view of Empire State Building and Lower Manhattan and World Trade Center from Summit One Vanderbilt in NYC
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5 Best Observation Decks in NYC (+ Pros & Cons For Each One) 

Looking for the best observation decks in NYC? Maybe you’re trying to figure out which one to visit on your next trip.  There are currently 5 observation decks in New York City (with more in the works including the iconic Chrysler Building), all offer different experiences with different features and exhibits as well as varying views of the city.

Visiting observation decks are one of the best things to do in NYC, and there’s a reason why. Unlike some touristy attractions, even locals love to get up sky high and see the city from above. 

This guide breaks down all the New York observation decks and what’s featured at them plus what views they are known for anything else you need to know before deciding which observation deck to check out on your next visit – or maybe you’ll want to visit all of them!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

See More & Save Money!

Sightseeing in NYC can add up and so can visiting the best observation decks in NYC. But what if you want to visit multiple New York observation decks? There’s a way you can save some serious money and that’s by purchasing an attraction pass where you bundle multiple experiences for your visit and save with steep discounts.

Plus, if you are into saving money check out our guide to NYC on a budget.

There are a few different money-saving attraction passes available in NYC that are WORTH every cent if you plan on seeing multiple famous attractions in the city and are perfect for those who just can’t pick and choose and want to hit up a few of the city’s top attractions within a few days.

These attraction passes are paid upfront for a one-time fee and on your trip they get you into multiple different attractions for free meaning that you save some serious money overall. By purchasing an attraction pass you can save anywhere from 35-45% on your attraction passes and saving you hundreds of dollars on your visit!

CityPASS offers a 3 attraction pass or a 6 attraction pass with over 12 city attractions to choose from including some of the best NYC observation decks like the Empire State Building, The Edge, Top of the Rock, 9/11 Memorial & Museum, Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, the Guggenheim, and more!

Another great option is the New York Pass which you can purchase anywhere from a 1 Day Pass to a 10 Day Pass that gets you into over 100 attractions. Once you purchase your New York Pass you download the Go City app and use that to get up to 45% savings on popular attractions as well as a few hidden gem attractions ranging from the Empire State Building to the Museum of Ice Cream and many of the NYC experiences mentioned in this guide!

See our full breakdown of the New York Pass and our breakdown of the New York CityPASS to see if it’s worth it for your visit to save hundreds of dollars on multiple attractions!

CityPASS includes these New York City Observation Decks:

  • Empire State Building
  • Top of the Rock
  • Edge at Hudson Yards

New York Pass includes these New York City Observation Decks:

  • Empire State Building
  • Top of the Rock
  • Edge at Hudson Yards
  • One World Observatory

New York City Observation Decks

Empire State Building


Located in Midtown Manhattan (20 W 34th St), this 102-story skyscraper is a very popular observation deck in New York, and as some would say the OG of observation decks as it has served as one of the best observation decks in NYC for decades. 

Named after New York State’s nickname (“Empire State”), The Empire State Building was completed in 1931, only a year after its construction began—which is utterly INSANE.

And for a period of time, it held the title as the world’s tallest building. That is—until the World Trade Center took the crown in 1970! 

Best Views of: 

By catching a ride on the elevator, New Yorkers will be treated to a view of the Manhattan Skyline making the Empire State Building the best observatory in NYC to see it from. 

The best viewpoint will be from the 102nd floor. There you’ll get a spectacular 360 view of the whole city. In particular, you’ll get a good views of some of the city’s most famous skyscrapers like One World Trade Center and the Chrysler Building, and of course views of Central Park, the Hudson River, and the East River surrounding you on the island of Manhattan.

This is also one of the best observation decks in NYC to visit during the sunset!


  • For the Main Deck (86th Floor) it’s $44 for adults, $38 for children, and $42 for seniors.
  • For the Top Deck and Main Deck (102nd and 86th Floor Observatories), it’s $79 for adults, $73 for children, and $77 for seniors. 
  • Get Skip the Line Empire State Building tickets in advance.

