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Best Observation Decks in NYC To Visit In 2024

Best Observation Decks in NYC To Visit In 2024


Visiting New York is all about views. How could you not go good-view-hunting in this world-famous concrete jungle? One thing that is certain is that the New York skyline is full of some of the most iconic landmarks in the world. I remember growing up and seeing that amazing New York Cityscape for the first time in one of my favorite movies of all time, Moonstruck. There was something alluring about how its shining lights glistened off the Hudson River. So, if you’re visiting, you best believe you should be looking for the best observation decks in NYC to see it from all different angles.

The standard period to visit New York City is five days. In a 5 day itinerary, you’ll have plenty of time to stand on some of the city’s best observation decks.

Best Observation Decks in NYC

In this guide, we’ll introduce you to the top nine observation decks in NYC. There are fancy observatory decks all over the city – from the flatiron building to the One World Observatory and an outdoor terrace in the New York outskirts. You can head to observation decks with a central location along Madison Avenue or Fifth Avenue or head out to places like the Gateway National Recreation Area and Hamilton Park.

Whatever your dream NYC view, these observation decks will keep you impressed and your camera clicking. Let’s meet the finalists.

1. Empire State Building

Best Observation decks in NYC Empire State Building
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The Empire State Building is one of the most iconic landmarks on New York’s skyline. This architectural giant was constructed between 1930 and 1931 and has been featured in movies like King Kong. It has also been one of the tallest buildings in the Western Hemisphere for decades. Regardless of finding the best observation deck, it is the sort of building you’d visit anyway.

New York city observation decks Empire State Building
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The Empire State Building has two observation decks – one on the 86th floor and one on the 102nd. Both have an indoor layout so that you can peer out from behind glass at the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, and the One World Trade Center.

The best part of visiting the Empire State Building is the exhibits on the 2nd and 80th floors. These exhibits tell you the story of the Empire State Building, giving you great insight into what was once the tallest building in the USA.

How To Get To The Empire State Building

Reaching the Empire State Building is easy. It is in midtown Manhattan, just a 15-minute walk from Times Square and 30 minutes from Central Park. If you stay in Manhattan, you can walk to the Empire State Building and its observation decks.

If not, you can easily catch the metro. 34 St-Herald Square Station is a 4-minute walk from the Empire State Building.

Tickets For The Empire State Building

Ticket prices start at $44 per adult to access the 86th-floor observatory. You can also pay $79 to visit both the 86th and 102nd floors.

It’s worth noting that the Empire State Building is included on the Sightseeing Pass. If you add up the total of your proposed itinerary, it sometimes makes financial sense to invest in the pass. If you will only visit the Empire State Building this Skip the Line Pass is your best bet.

Reasons To Visit The Empire State Building

The Empire State Building has a beautiful vantage point over Upper and Lower Manhattan. The Empire State Building has many immersive exhibits and just views. You get the novelty of being in one of the world’s most famous buildings.

Is The Empire State Building Worth It?

Yes, the Empire State Building is worth it. However, it is very expensive, and you can find other observation decks that provide better or equivalent views. What makes the Empire State Building worthwhile is its character and identity as a famous landmark. Its exhibits and story make the Empire State Building the best observation deck in New York City.

2. SUMMIT One Vanderbilt

New York City Observation Decks Summit ONE Vanderbilt
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SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is the newest addition to the New York observation deck scene. This stunning building promises a transformational experience, with multi-sensory viewpoints in New York City’s fourth-largest skyscraper. Prepare to get high in the sky and approach the ‘best observation deck’ experience a little more creatively at SUMMIT One Vanderbilt.

There are three levels in total, and you can easily spend multiple hours at SUMMIT One Vanderbilt. There are wacky exhibits like mirror balls and entire rooms made of reflective mirrors. It is like an observation deck meets a contemporary art museum.

How To Get To SUMMIT One Vanderbilt

New York City Observation Decks Summit ONE Vanderbilt How to get there
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Reaching SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is easy as pie. The skyscraper is located in midtown Manhattan, so it is just a 20-minute walk from major landmarks like Central Park and just 15 minutes from the Empire State Building.

It is roughly halfway between Bryant Park and Grand Central Station, on the major East 42nd Street. You’ll be able to walk there if you stay centrally.

