Megan enjoying the view of the Empire State Building from Summit One Vanderbilt

How to Visit Summit One Vanderbilt Observatory (Tips & Tricks)

In Guides, New York, See & Do by Megan ILeave a Comment

Summit One Vanderbilt observatory is the popular, immersive observation deck in New York City. Located in Midtown, the One Vanderbilt skyscraper is 1,401 feet tall and is the tallest commercial building in all of Midtown!

The outstanding observatory at One Vanderbilt NYC is great for anyone who wants to admire the skyline in all directions from a birdseye view at thousands of feet in the sky towering over Manhattan.

The One Vanderbilt NYC Observatory offers direct and unique views of the Empire State Building from the top, close-up views of the Chrysler Building, the World Trade Center and all of lower Manhattan off in the distance, the bridges along the East River, and basically every recognizable landmark and structure in the city from all angles including views of the Atlantic Ocean on a clear day.

Besides being the hottest observatory in the city, One Vanderbilt NYC is also an immersive art installation, with each room and area offering something different. And if we didn’t express this enough already, because of its location, Summit One Vanderbilt’s observation really has the best view of the Empire State Building in the city available to the public.

And speaking of art installations, one of the most famous artists whose work you can enjoy during the Summit One Vanderbilt observatory deck experience is Yayoi Kusama’s Clouds. This exhibit and sculpture by Kusama feature different mirror-finished cloud form sculptures covering the floor of the room.

Where is Summit One Vanderbilt?

reflective observation decks at summit one vanderbilt in NYC

The Summit One Vanderbilt observatory is located on floors 91-93 of the Summit  One Vanderbilt building at 45 E 42nd St. just above Grand Central Terminal in Midtown Manhattan.

Located between Vanderbilt and Madison Avenues, One Vanderbilt NYC is accessible via the 4, 5, 6, and 7 subway lines at Grand Central.

The official entrance to One Vanderbilt NYC is on 42nd Street. (45 E 42nd Street) Walk inside, from here, you can go downstairs via the staircase or elevatory to check-in and get in line for security.

Keep in mind that you can only visit One Vanderbilt NYC if you have a timed ticket reservation. We went to a timed reservation that ended up being sold out, the security line took about 20-30 minutes to check-in, go through security, and take the ascending elevator to the top. Make sure to plan extra time for the security queue, even with a timed ticket.

Summit One Vanderbilt Tickets

view of Empire State Building from Summit One Vanderbilt in NYC

There are 3 main Summit One Vanderbilt tickets: Summit Experience, Summit Ascent, and Ultimate Summit. New York City residents receive preferred pricing on all Summit One Vanderbilt tickets. All children under five visit for free no matter the ticket type!

As of now, Summit One Vanderbilt tickets are only available on their official website. No other ticket re-sellers, attraction passes, or websites offer their tickets at this time.

The Summit Experience ticket is the first ticket type, offered as both daytime and evening tickets, the Summit Experience ticket prices range from $33-$49 (excluding children under five that get in for free with a paying adult). Think of this ticket as the general admission option.

The next Summit One Vanderbilt ticket option is the Summit Ascent. The Summit Ascent ticket prices range from $53-$69. This ticket type provides general admission to the Summit One Vanderbilt observatory as well as a thrilling glass elevator journey in the Ascent elevator that travels over 1,200 feet in the air!

This elevator will give you floor-to-ceiling views of the city while you rise to the top of the building an extra 12 stories above the rest of the observation.

Pro tip: enter the virtual line using the QR code near the security checkpoint if you don’t want to wait in any additional queues to get to the Ascent elevator, if you miss this you can always head over to the Ascent line and scan the QR code there to enter the virtual line once you get to the 93rd floor then go back and enjoy the Apres cafe, grab a drink, or enjoy the view while you wait. Otherwise, you might luck out and get a short in-person line, we were able to do this and were on the elevator within 10 minutes.

If you want to get the most out of your experience, the Ultimate Summit ticket is the perfect pick for you! Ranging from $67-$83, the Ultimate Summit ticket gives you general admission to the observatory, a spot on the Ascent glass elevator, and a signature cocktail created by Danny Myer at the bar located at the top of the observatory.

For all 3 Summit One Vanderbilt tickets, the evening tickets are more expensive than the daytime tickets starting at around the time of sunset, be prepared to pay a little extra if you’re hoping to experience this beyond the morning or day.

On top of the main 3 ticket types, there are various ways that you can make your visit even more exciting. One Vanderbilt NYC also offers The 1401 Experience, a fine dining restaurant experience named after the building’s height: 1,401 feet! By adding The 1401 Experience to your visit, you’ll be able to dine at Le Pavillon created by chef Daniel Boulud.

If you want an even more personalized and exciting experience at Summit One Vanderbilt, you can make a group reservation on the official website. This can be done if you have 15 or more guests that are coming to visit the observatory.

