This post covers how to get tickets to Top of the Rock, the observation deck at Rockefeller Center, including tips on discount tickets. We also compare the top 3 NYC observation decks, including the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center.
The closest subway is the B, D, F and M trains to 47-50 St, Rockefeller Center. Other trains nearby are the 1 train at 50th Street and the N, Q and R trains at 49th Street. The main entrance to Top of the Rock is on 50th Street in between 5th and 6th Avenues. Please use our Google map for directions to Rockefeller Center.
TICKETS TO TOP OF THE ROCK
Top of the Rock is located 850 feet (260 m) above street level and has been offering stunning panoramas of the city since 1933 that include Central Park and the Empire State Building and more. Top of the Rock offers timed tickets, which usually means that there is less of a chance attending with huge crowds. But, before you pay full price, be sure to read our section on discounts just below.
6 WAYS TO GET DISCOUNTED TICKETS TO TOP OF THE ROCK
(1) – Save 10-15% off retail tickets to Top of the Rock with Trusted Tours with the code NYTO5. Trusted Tours, a 3rd party ticket seller, offers discounted tickets. This may be the best deal, if you are only interested in Top of the Rock and not in other city attractions. You will only see the full discount reflected at checkout once you enter the code.
(2) Access to the observation deck is included for free with the purchase of the New York Pass, the Sightseeing Pass, the CityPass booklet and the Explorer Pass. These passes can save you a lot of money if you are planning on visiting several attractions and usually include bus tours and boat cruises. We break down which tourist pass might be good for you if any.
(3) CitySights, one of the large hop-on, hop-off bus tour companies in town offers their FreeStyle Pass, which combines 3 days of bus service and 3, 5 or 7 attractions (including Top of the Rock). Price depends on the # of attractions, but you will likely get Top of the Rock for free.
(4) Rock Pass – Rockefeller Center’s own pass. $44/ticket gets you access to Top of the Rock as well as the Rockefeller Center Tour. Retail price for both would be $52 for an adult, so you would save $8 per adult and $2 per child (6-12). The tour is also part of most of the tourist passes. They also have additional passes that include Top of the Rock.
(5) AAA – Triple-A members get $3 off tickets. Must present valid AAA card when purchasing.
(6) Military Discount – Although not published, Top of the Rock offers a great military discount (at least as of April 2016). The price for military tickets is $15/adult/child with valid military ID. Each member of the military can bring an additional 3 people, who can also enjoy the discount. We recommend calling Top of the Rock to confirm.
Discover the history, art, and architecture of this grand city space. The tours will be every 30 minutes from 10 am to 7:30 pm, excluding 6 pm and 6:30 pm. $22.50/person (with discount). Read our post which reviews this tour, which also provides a free, self-guided version. The tour is included for free with both the New York Pass and Explorer Pass.
This beautiful Art-Deco complex was built in the 1930’s by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. He originally acquired the land because he had promised to build a new opera house for the Metropolitan Opera Company, who was looking to move further uptown. Rockefeller took out a 27-year lease on the propert27-year28 (with the option for three, 21-year extensions.) After the stock market crash of 1929, the Metropolitan Opera started to stall, wanting to hold out for a better lease. Rockefeller decided to commence building the complex without them. He then began what would become the most expensive private building project ever undertaken in modern times. Over 40,000 people were employed during the construction, which was completed in 1939. The complex today encompasses 22 acres and has more than 8,000,000 square feet of interior space. Today it is a favorite spot to visit for visitors, particularly at the holidays. Rockefeller hosts the famous annual Christmas tree, which ranges in size from 60 to 100 feet tall from year to year and is covered with over 30,000 LED lights! The tree is positioned in front of the central feature of Rockefeller Center: the GE Building. The GE Building is located at 30 Rockefeller Center, or “30 Rock.”
Originally, the building was the RCA Building, after the RCA Radio Corporation, their presence in Rockefeller Center led to the nickname “Radio City.” The name was changed to the GE Building in 1988, after GE re-acquired RCA (they had originally founded RCA in 1919.)
