Top of the Rock – Sun and Stars

I have blogged about going to One World Trade Observatory, to the Empire State Building Observatory at sunrise, to The Edge at Hudson Yards, and to the new kid on the block, Summit at One Vanderbilt (comparing day and night visits). There’s one last observatory to mention, Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center. I went once during the day and again after dark, to see how the view changed. Here’s some information about going, lots of photos, and – at the end – my own thoughts on how all of these experiences compare.

You enter Top of the Rock from 50th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. As you get checked in and head for the elevator, there are various facts about Rockefeller Center and about what you will see from the observation area (some, like the exact number of taxis and people you will see, seem unnecessarily and inaccurately precise!).

There are three observation decks, inside on the 67th and 69th floors, and then an outdoor deck on the 70th floor. This outdoor deck has stone barriers to above waist level, but then no obstructions to open air and open views.

One of the advantages to not being on the Empire State Building or One World Trade, of course, is being able to see the same!

While the daylight views were enjoyable, to me the real magic was going back at sunset and watching the lights come on as night fell on New York City

The experience of being there and witnessing the city’s transformation can’t really be conveyed in words and photos. The best I can do is this series of photos showing the Empire State Building first in a shot taken during the day and then in several more beginning at twilight and ending at full darkness:

Which observation experience is the best? Hey, I loved them all! If you live here, don’t think you are above going to one of these to have a great time; and if you are visiting, try to work in a few different ones if you can. The Edge and SUMMIT One Vanderbilt are certainly the “cool kids” of the bunch. One World Trade has the best “reveal” – the elevator ride up is an integral part of the experience, and then the way you first see the view is in fact breathtaking. The Empire State Building is the classic of course, with the disadvantage that you can’t actually see the Empire State Building while on it! Top of the Rock is a classic and you can see all the iconic buildings from it. One World Trade is far south, so a better view of the Statue of Liberty but a more distant view of the midtown skyscrapers. The Edge is far west, which is why the primary views are oriented east and south. SUMMIT, Empire State Building, and Top of the Rock are all in midtown, so your views are more balanced in all directions. And The Edge and SUMMIT have the most fun “experiences” – especially, I would say, SUMMIT, which is basically an immersive art experience with views.

Finally, there is the issue of going during the day versus at night. I suppose you could argue that you “see the city better” during the day, but to me, the city transforms into its essential self when the unbiased glare of the sun is removed. Then New York City is allowed to show itself as it wants to be seen – lighting what it wants lit, leaving in darkness what it prefers to hide. To love the city as I do means being able to do the same on a daily basis – choosing to see this place as its essential essence and in the light of my own romanticized gaze. The romance of seeing the lights of the city at night from a lofty perch is a win in my book – who wants to go with me?

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