Things Unique to this NYC Observation Deck:

Interactive King Kong exhibit in Empire State Building on the 2nd Floor

Before 1929, the building occupying its space was originally known as the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Eventually, it would be torn down and constructed in its place would be the Empire State Building we know of today.

Since making its feature debut in the 1933 film King Kong, the building has made numerous appearances in other feature films. Over 250 in fact!

And thanks to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Empire State Building is not only considered to be one of the best NYC observation decks but one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World as well. 

Also, check out the list of celebrity dignitaries who have visited this iconic landmark too! You’ll spot some of their photos as you visit.


By purchasing the AM/PM tickets, you’ll get to experience this New York observation deck during the day, and then again later that night. As long as you redeem that night visit 3 hours before close.

If you haven’t visited this New York observation deck in a few years, you’ll also be pleased to learn they recently added Heat lamps to the 86th floor, making it a warmer experience for guests visiting during the winter. 

You’re also close to other great attractions like Macy’s at Herald Square, the largest department store in the United States, and steps away from all the incredible places to eat in Koreatown.


The lines at the Empire State Building can be kind of long and daunting. There’s one for security. One at the start of your visit. And another for the elevator. It can be hassle, especially on busier days which is why it’s not a bad idea to secure skip the Line Empire State Building tickets in advance.

All in all—a small price to pay to see one of the best New York City observation decks as well as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World!

Last but not least, for photos keep in mind there is fencing around this open-air observation deck in NYC meaning that you’ll have them in your photos unless you take an image between the bars.

Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock View in NYC in winter

Another observatory deck in New York’s Midtown area (located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza) is Top of the Rock Observation Deck. Top of the Rock is yet another incredibly popular NYC attraction and experience for tourists as well as one of the best observation decks in NYC. 

It’s a three-tier deck, located on 67th, 69th, and 70th floors, with a different deck on each floor. The first deck is indoors, while the other two are completely outdoors.

This deck offers a panoramic view of the entire city at 850 feet above the ground and it’s arguably the best NYC observation deck for viewing the Empire State Building as you get an unbeatable straight-on view of her!

Best Views of:

This New York observation deck gives you a beautiful view of the city as a whole, but in particular, you’ll get great views of the Empire State Building as well as Central Park in the opposite direction!


  • For General Admission (With this ticket, you’ll get access to all three observation decks. And from the 70th-floor deck, you’ll get to see the 360-degree view of the city!) it’s between $34 – $40.
  • For an Express Pass (By paying a little extra, allows you’ll get speedier entry and elevator access, as well as shopping discounts in the stores!) it’s $85.
  • For a VIP Ticket (This option offers visitors quicker entry into the three decks and access to private elevators.) it’s $125.
  • Purchase a ticket online before visiting the Top of the Rock

Things Unique to this NYC Observation Deck: 

view of Empire State Building through the window at Top of the Rock in NYC

The building itself is actually home to the widely popular TV series 30 Rock as well as being the location for NBC Studios (Where Saturday Night Live is recorded among other shows). 

There are also plenty of things to see around the building as well. It’s especially one of the best observation decks in NYC to visit during the holiday season as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and The Rink at Rockefeller Center will be right when you walk out the door!

Also, be sure to check out the views from the windows inside. They also provide some great photo opportunities and views.


In terms of New York City observation decks, Top of the Rock offers one of the best views of the Empire State Building—giving you plenty of opportunities to get the best photos of the New York landmark.

Also, located in the same building as the observatory is an upscale restaurant called Rainbow Room (on the 65th floor of Rockefeller Center). It not only has great food but more great views of the city as well!

Not to mention you’re also steps away from some of the most popular places to visit in the city including Rockefeller Plaza!

This New York skyline observation deck is also open late so you can enjoy this experience and the city twinkling at night too.