The GE Building is 70 stories and 850 feet tall, making it the 13th-tallest building in New York.
The GE Building is home to NBC Studios. NBC owns floors 1-30 as well as floors 50-59. NBC has been a tenant since 1933. They leased space until 1996, when they bought the 1,600,000 square feet that they had rented for all those years.
Both Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon are filmed in the building. (Check out our post on how to score tickets to the tapings!)
The GE Building has a flat roof instead of a spire, making it unusual for an Art Deco Building.
The slogan above the main entrance to the building reads “Wisdom and Knowledge shall be the stability of thy times.” The quote comes from the Bible, Isaiah 33:6.
The Rockefeller family office was originally in Room 5600 on the 56th Floor. Today, the family offices occupy floors 54-56. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. also had a private vault in the basement of the building, which could be accessed via a private elevator right in his office.
Diego Rivera was hired to create a colorful fresco for the then-RCA Building. His work, entitled “Man at the Crossroads,” included scenes from Moscow May Day as well as a portrait of Lenin. Rivera’s patron at the time was John D.’s wife, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. Even so, he was asked to re-do some of the work to make it less controversial. (Specifically, they wanted Lenin’s face to be replaced with a more anonymous face.) After some negotiation back and forth, so agreement was reached. Rivera received his commission and left the project. His mural was replaced by the less subversive “American Progress,” by artist Josep Maria Serp.
The famous Rainbow Room was a restaurant located on the 65th floor of the building. It closed in 2009, but will re-open this fall, 2014, after a major facelift.
Top of the Rock was closed from 1985 until 2005. During that time, it got a $75 million makeover courtesy of the Center’s current owners, Tishman Speyer Properties. It now includes a multimedia exhibit about Rockefeller Center’s history, as well as the 20 foot long viewing area on the 70th Floor, which offers a 360 degree view of the city.
The building is undergoing some renovation now. When it is completed, it will be re-named The Comcast Building. The Comcast logo, as well as the iconic NBC peacock will be added to the building’s exterior.
Top of the Rock vs. The Empire State Building
Both places are fantastic experiences! While Empire State Building is a classic tourist experience, Top of the Rock can offer some advantages, depending on the type of traveler you are. One of the benefits of Top of the Rock is that you purchase your ticket for a specific time slot. This keeps the crowds a reasonable size and cuts down on a lot of time spent waiting in line. It also makes it a little easier to plan the rest of your day so that you can get the maximum amount of time for sightseeing! Also, Top of the Rock offers great photo opportunities; including a great view of Central Park (during the day) and a great shot of The Empire State Building (can’t get a photo of it standing on top of it!) The observation deck is indoor/outdoor, so depending what time of year you are visiting it may be a better choice. If you are on a tight time budget or hate waiting in line, this may be a better choice for you.
TIP: Because your entry is timed, try to go a little before sunset. That way you can get day and night views in one trip!
Some Other Things to Know…
You can either select a time when you book your ticket online, or choose to book for an unspecified time slot. If you opt for that you can redeem you ticket in person at Top of the Rock after your arrival in NYC.
Advance reservations aren’t required, but if you want a specific time and to cut down on the waiting, it is recommended.
If you show up late for your time, your ticket will still be honored and you will be worked into the next available time slot.
If you are early they will try to get you in as soon as possible. You may have to wait until your scheduled time though.
If you want to get a ticket the day of your visit, you can still book online as long as it is at least a half-hour in advance. Otherwise, you will have to get your ticket in person.
There is no time limit for how long guests can stay on the observation deck. Most people stay around 45 minutes to one hour.
The observation deck is open rain or shine, but guests will be told about weather and visibility conditions prior to entering. If the weather s bad and you decide to not go up, your ticket will not be refunded. You are able to rebook for another time, however.
The exhibit about Rockefeller Center is located on the mezzanine level of Top of the Rock. To control the crowd flow guests are only allowed to visit the exhibit before going to the observation deck.
You can purchase a ticket as part of both the New York Pass and City Pass. Check out our post on the passes!