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How to tour the Empire State Building and other NYC observation decks

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Everything you need to know about visiting the Statue of Liberty, One World Observatory, and other sky-high structures


Once upon a time, many of New York City’s iconic skyscrapers, like the Chrysler Building and the Woolworth Building, were home to observation decks that gave spectators a bird’s-eye view of the city. Over time, though, many of those closed, leaving New York with just four sky-high platforms from which to see the boroughs.

But that won’t always be the case: Some of New York’s under-construction supertalls will be home to brand new observatories, giving people a new, higher viewpoint over the city. On Manhattan’s west side, 30 Hudson Yards will be home to an open-air platformknown as Edge—that’s suspended 1,100 feet in the air, making it the city’s tallest outdoor observation deck when it’s completed in the coming years.

Across town, meanwhile, One Vanderbilt will also have a public observation deck rising 1,020 feet above Midtown, which will be accessible through Grand Central Terminal.

But until those debut, those who want to see the NYC from above will have to make do with the city’s existing observation decks—here’s where they are, and how to access them.

The Empire State Building’s observation deck.

Empire State Building

New York City’s most iconic skyscraper is also home to perhaps its most popular observation deck. The Empire State Building’s 86th-floor and 102nd-floor spaces are open to the public, offering lovely views over Midtown, Central Park, and other icons. (There’s also a 103rd-floor deck that’s only open to celebs—Serena Williams and Ariana Grande have gotten tours of the exclusive space.)

How to visit: There are several tour packages available through the Empire State Building’s official website, and prices depend on the age of visitors and which floors of the attraction you want to visit. The 86th floor deck is the least expensive, while others—including a “sunrise package” and a premium deal that includes both decks and a 90-minute guided tour—go for upwards of $100. The decks are open from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily—going later in the evening may be your best bet for an uncrowded trip.

Spectators atop Top of the Rock’s observation deck.

Top of the Rock

One of the things about the Empire State Building observation deck is that you can’t actually see that building from it. If you’re looking to capture that skyscraper—and a different perspective of the city—head to the observation deck atop 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Top of the Rock opened to the public in 2005, carrying on the tradition of a public observatory atop the Art Deco skyscraper (which had a similar attraction when it opened in 1933).

How to visit: Tickets are available through the official Top of the Rock website, and like the Empire State Building, they’re priced according to age—an adult ticket is $38, but the price is lower for seniors and children. There are also special add-ons, like the “Sun & Stars” package, which allows entry twice in a 24-hour period (it costs $56). If you want to go at sunset, it’ll cost an extra $10. The observation deck is open every day from 8 a.m. to midnight.

Large skyscrapers including One World Trade Center. In the foreground there is a row of trees. Max Touhey

One World Observatory

The observation deck atop One World Trade Center occupies the building’s 100th, 101st, and 102nd floors. Unlike its Midtown counterparts, it offers a pretty stellar perch from which to see landmarks like Governors Island and the Statue of Liberty. Though you can merely go and gawk at the view, the whole thing is set up to be an interactive experience, with elements like a video showing the tower’s rise all part of the fun.

How to visit: Ticket prices have risen slightly since the observation deck opened nearly three years ago: Now, a single adult ticket costs $35, with prices—again—varying based on age. You can also pay more to have expedited entry, or buy special packages that include various food and entertainment options. Hours for the observatory vary, but in the spring and summer it’s open basically from morning until night.

Visitors to the crown of the Statue of Liberty.
Photo by David Goldman/Getty Images

Statue of Liberty Crown

It’s not an observation deck per se, but Lady Liberty’s crown—perched at the pinnacle of the 330-foot-tall statue—does offer a unique, bird’s-eye view of New York Harbor and beyond. It was closed to the public for security reasons after 9/11, and was due to reopen in 2012, until Hurricane Sandy caused damage to the island. The crown finally made its debut on July 4, 2013.

How to visit: The viewing platform within the crown isn’t easy to get to: There’s no elevator access, and visitors have to climb 162 stairs from the statue’s pedestal to the crown itself. But if you’re willing to make the trek, tickets are available through Statue Cruises, from $12 for children to $21.50 for adults. The National Park Service has a detailed breakdown of what to expect when you visit.

One World Trade Center Freedom Tower

72 Vesey Street, New York, NY 10006

30 Rockefeller Center

30 Rockefeller Center, Manhattan, NY 10020