What to Expect Visiting Summit One Vanderbilt Observatory

outdoor skydeck at summit one vanderbilt in nyc

Once you arrive at the Summit One Vanderbilt observatory, it can take you up to 20-30 minutes to check-in, go through security, and get to the top of the building. Then, you’ll watch a short video as part of the queue process called Celebration which will be your first taste of the immersive art exhibition and experience you’re about to embark on.

The entire experience took us around 90 minutes with security, time to take photos, walking through all the exhibits, and even stopping for a snack at the cafe.

Next, you’ll put on the shoe coverings before stepping into the elevator that will taking you to the stunning infinity glass and the first observation floor. Don’t wear high heels! They will not let you up as the stilettos can damage the glass floors.

These shoe coverings are mandatory and will help you protect the glass that gives you 360-degree views with reflections every which direction you turn.

Bring a pair of sunglasses too. The reflections during the day are very bright and you’ll want them! Sunglasses can be requested if you don’t have your own and want to avoid bright reflections from the sun during the daytime.

Once you get your foot coverings you’ll be herded over to the elevator up. This elevator is also an immersive exhibit featuring flashing lights as you launch to the top in 42 seconds. It’s quite something, but if you have any photosensitivity please notify a staff member so they can arrange for you to take an elevator up without the flashing lights.

Once you’ve made it to the 91st floor (after the exhilarating, smooth 42-second journey you will make it to the 65,000 square foot, multilevel observation room with mirrored floors and walls at about 1,000 feet in the air.

First, you can explore the first floor before walking into the other exhibits and making your way up to the top floor of the mirrored glass room.

view of the top of the Chrysler Building from Summit One Vanderbilt in NYC

From these two floors, you’ll have access to the best view of the Empire State Building in all of the city plus dramatic views of other skyscrapers like the Chrysler Building. On clear days, you’ll also be able to see The Statue of Liberty and the George Washington Bridge. This experience is called Air by Kenzo Digital.

Clouds by Yayoi Kusama at Summit One Vanderbilt in NYC

On your way to Levitation, the outdoor sky terrace, and the very final Ascent elevator you’ll pass rooms and installations including a room with silver balloons, Yayao Kusama’s clouds, as well as a room that projects your face onto a cloud!

Also, on the final floor, you’ll reach Apres: a stylish cafe that has an indoor lounge, fireplace, air terrace, and sweeping views of the city including a direct view of the top of the Empire State Building.

This is a great opportunity to join the virtual line for Ascent ticket holders, just walk over to the Ascent entrance, see if there’s a line and if so you can use the QR code to join the virtual line. If you have to wait, you can head back to Apres for a drink, snack, and unbelievable view before taking the glass bottom elevator up another thrilling 12 stories for an unparalleled view of the skyline.

On the Ascent elevator, which lasts a few minutes each way up and down, you’ll have a moment at the top where the elevator will pause for at least a minute to take in the view before descending.

And as always, before you descend to go back to ground level, you will exit through a gift shop where you can grab a souvenir on your way out.

Tips & Tricks for Visiting Summit One Vanderbilt

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

If you plan on visiting the Summit One Vanderbilt observatory, you will need to make a reservation in advance since they sell out quickly and this is one of the most popular NYC experiences and attractions.

Once you arrive at Summit One Vanderbilt, be prepared to spend around 90 minutes checking in, going through security, and completing the entire experience. If you plan on eating, schedule a little more time.

Bring sunglasses! The mirrored walls and floors reflect light and it can be intense high above the rest of the city. You will need sunglasses at the top, if not you can borrow a pair and return at the end.

Even though the observation deck is the main attraction in the building, be sure to check out the restrooms while you’re here! The bathrooms on all the floors offer incredible views and are worth checking out. The women’s restroom has an incredible vantage point of the Chrysler Building. This may be the most gorgeous bathroom I’ve been in the city.

Tell a staff member if you are sensitive to flashing lights or photosensitive. The elevator ride involves flashing lights and if you tell the staff that you are sensitive to this, they will arrange another way for you to get to the observation deck at the top. Although we encourage you to contact Summit One if you’re photosensitive and nervous about the experience, it is very sensory driven with the installations, light, mirrors, and reflections.

Do not wear skirts or dresses here, the floors are reflective so people will be able to see right up everything! If you do wear a skirt or dress, be sure to wear tights that are not opaque or transparent.

Do not wear high heel shoes or stilettos. These shoes are not permitted and will damage the reflective glass floor. All guests will be given mandatory shoe coverings to wear on the observation floors with infinity glass.

If you buy the Ascent ticket, make sure to look for the virtual line QR code to avoid any other lines when you get to the top! If you miss the QR code, don’t sweat it. You can scan it at the end and go enjoy the views from Apres or the Levitation outdoor Skydeck while you wait your turn.


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