Top of the Rock Vs Empire State Building

When it comes to observation decks, New York City tourists have a few choices. Manhattan is full of tall buildings – some of them are included in the “top tallest” lists in the Western Hemisphere and in the US. Yet which building has the best views, and what’s the difference between these buildings? Find out why you should visit Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building.

The Options

There are three buildings in Manhattan that offer stunning views from famous observation decks: Top of the Rock, the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center.

While One World Trade Center offers stunning views of the New York Harbor and Lower Manhattan from the tallest observation deck in the city, it’s also in Lower Manhattan. This means that your views will not include some of the most coveted photo subjects in the city: including Central Park, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and Times Square.

The Empire State Building

The Empire State Building was finished in 1931 and was the tallest building in the world for several years. Standing at a whopping 1,454 feet (from base to spire tip) the ESB (as New Yorkers call it) is still one of the tallest buildings in Manhattan. The building was considered a dud when it was finished in the height of the Great Depression. It didn’t gain major fame until it was featured in the movie “King Kong.” After its success, it was used in many other Hollywood films, including “An Affair to Remember” and “Elf.”

Visitors began heading up to the viewing platform in huge droves after its silver screen success.

Top of the Rock

Not as widely known as the Empire State Building, the Top of the Rock observation deck actually stands atop 30 Rockefeller Plaza – also known as the GE Building or the Comcast Building. This 850-foot tall skyscraper was the last project of famous architect Raymond Hood. It was built during the Great Depression by John D. Rockefeller as a part of Rockefeller Center. It has been seen in many movies and TV shows, including “30 Rock” and “Elf.” It stands above Rockefeller Plaza, where the “Today Show” is filmed and where the famous Christmas tree stands every December.

empire state building

Credit: mikecphoto / Shutterstock

The Views

Both Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building offer fantastic views. Yet which offers the best view?

Top of the Rock

This 850-foot tall building is obviously much shorter than the Empire State Building, which means you aren’t going to be able to see as far as you would from the ESB observation deck. Yet what it lacks in height, it makes up for in chutzpah. You get the best view of the Empire State Building from Top of the Rock (obviously, you can’t see the Empire State Building from the observation deck of the same building). You’ll also get great views of the skyscrapers of Manhattan, Times Square, Central Park and the Chrysler Building.

empire state building

Credit: Oscity / Shutterstock

Empire State Building

The Empire State Building offers great views of Midtown, Central Park, the East River and Queen, but you just won’t get the same view you would from Top of the Rock for that one pesky reason: you can’t see a building you’re standing on.

While Top of the Rock offers the best viewpoints and photos in Manhattan, there are some ESB pros to add to your list – it’s open later than Top of the Rock, and you can even take a tour of this famous Art Deco structure if you book well in advance.

Empire State building

Credit: AR Pictures / Shutterstock.

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