Top Of The Rock: When To Go And Why It’s Worth it

The observation decks and attractions of Top Of The Rock at 30 Rockefeller Plaza is a popular tourist destination, visited by some 3 million people every year.

Before it became Top Of The Rock, the original observation deck on the 70th floor was first opened to the public in 1933 when the RCA building (now 30 Rockefeller Plaza) made its official entrance into the New York Skyline.

The 190’ foot, 70-story-high viewing deck was originally designed and accented with the charming details of a 1930’s ocean liner of that era. It quickly became the talk of the town and a favorite hot spot, hosting nearly 1,500 people daily.

Over the years, its popularity waned, and it closed in 1986. Eventually, the observation deck and several floors below underwent a massive reconstruction, partly to renovate the famous Rainbow Room restaurant on the 65th floor, and partly to create more attractions to create an immersive experience.

In 2005, the original observation deck re-opened on the 70th floor, along with new decks on the 67th and 69th floors, all providing 360-degree, panoramic views of New York City.

  • The 67th floor deck (820 feet above street level) features the amazing Radiance Wall. This is a beautiful 180’ piece of art created by Swarovski, magnificently constructed with blown glass, crystal geode rock formations and glass panels, all accented by fiber-optic lights.
  • The next deck on the 69th floor (840 feet above street level) has an attraction where your every step is mirrored by colors as you move about. It’s a fun room that everyone will enjoy, especially the little ones in your party.
  • The highest observation deck—the original one on the 70th floor—is an open-air deck, and stands 850 feet above street level. Because there are no glass enclosures, it’s a favorite spot to take that perfect Instagram or Facebook photo.

From any of these decks, the views are simply breathtaking. It’s a not-to-be-missed opportunity to see the nearby Empire State Building, Central Park, the Statue of Liberty and other spectacular skyscrapers from a totally different vantage point. Looking beyond New York City, you may even catch a glimpse at the coastlines of New Jersey and Connecticut, and possibly even the Tappan Zee Bridge and Brooklyn’s Coney Island boardwalk.

Although the three observation decks get “top billing,” there are many other interesting things to do and see on your way up:

Upon Your Arrival

There are two entrances to Top of the Rock. The main entrance next to Radio City Music Hall on 50th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, is marked with a red carpet. You can also enter through 30 Rockefeller Plaza on the Concourse level.

Joie Chandelier

Hanging down three stories into the Grand Atrium Lobby is Michael Hammers’ exquisite “Joie – Crystal Water Fall” chandelier. Designed with 14,000 Swarovski crystals and 450 cascading strands, this masterpiece was created as part of the grand reconstruction unveiled in 2005, and inspired by 30 Rockefeller’s silhouette.

Walk up the winding staircase to the Mezzanine level. Be sure to take some time to mill around the Mezzanine Exhibit, as this is the only time you’ll be able to do so (before you travel up to the observation decks). The exhibit displays many interesting factoids, photos and artifacts about the building’s namesake (oil tycoon and philanthropist, John D. Rockefeller, Jr.), Rockefeller Center, and of course, Top of The Rock.


Stop by the mini theater for a series of short movies that will take you through time to learn more about Rockefeller Center, NBC studios, as well as 30 Rock’s fabulous neighbors, the Rockettes.

Beam Walk

The Beam Walk is a fun and interactive attraction centered around Charles C. Ebbets’ world-famous photograph, “Lunch Atop a Skyscraper,” taken in 1933. The photograph was taken during the construction of 30 Rock (then the RCA building), and shows construction workers eating their lunch atop a metal beam, 850’ above street level.

The exhibit features a replica of the beam on which you can sit to pose for a picture. Look down while you’re on the beam, and through the magic of multimedia, you’ll see what that view might have looked to those construction workers back in 1933.

rockefeller center

Sky Shuttle

Now it’s time to head up to the main attraction. The sky shuttle travels 1,200 feet per minute, making the total ride up to the 67th floor just 42 seconds. While you’re in the elevator, look up to the ceiling and you might feel as if you’re in a time machine.  Projected onto the glass ceiling is a quick, photographic journey from the 1930s to today.

Rainbow Room

When you are done on the observation decks, head back down to the 65th floor, where you can enjoy a wonderful meal or cocktail in the famous Rainbow Room, and SixtyFive Bar and Cocktail Lounge.

These iconic Manhattan hotspots feature a revolving dance floor, and an outdoor terrace bar that has the highest above-street elevation in New York City.

Plan Your Visit

Top of The Rock controls crowd sizes and cuts down on long lines with reserved-time ticket sales. Call ahead to reserve, or visit their website. Open every day from 8:00am through midnight, the last elevator leaves the mezzanine at 11:00pm. There are plenty of time slots available throughout the day, and in fact, evenings at Top of the Rock are particularly awe-inspiring and romantic as the lights of Manhattan add a magical element to the breathtaking vistas on Top of The Rock.

Look for next week’s blog, “Helicopter Tours: A Breathtaking View.”

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