Tickets For SUMMIT One Vanderbilt

Tickets for SUMMIT One Vanderbilt are a little expensive but cheaper than visiting the Empire State Building. Standard adult tickets start at $42, although you can add on luxury packages like a signature cocktail experience and an ‘ascent’ experience, which includes a 12-story glass elevator ride. It’s worth noting that the Ascent Experience is currently closed for maintenance as of 2024, so it is currently unavailable to purchase. However, keep an eye out for a possible reopening.

As a general rule, though, expect to pay around the $40 mark for general admission.

Reasons To Visit SUMMIT One Vanderbilt

It offers a more exciting experience than just peering from an observation deck. The mirrors and artwork are amusing. You get great views of the Empire State Building, nearby Chrysler Building, One World Trade Center, and Central Park. Tickets are reasonably priced compared to other observation decks, and you get a more entertaining visit.

Is SUMMIT One Vanderbilt Worth It?

SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is a really engaging place to admire NYC views. If you want photo opportunities beyond awkward poses next to grubby glass walls, SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is the best observation deck in New York City. The mirrorball room is incredibly funky.

Keep in mind that the current maintenance closures may impact your visit. You can check the official website for updates.

3. The Vessel

The Vessel in New York City.
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The Vessel is an architectural masterpiece. This dramatic-looking building has a symmetrical copper exterior staircase framework, resulting in a modernist-looking monster in the middle of Hudson Yards. The bronze-colored framework that loops the building is absolutely unmissable. If you’re walking through midtown Manhattan, you’ll see The Vessel.

The landmark has 2,500 steps in total and 154 interconnected staircases. And, even better, you can climb it for free. This beehive-looking building has 360-degree views over Manhattan. While it isn’t the highest outdoor sky deck in New York, it does provide funky views over low-level skyscrapers in a novelty way.

How To Get To The Vessel

Getting to The Vessel is relatively straightforward. It’s located in western midtown Manhattan, near the Hudson River, and in the historic Hudson Yards district. If you are staying in midtown or Lower Manhattan, you can walk there in around 30 minutes. It is just a 20-minute walk from the Empire State Building to The Vessel.

Otherwise, just hop on the metro. Central Park to The Vessel is just a 20-minute metro ride versus a 45-minute walk – we know which we’d prefer.

Tickets

Is the Vessel in NYC Worth it to visit
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Tickets are free to The Vessel with one rule: you must visit during the first hour of operation. When you visit outside this first hour, it is $10.

It is important to note that The Vessel is currently only opening its ground level to visitors. There have sadly been numerous suicide attempts from its higher levels, leading to the closure of the top floors in 2021. Whether or not the higher floors reopen is uncertain and not likely due to the extra security measures this would demand. It’s worth keeping an eye on in case, though, as the higher floors have beautiful views of the river and surrounding skyscrapers if they reopen.

Reasons To Visit

It is a fascinating piece of architecture to see in person. It is easy to reach from Manhattan on foot or via the metro. It is free to visit in its first hour of operation.

Is It Worth It?

Visiting The Vessel is 100% worth it. You’ll love the architecture, and that free first-hour entry is great for those on a budget. It has a really scenic location in the Hudson Yards. While it doesn’t have the most famous scenery from its observation deck, you can get a great taste of the skyscraper and river scenes.

4. Edge NYC

New York City Observation Decks Edge NYC
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Edge NYC is one of the most exciting observation decks to visit in the city center. It is the highest sky deck in the Western Hemisphere. It has angled glass walls that provide a (slightly thrilling) vantage point over the skyscrapers and scenery below. The Edge NYC sits 100 stories tall and has 360-degree views. It is the best observation deck in New York City for that ‘wow’ experience.

The fact that it is an open-air deck really adds to the experience, too, with the added thrill of buffeting winds and a chilly temperature amongst the clouds. The Edge NYC makes you feel like you’re floating in the clouds. In terms of view, you can see everything from the Empire State Building to the One World Observatory and Central Park. It is a great spot to check off iconic building after iconic building.

How To Get There

New York City Observation Decks Edge NYC How to get there
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The Edge NYC is located in the Hudson Yards district, so it is ideally combined with a visit to the High Line and The Vessel – which are almost opposite.

You can catch the ‘c line’ on the metro to Penn Station to get there from central Manhattan. Then, you walk 15 minutes through the Garment District and into Hudson Yards. The whole journey by public transport takes around 20 minutes. You can walk to the Edge NYC in less than 30 minutes in Midtown Manhattan or Lower Manhattan.

Tickets

Tickets are cheaper than the other observation decks in New York City. General admission starts at $36 (You can book your tickets here). You can also splash out on a City Climb experience for around $185, which involves harnessing up and walking the edge of the building. If you are a thrill lover and have the budget, splash out on a City Climb.