As seen above, it’s a little pricey compared to other observatories—especially given the amount of time the visit is. And if being there during sunset is a priority for you, it will be an extra $10.

Also, the tickets are only for specific time slots, leaving little room for scheduling flexibility.

The Edge

looking at the skyline from the corner of the Edge in Hudson Yards NYC

Located in Hudson Yards (30 Hudson Yards, near the last stop for the 7) The Edge observation deck gives New Yorkers 360-degree view of the city—and a breathtaking one at that!

While it is often dismissed as too much of a tourist attraction, this New York observation deck has a lot to offer. Including it being the best observatory in NYC to see downtown Manhattan plus it’s the highest outdoor skydeck in the western hemisphere!

Best Views of:  

This is one of the best New York City observation decks in terms of seeing Ellis Island, Freedom Tower, Battery Park City, the Verrazano Bridge, as well as Staten Island. There are also great views of the Chrysler Building and the New Yorker from here as well.

And despite the fact of it is an observation deck in New York, The Edge offers some views of New Jersey also!

This observation deck also has a cool see-through area of the skydeck where you can see directly below you too! Those with a fear of heights may want to avoid this spot!


  • For General Admission (where you pick a date and time) it’s $40 for adults, $35 for children, and $38 for seniors.
  • For the Flex Pass (allowing you entry at any time of the day of your choosing) it’s $60 for adults, $55 for children, and $58 for seniors.
  • For the Express Admission (same as flex with priority lane perks) it’s $88 for adults, $83 for kids, and $86 for seniors. 
  • Purchase Skip the Line Edge tickets in advance so you don’t have to wait in any queues on the day of.

Things Unique to this NYC Observation Deck: 

The Edge at Hudson Yards skydeck view from street level looking up in NYC

This triangular-shaped deck is the western hemisphere’s highest outdoor sky deck, which is quite an impressive feat.

This observational deck is also a marvel in modern architecture as the floors are all made of glass, looking like something you’d see in a futuristic movie!

The Edge is also the only observation deck in NYC that offers an adrenaline-pumping experience add-on where you can scale the outside of the skyscraper more than 1,200 feet above the city below known as City Climb. Climbers can look down and lean out looking at the streets below!

This is definitely not for those with a fear of heights and one of the most thrilling adventures you can try in New York City, there are some restrictions for this including weight and height as well as you have to be at least the age of 13 to enjoy the City Climb experience.


The wait time for this deck is relatively short, and the elevator ride to the deck takes less than a minute to reach (The ride includes a short video as well).

Also, its unique glass floor design allows you to look all the way down to the ground floor and gives visitors the feeling of floating in the sky. It’s an experience you’ll find at no other observation deck in New York. 

And because multiple trains (A, C, E, 1, 2, and 3 lines) stop at Penn Station, this is one of the best observatories in NYC as far as access goes.

You also have all the other things to do around the Hudson Yards here including checking out the Vessel, high-end shops, Mercado Little Spain, and the High Line.

The Edge also stays open until 10 PM so you can enjoy the views from here at night too.


Even though the glass floor is an epic experience, this isn’t the best NYC observation deck to those who are dreadfully afraid of heights.

There will also be lines to take pictures which will be a definite hindrance to some, especially in the corner window. The photo above was the ‘less’ popular spot to take a photo. If you’re wanting to replicate this walk around as there are alternative angles!

One World Observatory

view of the NYC skyline and Empire State Buidling from One World Observatory

Also referred to as Freedom Tower, One World Observatory (117 West St) is located at the One World Trade on floors 100-102.

Located in Lower Manhattan’s Financial District, One World Observatory is yet another deck that offers visitors a 360-degree view of the city, including such views as the Manhattan skyline, East River, Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, and New York Harbor.

Best Views of: 

Thanks to its lower Manhattan location, One World is THE best NYC observation deck to get unbelievable views of the Statue of Liberty! So, be prepared to get some great photos of this monumental landmark. 

