th Floor
Floor(s) with panoramic windows100th – 102nd Floor102nd Floor67th and 69th Floor
Our Insider GuideRead Insider Guide to One World Observatory Read Insider Guide to Empire State Bldg.Read Insider Guide to Top of the Rock Read Insider Guide to Statue of Liberty
Hours of operation:daily 9 am – midnightdaily 8 am – 02:00amdaily 8:30 am – midnightdaily 8:30 am (first ferry)
Last Elevator11:15 pm1:15 am11 pm6:45 pm (last ferry)
Included in the New York passes?not included included
See Comparison
included
See Comparison
 not included
Tickets

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Buy Tickets

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Free observation decks in New York

Just like everybody else, we love free things at Loving New York – even better is if you can get something for free that you wouldn’t mind paying for. Free observation decks definitely fit into that category! There are two different ways of enjoying great views of New York for free.

  •  You have a New York pass

The very popular observation decks on top of the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center (Top of the Rock) are included in the New York passes. With these sightseeing passes, you pay a fixed amount up front, and can then visit many attractions for free. It is basically a flat rate for NYC attractions. Take a look at the Comparison of New York passes – with a pass, you can save up to 70% compared to the cost of purchasing regular tickets individually!

  • You go to a rooftop bar

If you want to enjoy New York high above, another option is to go to one of the many rooftop bars and lounges the city has to offer. Our tip: the rooftop bar 230 Fifth or Spyglass – both will give you stunning views of the Empire State Building and are definitely some of our favorite rooftop bars in the city.

You can find the best rooftop bars in New York in my list:


Our favorite observation decks in NYC

One World Observatory at One World Trade Center

The observation deck on top of the One World Trade Center is one of the newest attractions in the Big Apple. The so-called One World Observatory opened in May 2015 and offers spectacular views over Manhattan at a height of 381 meters. This makes the One World Observatory the highest observation platform in the city, meaning the views are nothing short of spectacular.

More about observation platform One World Observatory

One World Trade Center Observatory View

Empire State Building Observation Deck

With its observation deck on the 86th Floor, the Empire State Building offers the highest open observation deck in New York! Due to the fact that it is not encased in glass or covered with a roof, it is one the most popular observation decks of the city and definitely one of the most spectacular. Additionally, the Empire State Building has a second observation platform on the 102nd floor that is enclosed and features large panoramic windows. Tickets to get to the 102nd floor cost an additional $19 (this is not worth it in our opinion – the extra floors do not necessarily give you a better view!).

More about the observation deck at the Empire State Building

Empire State Building 102nd Floor

Observation platform at New York Rockefeller Center

The observation deck at Rockefeller Center is also known as Top of the Rock. This is definitely our favorite observation deck of the city as it gives you great views of the Empire State Building as well as Central Park. It also allows you to take the typical NYC picture of the Empire State Building standing tall among the other skyscrapers of Central Manhattan, as in the header picture above. Another advantage of Top of the Rock compared to the others is that it is much less crowded thanks to the timed entry system. Instead of waiting in line you will receive a time to come back when you purchase your tickets. This time management not only makes the observation deck much less busy but it also allows you to cut down on the time spent in the queue waiting to get to the top!

More about the observation platform Top of the Rock

Top Of The Rock Observation Deck

Observation platform in the crown of the Statue of Liberty

The crown of the Statue of Liberty is very popular with tourists. We have climbed the stairs to the crown ourselves and, to be completely honest, found the experience somewhat overrated. Long wait lines and a small, tight viewing area in the crown did persuade us this was worth the visit. Our tip: if you want to see the Statue of Liberty up close, take a boat cruise around Manhattan or take pictures from the free Staten Island Ferry. The view from the top of the Statue of Liberty is not that great either, due to being quite a distance from Manhattan most of what you see is water.

More about the Statue of LibertyStatue of Liberty NYC

 

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