Read about some of the best lookouts and rooftop bars in NYC, for incredible views and pictures over the bustling city. Included pricing and direction, plus more useful practical information.
New York City doesn’t really need an introduction, with so many things to do, unique architecture, cosmopolitan vibes and so many places to see, visiting New York is like traveling the whole world by staying in one place.
I have always been fascinated by NY and one of my biggest dreams was to live there for a while. I never made it but rest assured, I don’t miss any chance to go back and visit. And every time I go it gets more and more familiar and more charming.
On my last trip, I made it my goal to check out all the most photo-worthy places in NYC and so I did, including a couple of NYC rooftop bars and lookouts. There is much more to discover, though.
In this post, I asked for help from fellow travel bloggers to share their favorite rooftop bars in NYC and top lookouts and here is what came out of this amazing collection. (I will be adding more and more places as I get to see them and if you want to contribute, please shoot me an email. I would love to include your favorite rooftop in NYC)
The best lookouts and rooftop bars in NYC
Top of the Rock lookout
Top of the Rock is one of my favorite lookouts in NYC. It’s part of the Rockefeller center and offers amazing 360° views over the city and definitely one of the most instagrammable places in NYC. Located on three levels, with the last being on the 70th floor, you can really enjoy the views over the Hudson River and New Jersey Shore, Central Park, and Lower Manhattan with the Empire State Building’s iconic shape towering over the city.
The base cost is relatively accessible compare to many other attractions, 38 USD + an additional 10USD if you want to be there by sunset (which I recommend). There are also different other packages, such as the VIP pass (75USD) which allows expedited entry to Top of the Rock at any time on your selected date, even if the time is sold out. Or you can also include a Rockefeller center tour for an extra $25 and make the most of your visit.
If you are planning to visit more museums and attractions in NYC you may be able to save some bucks by buying the NYC city pass. Make sure you read the different package options and what’s included.
Either ways you must book in advance to make sure you can secure your space.
I went for sunset and I didn’t realize that I chose a day where the weather forecasts were not promising, so the place was basically empty and I still had amazing views of a very stormy sky which then turned into a beautiful rainbow and then a spectacular sunset, to end with a beautiful blue night sky over the city. I spent there 3 hours just waiting for the right moment to take amazing shots and it was all worth it.
If you don’t like crowds I would suggest you avoid weekends if you can.
Remember there are terraces on three levels, I didn’t know and I was missing the third one. Silly me.
How to get to the Rockefeller center – getting to the Top of the Rock it’s easy. The entrance is on the 50th street between the 5th and the 6 Av. It’s not the same entrance as the Rockefeller Center, but the door beside that with a red carpet. You cannot miss it. Only I did. 🙂
Oh! I was forgetting to mention that fun begins on the elevator where the soft lights and video projections on the roof plus the high speed makes you feel you are being lunched through space. I was alone in the elevator and it was kind of scary but exciting but I got to the top in no time! Fun!
One World Observatory Deck and Restaurant
by Melissa @ Navigation Junkie
The One World Observatory offers one of the best lookouts in New York City to give you views from the Statue of Liberty and the New Jersey shore to the Empire State Building and Central Park. A trip to the top of One World Trade Center, which takes you 1,250 ft. up, will give you an alternate way to view the city and top landmarks from above.
A visit to the One World Observatory will take you up 102 stories in just 47 seconds to the One World Observatory deck. When you step off the elevator you will see a short video highlighting the history of the One World Observatory deck and NYC in general, followed by a raising of the screen that will treat you to your first views of the NYC skyline. You will then have access to the entire observation deck which gives you 360° views of the city.
After taking in the views, and believe me, they will leave you breathless, enjoy a drink from the small café found on the observation deck level, or if you are looking for a full meal visit the full-scale One Dine on the floor below. Here you can choose from a variety of dishes, from chicken to salmon, classic burgers, short rib, salads, gnocchi mac and cheese, and even a veggie burger option! While you eat you will be surrounded by views of the NYC skyline.
