The Best View in New York City – The Tale of the Two Towers!
Iconic…it describes New York and so many of the city’s attractions. There are so many “Must Sees” in this famous city, most of which everyone has seen on T.V or film at least a hundred times…BUT…every time you lay your own eyes on these sights for yourself it’s exciting! Maybe it’s because you’re seeing the familiar things you’ve seen so many times on screen, maybe it’s because these sights are actually amazing in their own right? They wouldn’t be on the screen so often if they weren’t right? So one of THE most iconic sights in New York has to be the Empire State Building, as soon as we confirmed we were visiting the big apple we set about finding out how to enter and how to go about visiting the observation deck, it just had to be done! Then someone said to me “You have to go and visit the Empire State Building, but the best view in New York is from the Rockefeller Centre”. I kind of thought they were a bit crazy! I didn’t even really know what the Rockefeller Centre was! All I knew was that there were big TV programmes recorded and broadcasted from there. I thought, No they are just saying that to have that alternative view, to be different.
So here it is! The Best View in New York…The Tale of the Two Towers…The Heavyweight Championship of the World…LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!
In the blue corner coming in at a roof height of 381 metres, 443 metres to the tip of the antenna, built in 1930 opened in 1931, with a starring role in the movie King Kong, it stood as the tallest building in the world for nearly 40 years, it is ranked as the 5th tallest building in the USA and the 29th in the WORLD…a true American Icon…THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING!
In the red corner coming in at a height of 259 metres, consisting of 19 highrise buildings over an area of 89,000 metres sq, built between 1930 and 1939, designed to be a city inside a city, on it’s completion it would have been the 51st largest American city, home to Radio City Hall, NBC Studios and such legendary TV shows as The Late Show, The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live…THE ROCKEFELLER CENTRE!
The Empire State Building
We arrived in New York by Amtrak train from Montreal, when we go out of the station we flagged down a cab and got a ride to our hotel. It was night time, our heads were on sticks spinning around looking out at all the lights and landmarks, but it was the Empire State Building that we kept pointing out to each other. Every time I caught a glimpse of the building I was pointing it out to everyone around me in case they had not seen it yet! I got more than a few strange looks, it’s not exactly small! I realise now this was a bit weird, but it is one of those sights which every time I saw brought a smile to my face! It has to be one of the most recognisable sights in the world and it is surreal seeing it with your own eyes for the first time, standing next to it, looking up at it, you’re actually there!
The Empire State Building certainly has the wow factor when you enter, the golden, shiny lobby keeps that feeling going that you really are somewhere special, it may be brash and over the top but isn’t it supposed to be?
We visited at night, we were in NYC for 5 nights and had bought New York City Passes which will definitely save you money if you intend visiting all of the major attractions during your stay. We had decided that we would take in the view from one of the locations during the day and the other during the night, it ended up that we visited the Empire State Building at night, I’m not sure why it was, I think trying to avoid the crowds was mentioned as a reason, it was just how it worked out. We were not disappointed though and I was glad we had done it this way round!
The main observation deck is on the 86th floor and is the highest open air viewing platform in New York. There is a kind of iron grate between you and the view. However, the first thing that hits you when you step out through the doors is the number of people up there. We went up around 10pm and were sure we would have missed the crowds…we were wrong. Although we didn’t have to spend hours queuing up, we had a clear walk through the exhibition area to where you catch the lift, on the observation deck it was still packed. There is space for people to be about four deep from the front of the viewing platform…and it was four deep the entire way round. It was polite enough and everything but I hadn’t planned on spending loads of time waiting for a space to appear and working my way forward before I could get a good view out. Then even when you did get a view you were rubbing shoulders with the people either side of you. It took away from the experience a little…but then I guess almost every person visiting New York wants to take the view in from this legendary skyscraper.
The views were spectacular, and I am so glad we visited one of the viewing platforms during the hours of darkness. The sharp straight lines of the buildings, the grid system of roads, the different colours of the bright lights reflecting off the shiny windows of the tower blocks, it was unreal! I had been amazed by Toronto, and Toronto is an amazing modern city but New York is out in it’s own league. Huge, it seemed like the lights of the city were never ending. Standing at the top of Preikestolen in Norway with 600 metre drops and no safety barriers gave me that feeling of how big the world is and how small we are. This gave you that same feeling even though you are in the middle of a crowd inside this city. Looking down at the tiny cars driving around, lights switching on and off, the sirens, the size of the place, how many millions of people were living out their lives within my view in their own little worlds, it definitely gave you that same feeling but in a very different way!