Reasons To Visit

It has slightly cheaper tickets than the other observation decks in New York. You have amazing views from glass walls in an open-air environment, which creates a more thrilling experience. You can test your nerve with a City Climb.

Is It Worth It?

Yes, the Edge NYC is definitely worth visiting. Its glass-angled walls make it even more enticing, and it is the best observation deck for those wanting a thrill, not just a pretty picture. If you have the budget, the City Climb option just reinforces that.

5. Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock Observation Deck in New York City
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Top of the Rock is one of the most classic New York City observation decks. The deck sits atop the Rockefeller Center next to the Radio City Music Hall. You get 360-degree views over New York City, with incredible views of the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center. If you snag a sunset ticket, transitioning from daylight to night-time lights is stunning. The Top of the Rock is great because you get the height without scaling any significant landmark buildings – meaning you get all the classic landmarks in your view.

Top of the Rock is centrally located in midtown Manhattan and a breeze to get to. In winter especially, it’s the best observation deck in New York City, just from the atmosphere at the Rockefeller Center. You’ll see the ice skating rink outside and all the markets nearby. For a winter trip to NYC, consider Top of the Rock your best observation deck choice.

How To Get To The Top of the Rock Observation Deck

Saturday Night Live at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City
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The easiest way to get to the Top of the Rock is to just walk. It is a 10-minute walk from Times Square or 15 minutes from Central Park.

If you are based further away, you can catch the metro to Rockefeller Central Station, which is connected to the B, D, F, and M lines. From there, it’s a quick walk to the Top of the Rock.

Reasons To Visit The Top of the Rock Observation Deck

Top of the Rock Observation Deck in New York City
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Beautiful views over the New York skyline, including the Empire State Building. A great location in Manhattan and the Rockefeller Center. A fun atmosphere in winter and the festive season.

Tickets For The Top of the Rock

General admission to the Top of the Rock costs between $40 and $55 for adults, depending on the time you book. It isn’t one of the cheapest observation decks, but it is a great experience in one of the city’s famous buildings.

Is The Top of the Rock Worth It?

Yes, the Top of the Rock is worth it. It’s a great choice if you want a similar experience to the Empire State Building but with the Empire State Building as part of the view. It also has a lovely atmosphere during the festive season.

6. One World Observatory

One World Observatory in New York City
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The One World Trade Center is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and the One World Observatory sits right at the top. The One World Observatory sits on the 100th to 102nd floors and has stunning views over the city. A considerable part of the experience is the elevator ride, called the Sky Pod Elevator, which treats you to views as you go. The height and location make the One World Observatory the best observation deck for far-reaching views. You can spot everything from the Empire State Building to the Statue of Liberty.

Of course, part of the draw of the One World Observatory is that it is built next to the site of the Twin Towers. The towers were famously attacked during 9/11, and you can see the memorial pools just seconds from the One World Trade Center. The area is a somber sight, and if you can, pair the One World Observatory with a visit to the harrowing 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

How To Get There

New York City Observation Decks One World How to get there C Line
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The One World Observatory is located in Lower Manhattan, so you’ll likely need to hop on the metro. The ‘C line’ is an easy 20-minute ride from central Manhattan, where you disembark at Chambers Street and walk the easy ten minutes to the observatory.

Tickets For The One World Observatory

Tickets are around the standard mark for observatory decks in New York, starting at $39 for general admission tickets when booked in advance. You’ll ideally book online and in advance, and tickets sell out fast.

Reasons To Visit The One World Observatory

It is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, with far-stretching views of New York. It has an enjoyable Sky Pod Elevator ride. It is right next to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

Is The One World Observatory Worth It?

The One World Observatory is a really culturally important place to visit, regardless of whether or not it’s the best observation deck. The One World Trade Center symbolizes the post-9/11 healing process and is beautiful to see up close. Its height and far-stretching views are just cherries on top.

7. Hamilton Park Observation Deck

New York City Observation Decks Hamilton Park View
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Hamilton Park Observation Deck is somewhat of a hidden gem regarding the best NYC observation decks. Think of it as what Brooklyn Bridge Park used to be. Hamilton Park is located on the opposite side of Manhattan, in New Jersey, overlooking the Hudson River and Manhattan skyline.

