Visiting the Top of the Rock is on many tourists' must-do lists but really, we city dwellers should put it on our bucket lists, too. Even though I'm a New York-native and had always heard about the Top of the Rock's amazing views, I'd never visited...until now.
After our trip, my husband remarked that the Top of the Rock experience was similar to visiting the Empire State Building—only better. The Top of the Rock is less claustrophobic and frenzied, the staff is super-friendly and the panoramic views are incredible, especially from the 70th floor (a.k.a. the top).
Whether you go during the holidays (as we did), or at another time of year, the Top of the Rock is a memorable experience for visitors of all ages. I admit, my toddler slept through it (nap time always takes priority) but my preschooler was wide awake and she's still talking about how our trip made her see her hometown in a whole new way.
Top of the Rock Basics
The Top of the Rock is located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza and visitors enter on 50th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. The entrance is also accessible from the concourse level. Regular hours are 8am to midnight, with the last elevator going up at 11pm. Tickets start at $32 for adults and $26 for children ages 6 to 12; children ages 5 & under enter for free. Visit the ticket site to purchase general admission tickets or money-saving combo packages.
If you know when you want to visit, purchase your ticket for a specific time; unsure of your plans? Pick the unscheduled ticket, which you'll exchange upon arrival for the next available time slot. Often, you're able to walk right in, but on weekends and during other peak times, you may have to redeem for later in the day. If that's the case, you'll have plenty of options to entertain yourself in the area.
Like most major city attractions, you'll have to go through a security checkpoint upon entry. Once you've cleared that, you're on your way to an unforgettable experience. From the Swarovski Joie chandelier in the lobby to the displays of photos and artifacts chronicling the history of Rockefeller Center, a short documentary on the building's history and an interactive Beam Walk inspired by the iconic photo of early 20th-century construction workers, there is plenty to see as you make your journey to the top. The main attraction is, undoubtedly, the unobstructed, panoramic view of NYC from indoor viewing areas on the 67th and 69th floors, as well as the open-air deck on the 70th floor.
Top of the Rock: Best Times to Go & Other Tips
Buy timed tickets to avoid waiting: With a scheduled ticket you almost always go up right away. During peak times there may be delays, especially since there's no time limit once you get to the top. Some people hang around for a while. Miss your time slot? Don't worry, you can exchange your ticket for later in the day.
Go early and call ahead: If you have an unscheduled ticket, weekday mornings are your best bet. If you prefer another time you can always call to see when the next available slot is—and hope it doesn't fill up before you arrive.
Bring your own camera: There are photo ops everywhere you turn.
Bring your stroller: The Top of the Rock is very stroller-friendly. My toddler slept comfortably as we toured the place, both inside and out.
Download the map app: Download the FREE Viewfinder app before you go. It will help identify all of the landmarks and provide an audio tour.
Look up, too: The elevator ride is awesome. A clear ceiling lets you watch a cool light show as you travel up and down.
Skip it if the weather is bad: There are two indoor viewing lounges on the 67th and 69th floors, but because the main highlight is the view, you won't get as much out of the trip on a less-than-ideal weather day.
Don't expect to see the tree: If you visit during the holidays, you won't be able to glimpse the famous tree from the Top of the Rock -- so make sure to include a stop in your walk to/from 30 Rock!
Stick around afterward There are tons of other things to do in the Rockefeller Center area. During the holidays, you can check out the tree, the Saks Fifth Avenue windows just across the street or go ice-skating on the iconic rink. Year-round you can tour NBC Studios, visit the Lego Store or Nintendo NYC, learn about New York's bravest at the FDNY Fire Zone, or go on a guided tour of the landmark.
Already trekked to the Top of the Rock? Why not check out the views from the top of One World Trade Center or get another breathtaking view at one of these 11 places?
This post originally published in December 2013.