In the opposite direction, you get great views of Midtown in the distance including the Empire State Buiding. Not to mention you have 360 views from the tallest building in the United States and the Western Hemisphere as well as the 7th tallest building in the world.

The views of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges on the East River are also great here.


  • For General Admission it’s $39 for adults, $37 for seniors, and $33 for children
  • For Combination Tickets (giving you expedited entry into security and the elevators) it’s $49 for adults, $47 for seniors, and $43 for children.
  • For All-Inclusive Tickets (giving you a 3 to 4-hour time window to arrive as opposed to specific time slots) start at $53 and range by time of day.
  • For VIP Tour Tickets (Which includes a VIP tour and is exclusive to Mastercard holders) start at $63.
  • Purchase a skip-the-line ticket for the Freedom Tower observatory.

Things Unique to this NYC Observation Deck: 

view of East River Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge from One World Trade Observatory in NYC

The building this observatory is located in One World Trade Center at the location of the original World Trade Center that was destroyed during the 9/11 tragedy. You can also visit the 9/11 Memorial and the 9/11 Tribute Museum here keeping in mind this is an emotionally heavy experience.

The museum showcases artifacts, videos, and personal stories about the attacks and their continued significance including the events that took place on 9/11/11 and the attacks that took place in 1993 as well.

If you are already purchasing an attraction pass, the 9/11 museum is included on both CityPASS and New York Pass.

One World Trade happens to be THE tallest building in the entire country as well as being the 7th tallest building in the world! So, in terms of height, it’s the best observatory in NYC.

This New York observation deck also has its very own restaurant located at the top of it, giving visitors the opportunity to wine and dine from the tallest viewpoint in New York! Be sure to make a reservation otherwise, you might be lucky and score a seat at the bar.

You’ll also be able to explore the digital guide that they give you! This will be an interactive and helpful guide on a digital tablet that will give you a guided tour and teach you more about the surrounding buildings and landmarks.


One World Observatory is generally less crowded compared to other New York City Observation decks—which is a plus if you’re not a huge fan of crowded areas. 

This is the only observation deck at the southern tip of Manhattan providing unique views. 

Also, the entire deck is entirely inside, so you’ll be able to visit any time of the year without worrying about temperature or weather and is one of the best things to do indoors in NYC, especially on those cold winter days!

The restaurant here is pretty epic, if you’re looking for something unique to do or a great date idea in NYC this is an excellent choice!

One World Observatory closes at 9 PM, so it’s possible to see the city at night here too!


Because the deck is completely indoors, that pesky glare may get in the way of getting the best photos. You also won’t get the same feeling of being way up high in the air as you would at an observational deck like The Edge.

Summit One Vanderbilt

reflective observation decks at summit one vanderbilt in NYC

Summit One Vanderbilt is the newest and most recent of the NYC observation decks, but despite it being relatively new it has quickly become what some New Yorkers believe to be one of the best observation decks in NYC and totally worth the hype.

Located in Midtown, this immersive New York observation deck is well-known for its use of reflective surfaces and mirrors. Besides offering incredible views, this observation deck also is one art installation after another featuring works by artists like Yayoi Kusama.

One Vanderbilt, home of Summit One Vanderbilt, is a 1,401-foot tall skyscraper and is currently Midtown’s tallest commercial building and the 4th tallest building in the city.

Not to mention this New York skyline observation deck is open until 11 PM and seeing the city at night is its own incredible experience! This is one of our favorite things to do in NYC at night.

Best Views of: 

Summit One offers pretty close views of Lower Manhattan, the Chrysler Building, and the World Trade Center. However, this deck is THE best NYC observation deck for viewing the Empire State Building as you’re right next to it!

And, in my humble opinion, the Chrysler Building is the prettiest skyscraper in the city and no other observation deck in NYC offers views of this Art Deco beauty up close like Summit One.

This is also the best observatory in NYC if you want to get a glimpse at the Atlantic Ocean. PS, don’t skip using the bathroom here either for unbelievable views too!


