View from Top of the Rock - Manhattan

NYC View From The Top

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Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

One thing that we love to do in every new destination is scramble up to it’s highest point and gaze at the overall view. In New York, there seems to be a lot of debate over where the best vantage point is.

Rockefeller Center or the Empire State Building?

Most people we talked to said to look no further than the “Top of the Rock” (Rockefeller Center). Being a little further north, it allows for better views of the expansive and beautiful Central Park.

But, why take any chances on choosing the wrong one? We decided to see both for ourselves.

Top Of The Rock

It was a hazy day with a chill wind, but the views across all of Manhattan were stunning.

View from Top of the Rock - Manhattan

Central Park From Above

View of Manhattan

Empire State Building

Though we couldn’t really see Central Park, LOOK at this amazing sunset.

Manhattan Sunset

Jersey from the Empire State

Manhattan Lit Up

Our decision? Ehhh, inconclusive. I know, I know, a total cop-out. But while we may give a slight edge to the Empire State Building, I believe it would only be because of the stunning colors in the sky at the time. Seen at the same time, we are sure that the Top of the Rock would be just as good, if not better.


Special thanks to NYC: The Official Guide and CityPASS for the complimentary passes to the Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building. 

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    1. I’m with you. I expected to be disappointed in the ESB based on what people said, but that skyline was just breathtaking. And sparkly!

  1. It’s funny how our visits were reversed. My visit to the Top of the Rock was a gorgeous dusk, and the visit up the ESB was overcast and really only worth it to say I’d been there. If I hadn’t pre-paid, I probably would have skipped ESB that trip.

    I really should have gone up again on my last visit there. Sigh – next time!

    1. Yes, our experiment to find the “best view” wasn’t a very scientifically controlled one – we should have visited them both at the same time! But they really were both beautiful. I’d definitely do both again.

  2. Amusing, I have some very similar framing in my photos of NYC. I’m a fan of Top Of the Rock. The views are better and the personal space is certainly more plentiful. I went for the daytime – nighttime combo; it was amazing. I also wasn’t fond of the airport-style security at the ESB, an arduous process for what turned out to be a β€œso-what” experience.

    1. They have that security at the Top of the Rock too (maybe it’s new?) Yeah, we were fighting for space at the ESB, but our jaws were hanging because of the sunset, we were so stunned that we didn’t mind waiting to get to the edge and take some photos!

  3. The photos are great! I have been on the top of Empire State building but not to the top of the rock. The scene from the Empire building was great but it was too windy.

  4. I have to say that I give Top of the Rock my vote. The views are great from both buildings, but it took us a lot less time to get up to the top of the rock and there were hardly any people up there. It was late at night so I’m not sure if that had anything to do with it, but I felt like the experience was better.

    Did you take any of those goofy tourist pictures with the fake background when you were at TOR? Ours actually turned out kind of funny. πŸ™‚

  5. Definitely hard to tell… I agree with you, looking at your awesome pics I’d say Empire. But true that it could be a matter of light.
    Anyway… The photos are gorgeous!

    1. Thanks Simon! Yes, we didn’t produce the most “scientific” experiment and go at the same time of day to really tell. No matter, to us anyways, both were gorgeous and worth the trip up!

  6. Over the last week Dario has said to me, “Have you seen Pete’s photos? They’re gorgeous!” and “I really want to go to NYC.” I think he said them at separate times so he could be all stealthy about it, but I’m pretty sure the latter is due in part to the former. πŸ˜‰

  7. I’ll admit I’m a big fan of Top of the Rock, simply because you can take photos of the skyline with the Empire State Building included from there! Plus, the view out over Central Park is awesome.

  8. Good choice! I’ve been on top of the Empire State Building… after a 10minute wait through the metal detectors and security it was another 10minute wait to get to the top. At the top it’s crowded with loads of tourists. The next time I go to NYC I’ll have to try the Top of the Rock. Thanks!

  9. I love the view from the Empire State building, I went up twice, in the middle of the day and then at night. When I was at the top of the Empire State Building at night, someone turned to me and asked if the large dark section of city was ground zero. I pointed out that no, it was Central Park…

  10. Amazing pictures. I wouldn’t be able to choose which is better being at the top of any building with a killer view like that. Either one is just spectacular!

  11. Wow looks like the view is amazing from both, I really want to go to NYC. Really enjoying your stories and pictures from there.

    1. The view was amazing from both – and really, what matters which is better? They’re both good, at the end of the day! πŸ™‚

  12. Gorgeous photos! I used to live in NJ about an hour from NYC and I never made it to the top of either building. Something I’m definitely doing whenever I get back there!

  13. Wow that’s beautiful. I grew up on the West Coast, Seattle area, my wife actually grew up in NY. Ive been there once for 4 days.. not enough time at all! Would love to go back.. There’s no city like New York.. can’t even compare Seattle to it!

    1. Thanks Derek, and 6 weeks wasn’t enough time πŸ˜‰ I agree, there is no city we have found that is like it…

    1. Yeah we could spend another 91 days there, and another, and another, and another (you get the idea)…

      It was a dream house-sit for sure.

  14. I am so looking forward to doing both of these. I have heard that Top of the Rock is better because you can see the Empire State Building.. but hey.. it’s the EMPIRE STATE BUILDING!! I am definitely of the school of thought that both is better πŸ™‚

  15. I never been up here and your photos are making me regret it. I guess its another reason to go back to NYC. I love that you actually took photos in the day and the night.

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