Not long after stepping off the plane and checking into my downtown Manhattan hotel did I cross the road from Fifth Avenue to 50th Street to meet a few friends. After a quick drink and a hotdog (lol, yeah I know) we headed up to what I believe is the best skyscraper in New York: The Rockefeller Center.
The observation platform here is known as the “Top of the Rock” and unlike the more traditional skyscrapers in the city, such as the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, this one is much more modern and somewhat funky! It is part of a larger complex buildings but I think this one (exact address: 30 Rockefeller Center) is the only one with a public viewing platform. At the bottom of the building is an ice rink (not in use on my visit), the Channel Gardens, and a nice plaza with cafés and coffee shops.
From the bottom of the building you head up to the 67th floor in the cool glass elevators. I don’t know if every elevator shaft has a glass-bottomed floor, but the one we used did, and it was a great – if a little unnerving – experience. Before you head up, there is a pre-show gallery that can only be viewed BEFORE you take the elevator. I didn’t think it was all that impressive or informative, but hey it’s part of the full experience so why not give it a chance?
What I loved about Top of the Rock was the fact that it was a triple-decker observation platform. I have seen a few double-deckers (such as the Shard in London, and Taipei 101) but this was my first experience of being able to utilise 3 separate observatories on the same ticket. The 67th and 68th floors are mainly indoor viewing areas, but they do each have an outdoor balcony. For no extra charge, you should head up the 70th floor (I don’t know what they have on the 69th floor actually) which is completely outside and offers unobstructed views both of Lower Manhattan towards the grand old Empire State Building, and the other direction over Central Park, which I think is in the rough direction of Brooklyn Bridge – but hey I’m not fully oriented yet!
Tickets cost a fairly decent $30 per adult, although I would recommend getting the ‘timed entrance’ tickets, which give you a specific time to visit, rather than having to wait in line in the so-called ‘stand-by queue’. This is much like the FastPass system that you get at Disney theme parks. There is no time limit for your stay at the Top of the Rock, although I found it a shame that there was no bar or café up there. I think this is an oversight from the designers, and they would make a huge killing from sales of beer and snacks as people enjoyed the views, especially on warmer nights.