  • For the SUMMIT Experience (General Admission) starts at $42 for adults and $36 for children.
  • For the SUMMIT Ascent (Includes the glass elevator ride) starts at $62 for adults and $56 for children.
  • For the Ultimate SUMMIT (Includes both the elevator ride and a cocktail) starts at $76 for adults and $70 for children.
  • You’ll need to purchase tickets online in advance.
  • *Admission is free for children 5 and under*

Things Unique to this NYC Observation Deck:

view of skyline and Empire State Building from Apres cafe at Summit One Vanderbilt in NYC

Summit One Vanderbilt is home to multiple immersive art installations including the elevator ride up and Clouds—which is an exhibit by Yayoi Kusama that displays mirror-finished cloud-like sculptures all over the floor. 

The mirrored floors and ceilings make for unique photo opportunities and reflections of the skyline around you. This entire observation deck experience is an art installation and there’s really nothing else out there like it!

This is also the only observation deck in New York with an all-glass exterior elevator that offers a very unique, if not dizzying experience, which is included on the SUMMIT Ascent and Ultimate SUMMIT ticket options!

The cafe here is also insanely cool with unbelievable views of the Empire State Building straight on while you sip on a coffee, have a drink, or enjoy a snack.

Last but not least, don’t miss the bathrooms here. They have floor-to-ceiling windows and offer incredible views in the least likely place, the washroom!


While the lines here are pretty long they go EXTREMELY fast and the staff is very helpful at guiding visitors during their stay. 

Also, this is arguably the best observation deck in New York as far as elevator rides go—taking visitors over 1,000 feet in the air in a glass elevator, which is worth the price of admission alone! Not to mention the views of the New York skyline from this observation deck alone are unrivaled.

There’s nothing else like this and the photography opportunities are endless and this observation deck stays open late at night for a different experience.


Because Summit One is one of the newest New York City observation decks, it can be REALLY busy and crowded—so be warned. Even though you have to purchase tickets online in advance and they are timed, there are still lines to go through security and to get to the top. Schedule extra time during your NYC itinerary just to get through queues.

Also, the sun can be pretty bright at this New York observation deck, bring sunglasses.

The elevator and art installations may be unkind to those who experience photosensitivity or those who suffer from vertigo. The elevator ride has flashing lights, if you have photosensitivity alert a staff member and they will get you a different elevator to the top.

Don’t wear skirts without tights, the floors are mirrored. Stilleto heels are not allowed either as they can damage the floors, also all guests are required to wear shoe coverings on the infinity glass which are provided after you go through security.

Which observation deck in NYC is best at night?

The best observation deck in NYC at night is the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, or Summit One Vanderbilt. The Empire State Buiding is great because you can buy an AM/PM ticket and go both day and return at night on the same ticket. The best views at night are from Summit One Vanderbilt.

Which observation deck in NYC is the highest?

The highest observation deck in NYC is One World Observatory sitting at the top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, which is entirely indoors. The highest outdoor skydeck can be found at The Edge in Hudson Yards.

Are NYC observation decks worth it?

NYC observation decks are one of the best things to do in New York City offering some of the best views in the city, it’s worth including at least one during your New York City trip or consider purchasing an attraction pass that includes NYC observation decks so you can visit more than one.

Which is the best observation deck in New York City?

The best observation deck in New York City is Summit One Vanderbilt as it not only offers both indoor and outdoor observation areas, but the entire experience is also an art installation and it offers views unlike any other observation deck in New York City. Although, each observation deck in New York is incredible and they each offer something unique.

We hope this guide helps you pick which New York observation deck you should visit or perhaps help you decide which is the best NYC observation deck. We won’t judge if you go to all the New York City observation decks like we did – just consider getting an attraction pass if you do them all on the same trip so you can enjoy steep discounts!

About the Author

Eric Garner is a Brooklyn-based writer who was raised down south who loves talking about film, TV, hip-hop, and fashion.


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