NYC View From The Top

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. 


52 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • March 2 2012

    I need to get up to both with my wide angle… I would love to do both sunset and sunrise…

    • March 3 2012

      Yes, wish we could have done sunrise too. But we’re a little too lazy for that. 🙂

  • March 2 2012

    Gorgeous photos again!!! I prefer the night time ones, but I’m a sucker for sparkly lights.

    • March 3 2012

      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!

  • March 2 2012

    Great shots, one City definitely have to visit soon!
    Robert recently posted..Pool Chair Etiquette

  • March 2 2012

    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!
    Mark E Tisdale recently posted..Rustic Alabama – Asa Johnston Home

    • March 3 2012

      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.

  • I’m more of a Top of the Rock guy myself, but those sunset pics from the Empire are incredible… Great stuff…

    • March 3 2012

      I wish we would have gone to Top of the Rock at sunset too. Ah well, next time! 🙂

  • jan
    March 3 2012

    Yeah, the night time ones rule! So many lights.

    • March 3 2012

      YES! Hard to beat it really, I wish we would have done both at night.

  • March 3 2012

    Fantastic photos! I love the nighttime shots, would’ve been cool to see that from the Top of the Rock for sure!

    • March 3 2012

      Agreed! Saving that visit for another time. 🙂

  • JohnS
    March 2 2012

    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 “so-what” experience.

    • March 3 2012

      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!

  • Mom
    March 2 2012

    Those are beeeeeautiful pictures.

  • March 3 2012

    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.
    rashmi recently posted..The Night Club Scene in the UK

    • March 3 2012

      The wind was REALLY bad the day we were at the Top of the Rock. Weather can really determine how much you enjoy a view!

  • Kate
    March 3 2012

    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. 🙂

    • March 4 2012

      Haha! We didn’t! We skipped the line to that entirely, but it would have been fun to do that. 🙂

  • March 4 2012

    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!

    • March 4 2012

      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!

  • Katrina
    March 4 2012

    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. 😉

    • March 4 2012

      Hee! Dario likes to use the subtle power of persuasion, similar to what I do with Pete. All the power to him! 🙂

  • March 4 2012

    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.
    Amanda recently posted..Photo of the Day: Fremantle

  • March 4 2012

    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!

  • March 5 2012

    I’ll have to plump for the Empire State as well, stunning views from both though.
    Bodlagz recently posted..Extreme Pattaya Massage Message

  • March 5 2012

    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…
    Laurence recently posted..In photos: My life in France (so far!)

  • March 5 2012

    I guess I have to cop out, too, because I love the views from both. Super photos!

    • March 6 2012

      Thanks Cathy! No need to choose really, when the views are both so spectacular!

  • March 5 2012

    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!
    Alexa Meisler recently posted..Guidelines

  • March 5 2012

    Wow those pictures at night are beautiful!

  • Claire
    March 5 2012

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

    • March 6 2012

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

  • Emily in Chile
    March 5 2012

    Beautiful night shots!

  • Ali
    March 6 2012

    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!

  • March 8 2012

    Oooh, NYC! I can’t resist a good cityscape at night!

  • Great photos and I loved the head-to-head comparison. We’re off to NYC this summer to visit my family and we’ll be seeing lots of iconic landmarks along the way. Thanks for sharing the best view (s)!
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..DESTINATIONS: Outdoor Adventures On Dominican Republic’s North Coast

    • March 8 2012

      I’m glad we were able to do both, and just couldn’t bring ourselves to pick a favorite. They’re both awesome. 🙂

  • March 10 2012

    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!
    Derek recently posted..Unlimited Free Delta SkyMiles With SkyMiles Dining

    • Pete
      March 10 2012

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

  • Amer
    March 11 2012

    Amazing shots! Now if I could only get myself to New York to enjoy the same magnificent views!

  • March 14 2012

    NYC for 91 Days … would be a our dream! So happy that you guys got to stay there for a while.

    Can’t wait for your Turkey posts!!!
    For 91 Days Travel Blog recently posted..The New Town and Weekend Market of Anuradhapura

    • Pete
      March 14 2012

      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.

  • Wow! Both have excellent views!

  • Sarah
    March 18 2012

    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 🙂

  • Deb
    March 24 2012

    Great shots. New York city is fantastic.

  • March 25 2012

    Gorgeous photos! You’re making me fall in love with NYC all over again. Can’t wait to get myself back there.

  • March 26 2012

    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.

  • April 2 2012

    Beautiful shots! I don’t usually go for the climbing the highest point sort of thing, but these shots do make a good case for it!
    Jade – recently posted..Budget Travel In Samoa

    • April 2 2012

      We love these awe-inspiring type views from the top! The sundown view from the ESB especially took our breath away…

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