Hamilton Park Observation Deck is a huge open-air outdoor terrace. It is best visited at sunrise when you can catch the sun rising from behind Manhattan or at night when the cityscape lights up beautifully. Hamilton Park is where to head if you don’t like heights and want an open-air observation deck. It is also relatively unknown on the tourist scene, so you should avoid heavy crowds.

How To Get There

New York City Observation Decks Hamilton Park How to get there
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Reaching Hamilton Park Observation Deck is easiest via Uber or taxi, just 20 minutes from Manhattan. You’ll be crossing the Hudson River, which marks the state border between New York and New Jersey. Your Uber will take you through the Lincoln Tunnel, under the river, and into New York’s neighboring state. It’s a great way to maximize your trip and experience two states for the price of one.

Otherwise, you can take the 156 bus from Port Authority to Park Avenue at Highwood Terrace in under 10 minutes, walking just under another 10 minutes to the observation deck itself.

Tickets For Hamilton Park Observation Deck

As a public park, Hamilton Park is totally free. It is the best observation deck for anyone on a budget. It has beautiful views over the Manhattan skyline – what more could you want? Don’t expect fancy exhibits or an indoor experience; this is an outdoor terrace with a railing overlooking the skyline and Hudson River. But if that sounds up your street, it’s a fantastic free experience in NYC with no need to buy tickets in advance.

Reasons To Visit Hamilton Park Observation Deck

It is totally free, making it a great budget-friendly observation point in New York City. It is less well-known than Brooklyn Bridge Park, meaning a quieter experience. You get beautiful views of Manhattan.

Is Hamilton Park Observation Deck Worth It?

Absolutely. What’s not to love? You get free access to an outdoor observation deck overlooking Manhattan. Head there at sunrise or after sunset for the best views.

8. Riverview-Fisk Park Observation Deck

New York City Observation Decks Riverview-Fisk Park
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Riverview-Fisk Park Observation Deck is another often overlooked NYC observation deck. The park was built in 1894 and spreads over 259 acres. Its observation deck, a gazebo-style building at the highest point of the park, is somewhat of a local secret, with residents visiting for serene sunrises over the New York City skyline. If you play your cards right, it is the best observation deck if you want a simple terrace for yourself.

Riverview-Fisk Park Observation Deck is best visited in the evening when New York City lights up or at sunrise when you can see the sunrise behind Manhattan. The Empire State Building, Chrysler, and One World Trade Center will be seen.

How To Get There

Riverview-Fisk Park Observation Deck is the furthest observatory from central Manhattan. You’ll be stepping out of the central location to view the city from a distance – appreciating its skyline across the Hudson River.

When you venture to the Riverview-Fisk Park Observation Deck, you’ll cross the New York-New Jersey border. It’s ideally combined with a visit to the Hamilton Park Observation Deck, which is less than a 15-minute drive away and also on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River.

By Uber or taxi, you can reach the deck in just 25 minutes from Manhattan. Alternatively, you can catch the 119 bus for 15 minutes from the Port Authority Bus Terminal and walk less than 10 minutes to the Riverview-Fisk Park Observation Deck.

Tickets

No tickets are necessary for this free experience. Alongside Hamilton Park and The Vessel, Riverview-Fisk Park is the best observation deck in NYC for those on a budget. Set in a public park, it is free to visit.

Reasons To Visit Riverview-Fisk Park Observation Deck

New York City Observation Decks Riverview-Fisk Park Bus Port Authority
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It is free and the best observation deck on a budget. It is quiet and more of a local secret. You can get stunning views of the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, and One World Trade Center at sunrise and after dark.

Is It Worth It?

Yes, the Riverview-Fisk Park Observation Deck is absolutely worth it. As a free observation deck in a public park, it really offers a win-win experience. You get beautiful views of New York and some of its most famous landmarks without paying a penny.

If you are okay venturing out of Manhattan, this is the best observation deck for your itinerary. For the best of both worlds, we’d suggest pairing it with a visit to an iconic landmark, like the observation deck at the Empire State Building.

9. North Beach Observation Deck

New York City Observation Decks North Beach
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North Beach Observation Deck is the best observation deck in New York if you fancy an adventurous day out. It is especially good in summer, too, when you can enjoy the warm temperatures with a beach day afterward. This deck is located in the Gateway National Recreation Area, accessible by ferry on an adventurous day trip from central New York. Play your cards right, and you could be sailing past the Statue of Liberty to admire New York City from across the bay.

