Empire State or Top of the Rock?

Empire State or Top of the Rock?

No city’s skyline is quite as iconic or beautiful as New York City’s. Others might have recognizable landmarks too but New York is where some of the world’s most important buildings like the Empire State Building can be found. Another famous structure in New York City has to be the Top of the Rock or the Rockefeller Center.Empire State or Top of the Rock

Both spots have their advantages and it can be difficult to choose between the two. Either way, getting a 360° view of the Big Apple is such an amazing experience. But if you’re only in New York for a short trip and don’t have time to visit both, which one should you choose? I made a comparison to help you decide which one to check out.

Things to Consider in Choosing Empire State or Top of the Rock

Cost of Tickets

As of May 2016, both tickets cost $32 so the price shouldn’t really affect your decision which one to visit. The Empire State Building is a standard pass on 86th floor. You can upgrade Top of the Rock ticket to visit twice in a day for an additional $15.  Buy your tickets online to save time when you visit. We have our awesome CityPass so we got to visit both.

City Pass New York

New York Itinerary Expenses one week

the crowd from Top of the Rock

Lines or Queuing

We visited Top of the Rock twice in a day, morning and before sunset. There was no queue in the morning. Is it because of the rain? Maybe. Surprisingly, line was also quick before sunset. The rain was gone by this time. While there’s a long queue and more waiting in Empire State building. We visited at 5pm and waited for about 1 hour before reaching the main observation deck.


The Empire State takes you to the 86th floor and you can purchase an add-on to take you to the 102nd floor. While at the Top of the Rock the unobstructed views can be seen through glass panels on the 67th and 69th floors and in the open air on the 70th floor. Empire State is obviously higher than Rockefeller Center but I guess what’s more important is which offer you best views and what you would like to spot on.


From the Empire State Building, some of the famous structures can be spot on are the iconic Flat Iron building, the stunning Freedom tower, Chrysler building and of course the Rockefeller Center. From Central Park to the Empire State Building, see it all from up in the air from the Top of the Rock.

World Trade Center

World Trade Center

view from Empire State

View from Empire State Building

Observation Deck Area

The Empire State viewing area is narrow than of the Top of the Rock. It has a mesh around which makes it a bit difficult to take photos. The Rockefeller Center felt a lot less crowded because of the larger viewing area.

Day vs. Night View

We were pleasantly surprised at how much we could still see around the city despite the rain. Seeing the Big Apple illuminated with the city lights offers a whole new perspective on a “city that never sleeps”. We both see the views of these two before sunset. It’s a good decision to see Top of the Rock in the morning too as we can see Central Park in daylight as it only looked like a black hole in the evening. Before sunset would absolutely be my choice to get either of the two landmarks. There’s no time limit on your visit at either building so make sure to get there early so you don’t miss the sun going down. Take your time and enjoy the breath taking views of New York City!

New York skyline at night as seen from the Empire State Building

us at Empire State Building

Empire State or Top of the Rock

Our Choice?

We wanted to have a grand view of New York City skyline that included the Empire State Building so we are choosing the Top of the Rock if we only have one choice. But do you really want to leave New York not being able to say you went up the iconic Empire State Building?  Since each is equally magnificent on its own, it comes down on your personal preference.

from Top of the Rock

Empire State Building Daylight

The Empire State Building

from Top of the Rock, shot from GoPro

Empire State Building or Top of the Rock

before sunset

from Top of the Rock


  • Top of the Rock is open from 8AM to midnight, 7 days a week. The main entrance is located on 50th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues.
  • Empire State is open every day, including all holidays, 365 days a year, rain or shine from 8AM to 2AM.
  • In Empire State, head up between midnight and 1AM or just after they open at 8 AM and enjoy a more private setting.
  • Leave the tripod as there are no storage facilities in both building. My husband was lucky enough for the officer in Empire State to keep his tripod.
  • Security screening will be done at both entrances so make sure to leave all unnecessary shopping bags behind.
  • Wear thick clothes if you’re visiting in the evening as it can get very windy and chilly up there except summer obviously.
  • Official websites: Top of the Rock, Empire State Building

Empire State or Top of the Rock

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meghanramsey1 December 22, 2016 - 4:03 am

I’ve been to New York so many times, but never to Top of the Rock! May have to check it out next time I go!

The Moment Keepers December 22, 2016 - 8:21 am

Hi again Meghan! you should visit Top of the Rock! it’s an awesome experience up there. Enjoy! 🙂

ladyfi October 1, 2016 - 3:55 pm

Nice shots! I love the Top of the Rock as you can then get pictures with the Empire State Building.

The Moment Keepers October 4, 2016 - 1:41 pm

We’re on the same preference dear! 🙂 Thanks for visiting, have a great day!


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