It was fun pointing out the other well known landmarks and trying (badly) to capture the view on camera. We were very lucky during our stay that the weather was so fine, hot and hardly a cloud in the sky, it really helped with the views.
There is another higher viewing platform where you can look out through windows on the 102nd floor, but again this was packed, we did get a look out through the windows but the views from outside, we felt were better, however we could only make out central park from the higher floor.
It was something we had to do…and the views were great, but the crowds did take something away from the experience for me, maybe it wasn’t so much the number of people but the restricted viewing area and maybe I should have taken it for granted given where we were, in any case though the views were incredible!
Top of The Rock at the Rockefeller Centre
There is something about this place, it is totally different to the Empire State Building, light, airy, vibrant. There are shops restaurants, cafes, the TV studios, public art. This is a living breathing complex and there is a buzz around this place. The Empire State Building has become a tourist destination, understandably, The Rockefeller Centre is more than that. This may be due to the number of people working and living their daily lives at the location, but it was strange, I was walking around with this sense of something is about to happen! Exciting! We had a really nice lunch at an Italian restaurant here as well.
The observation deck at the Rockefeller Centre is called the Top of The Rock (in my head it is impossible for this to be said in anything other than an American accent!). When you reach the observation deck it is like you have just walked into an art gallery, only it is the view that is the art here. Everything white with huge windows and huge glass doors. The viewing areas are huge and it was just incredible. Here there was that familiar quietness when people are wandering around amazed taking everything in. So there are not the 360° views here, the platform is just on the one side of the tower, but, the views look out over to the Empire State Building in the one direction and then over Central Park in the other. This was stunning. Looking out at the Empire State Building from here brought an extra wide smile!
The view over Central Park from the Top of The Rock was mesmerising. We had walked through the entire park the previous day and although you never truly lose the city inside the park it is still huge and really is a green oasis in the middle of this humongous city. To then see the entire park from above like this was just spectacular. I got a version of tunnel vision here, I was hypnotised, everything else was drowned out, the sound, other people everything, this was so special.
The Top of The Rock is open air and there are safety screens but there are gaps inbetween the screens big enough for you to take clear photographs through.
The other bonus in relation the the Top of The Rock is that on top of the viewing areas being so large, the tickets are timed and there are a limited number released for each time slot. Your time once you are up there is not limited, but this really helps controlling the numbers, more places should do this.
The Judges Scorecards Are In!
The Empire State Building is iconic, legendary, known throughout the world, a smile inducing must see. It has the stunning 360° views over the entire city, amazing. However the number of people did take away from the experience for us.
The Top of The Rock at the Rockefeller Centre is an art gallery presenting its masterpiece, the views of New York City. The view over Central Park and out, slightly ironically, to the Empire State Building are stunning. Like I said, these views were hypnotic. Have you heard of Karl Pilkington? He did a TV series called An Idiot Abroad where Ricky Gervais set him tasks and sent him off on trips and generally usually put him through his kind of hell. On one of the series he was sent to see the seven wonders of the world. When he visited Petra he decided he would rather live in a cave opposite Petra than live in Petra as he would have the nice view from the cave…it’s a similar case here! Although the Rockefeller Centre is slightly more than a cave!
The Empire State Building had been the heavy favourite here for me…but the person who had spoken to me before we left was right…the view from the Rockefeller Centre was the winner, the under dog had defeated the champion!
Buying the New York City Pass if you are going to visit the major attractions in New York will save you quite a bit of money (over 40% according to the adverts) and includes entrance to the Empire State Building and the Top of The Rock along with a host of other great attractions. You can buy it before you go through Expedia for £93, you can also buy them from the ticket offices at the attractions for $116, this is what we did, I would really recommend buying this because not only will it save you money but also time dodging the queues waiting to buy tickets!
Let me know what you think and what your favourite view is in New York, tweet me your pics @MyTravelMission or on Instagram again @mytravelmission, or shout out to me on Facebook www.facebook.com/mytravelmission. I’ll retweet or repost the best ones!
Thanks for checking out this post, I really hope you’ve enjoyed it…Happy Travels!