The observation deck is a small covered terrace overlooking sandy North Beach and the bay, with a serene view of the New York City skyline on the horizon. It’s a beautiful choice if you want to combine a beach day with an alternative observation deck experience. Instead of sticking to Manhattan’s main five observation decks, you can head further out and mix things up a bit.

How To Get There

New York City Observation Decks North Beach How to get there Ferry
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North Beach Observation Deck is a mission to get to, so set off nice and early and make a full day of it.

You start from Pier 11 at Wall Street in Lower Manhattan, catching a 55-minute Seastreak New Jersey ferry down the bay and past the Statue of Liberty. This takes you to Atlantic Highlands, on the other side of the bay. For the final leg – a scenic 20-minute drive into Gateway National Recreation Area – it is an easy Uber or Lyft ride.

It should take you around 2 hours to reach North Beach Observation Deck from Manhattan.

Tickets

No tickets are necessary for this beachfront observation deck, and no entrance fees for Gateway National Recreation Area. This makes it the best observation deck for those on a budget, especially if you want one of those long-distance skyline views.

Reasons To Visit

It is perfectly combined with a beach day. It is a more natural setting than inner-city skyscrapers and has a gorgeous skyline view of New York City. It is free to enjoy.

Is It Worth It?

North Beach Observation Deck is definitely worth it in summer. The fact you can pair it with a beach day is a real draw, and the natural setting is something you can’t get elsewhere in the city and its outskirts.

Be aware that you won’t be able to see landmarks in detail. You will admire the shape of the New York City skyline more than the architecture of the SUMMIT One Vanderbilt or the Empire State Building. But if you like that viewpoint, it’s ideal and has some beautiful waterfront views.

Best Observation Decks: FAQs

New York City Observation Decks FAQs Brooklyn Bridge
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Now you know the top nine observation decks in NYC, what else is there to know? In this section, we’ll run over the top FAQs that any visitor to New York City should know. We’ll cover the extra helpful details, like the best observation deck or tallest building. And which observation decks should you visit on a budget?

For some handy final thoughts, this is your section.

Are there any free observation decks in NYC?

All of the observation decks in central NYC cost a minimum of around $30, apart from The Vessel, which is currently only opening its ground floor. For your best bet, we’d recommend heading out of New York and crossing into New Jersey for free observation decks.

Hamilton Park Observation Deck and Riverview-Fisk Park Observation Deck are great options. They are both set in public park settings and have beautiful views of Manhattan’s skyline.

Don’t despair if you want more free views in NYC, though. You can think outside the box and choose viewpoints rather than observation decks. Things like the Staten Island Ferry and walking the Brooklyn Bridge are entirely free.

Which NYC observation deck should you visit in 2023?

One Vanderbilt The Summit is the newest open-air observation deck to visit in New York City, so we snagged our first spot as a top recommendation.

The Edge, New York City’s highest outdoor observation deck, is also a dramatic option. It is famed for its glass floor and angled glass walls. For those unphased by heights, the glass-floored record breaker is definitely one for the itinerary.

Which building has the best view in NYC?

The top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center has an amazing view. From there, you can see the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, and One World Trade Center. You can also look down on Times Square and Central Park – a definite draw.

Top of the Rock has the best view if you want all the leading landmarks in a single view.

Which NYC observation deck is best?

The Edge is the most dramatic outdoor sky deck. The glass floor really sets it aside as one of the best observation decks in New York City. The glass element is what makes it our favorite observation deck in NYC.

Why We Love New York City

New York City Observation Decks To Conclude Roosevelt Island Tramway
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When it comes to NYC observation decks, you certainly have a lot of choices. You’ll have a wonderful time if you opt for the highest outdoor sky deck, the Edge, or a distant view of the NYC skyline from the North Beach Observation Deck. You can tackle observation decks in NYC in lots of different ways.

We recommend including an open-air deck that isn’t in one of the prominent landmarks. Going up the Empire State Building and World Trade Center is impressive. However, it does come with a caveat; you look at the skyline without the major landmark you are standing in, making the view less impressive. Definitely go up these iconic buildings. But make sure to add a few non-major-landmark observation decks in NYC to your list as well.

It isn’t just open-air observation decks to visit either. Check out some of NYC’s best views – not just from observation decks but from viewpoints around the city. The best views are from crossing Brooklyn Bridge or taking the Roosevelt Island Tram. It isn’t all about heading to the tallest building but what views you can see from public transport, bridges, and the ground. Get creative when visiting New York City, and you’ll be astounded by the quality of viewpoints.

Plan Your Next Trip To NYC with These Resources



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