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7 Insider Tips for Visiting Top of the Rock

By The Center Magazine StaffMay 6 2022

Top of the Rock offers the best views of NYC from on high. Seventy floors up in the sky and it's like you can see the entire city, Long Island, and New Jersey, all at once. How do you go about obtaining these incredible vistas? It's as easy as buying a ticket and traveling to Rockefeller Center.

Before you go, it’s helpful to understand a bit of the building’s history…

When the RCA Building (now known as 30 Rock) opened in 1933, the observation deck was the first attraction to open to the public. Inspired by a luxury cruise liner, it had Adirondack chairs, potted evergreens, and an outdoor refreshment bar to go with the knockout vista — and it became a sensation, drawing 1,300 visitors a day. The deck was closed in 1986, and after extensive refurbishing inside and out, reopened as Top of the Rock on November 1, 2005.

Occupying the 67th, 69th, and 70th floors (the last of which is open-air, rather than bordered by safety glass, since it's set back from the edge), it offers jaw-dropping 360-degree views — including the close-up Empire State Building, around to Central Park, and even the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge.

A few famous faces have been spotted on the rooftop of 30 Rock over the years… From the early days, you can see Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly singing "New York, New York" in 1949's On the Town. Jimmy Fallon, Jon Hamm, Cameron Diaz, and U2 have all taken in the views a time or two. And then there are the countless Instagrams starring people from all over the world…

To make sure you get your own perfect visit (and Instagram) at Top of the Rock, we put together a handful of helpful hints, links, and tips to navigate your way with ease.

What to Know Before Visiting Top of the Rock

Tip #1: Buy your Top of the Rock tickets ahead of time.

Purchasing tickets to Top of the Rock in advance is the most efficient way to visit. Your best bet is to visit the website, peruse your ticket options, and select the date and time of your visit.

A great way to visit is not only to reserve ahead (essential around the holidays) but to purchase a VIP Tour ticket — bringing together a visit to Top of the Rock with a tour of the top of 30 Rock and Rainbow Room — or an Express Pass ticket for expedited entry and a discount to the gift shop.

If you're here at Rockefeller Center and your visit to Top of the Rock is more of a spontaneous one, enter at 50th Street and proceed downstairs to the box office. Credit card and cash are both accepted. If you obtained tickets through a third-party voucher, or if you're having any issues with your already-purchased tickets, head straight to the Will Call desk, which is located just inside the main entrance on 50th Street. Don't worry, Top of the Rock staff are available to direct you to all of these locations and guide you through the various ticket options.

Tip #2: Enter on 50th Street.

With tickets in hand, head to the main Top of the Rock entrance on 50th Street at your appointed time. Top of the Rock is stroller friendly (as long as it's collapsible), and fully wheelchair accessible. Look for the Radio City Music Hall marquee, and then for the red carpet outside the main doors. You found it! Make sure to admire the sparkling chandelier that's the centerpiece of the grand atrium lobby.

Be prepared for a security checkpoint, which might take a few minutes. No need to take off your shoes. As you begin the show, you'll walk through an exhibition all about Rockefeller Center's rich and storied development, you'll be given a few photo opportunities, and even get to see a short film. Now it's time to head upstairs. Hold on for the elevator ride of your life — no spoilers here, but make sure to look up as you ascend.

Tip #3: Time your Top of the Rock visit properly.

When's the best time to visit? Our Top of the Rock insider told us that the best options are either right at opening (9am) or late at night (8pm onward) any day of the week. Nighttime is gorgeous, but mornings are magical, too. Just after the 9am opening you'll have a more private experience and can catch the beautiful light illuminating the Empire State Building and Midtown skyscrapers.

Tip #4: Go all the way up to the top.

Top of the Rock is a three-level observation deck; the lower two floors have protective glass while the topmost level offers 360-degree, unobstructed views. There are also indoor viewing spaces with seating, art and light installations, and gift shops on the 69th floor. Bathrooms, too. Give yourself at least 45 minutes to enjoy the views in all directions, and bring quarters for the viewfinders. When you're done, factor in a few extra minutes to get back down to the lobby. You'll be dropped off at the Rink Level, where you can head right out for food, shopping, roller skating or ice skating at The Rink (depending on the season), and more.

Tip #5: Get the Gesso app.

Get to know the lay of the land with the Gesso app, free and available for both iOS and Android. On the app, you’ll find a self-guided Top of the Rock tour that includes NYC history, guided meditation, and interesting facts about the landmark.

Tip #6: Bring your memories home with you.

Photos are one of the most popular keepsakes, but there's more memorabilia to explore. The gift shop (at the top and on the Rink Level) provides everything from t-shirts to mugs to magnets to backpacks.

Tip #7: Some other important info can be found on the Top of the Rock FAQ page.

Be aware that you can't see the Christmas Tree or The Rink from Top of the Rock, and plan ahead to time your visit. Be prepared for the line that winds its way through the mezzanine exhibition, including a photo op with the "Lunch Atop a Skyscraper" image, before you board. There is no food or drink at the attraction — and none can be brought up (and neither can pocket knives, lighters, and other prohibited items mentioned in the FAQ) — though there are plenty of dining options on the Plaza and The Rink Level.

Questions?

Our Top of the Rock page has all the answers, along with photos, tips, directions, ticket information, and everything else you need to know to get the most out of your visit.

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