To reach the One World Observatory, you can take either the subway on the E line, bus, or catch a taxi, Uber, or Lyft. One World Trade sits on the corner of West and Vessy Street, with the entrance on West St. Right next door you will find the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, so pairing a visit to the memorials with your visit to One World Observatory is a great option.
The Rooftop Terrace at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
James Ian @ Travel Collecting
Many people don’t know, but the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) on Fifth Avenue has a rooftop terrace. From the terrace, there are incredible views of Central Park and the skyscrapers that surround it. You can see a huge chunk of the park laid out before you, as well as the fancy apartment buildings on Fifth Avenue and Central Park West. At the southern tip of the park, you can see the Plaza Hotel and the narrow high rises on Central Park South, as well as other midtown buildings.
In addition to the stunning Manhattan views, there is also a large art installation on the roof. This changes every year, but is there for the entire season. There is also a café where you can get a coffee (or sangria) and pastry to enjoy along with the views.
The rooftop terrace is only open in the warmer months, typically from May to late Fall. It is open the same hours that the museum is open, which is currently 10 am–5 pm, Thursday–Monday. However, bear in mind that the rooftop is closed in inclement weather, as the floor can get slippery when wet.
There is no additional fee for the roof after paying the entrance fee to the museum. For non-local residents, the museum fee is $25 for adults.
The easiest way to get to the Met is to take the 4, 5, or 6 subway train to 86th Street and walk from there. When you’re at the museum, walk through to the American Decorative Arts section at the back and take the elevator to the fourth floor. From there, you will need to walk one flight up to the roof.
The terraces at the Whitney Museum
Besides amazing contemporary art expositions, the Whitney Museum offers amazing views over Manhattan from its spacious multi level terraces. I find those terraces and the view they offer like a fascinating extension of the museum itself.
Besides the sculptures that you can admire, take a few minutes to observe the city, it’s magic, especially under a blue sky, so many diverse buildings and so many different architectures which despite the different shapes, size, and colors, they harmonically blend together creating a beautiful concrete landscape. Ok, maybe I am too biased as I am so madly in love with New York City that everything about it has a positive meaning. You will tell me.
The Whitney Museum is located on the north side of the Greenwich Village right where the popular High-line begins and also Little Island, the new NYC attraction. So you can really include the Whitney Museum in your Greenwich Village itinerary, which includes, the famous Bleecker street (do not miss the Magnolia Bakery), the Hudson river park, and Washington Square. It’s also the perfect place to have a delicious meal in one of the great restaurants in the Village. I would avoid the restaurant in the Museum which is less than mediocre.
And remember to include a camera and good walking shoes in your New York packing list.
The regular entry fee of the Whitney Museum is 25USD but every Thursday they have an offer-based fare starting from as little as 1 USD.
Edge at Hudson Yards
Mark and Kristen Morgan @ Where Are Those Morgans
Edge at Hudson Yards is the latest addition to New York City’s ever expanding repertoire of cloud-dwelling observation decks.
But sleek, immaculate and futuristic looking Edge has an ‘edge’ on its competition – it is the highest outdoor sky deck in the western hemisphere at 1,131 ft above ground level.
From below, a sharp triangular platform sticks out 80 ft into the open air from the top of a glass skyscraper. But standing on the eye catching platform allows you to appreciate why this sky deck is a firm contender for best NYC observation platform.
In just 60 seconds, you will be transported from the 4th floor of the pristine Hudson Yards shopping center to the 100th floor Edge platform surrounded by tall angled glass panels and a small triangular shaped glass floor section.
The outdoor Edge sky deck and indoor 102nd floor views provide a 360 degree panorama from the banks of the Hudson River across all of Uptown, Midtown and Downtown Manhattan as far as the Statue of Liberty and New Jersey.
Views of the Empire State Building from Edge sky deck are not as good as from Top of the Rock, but one of the best aspects of the view from Edge is being able to look directly down the Hudson River to One World Observatory and Downtown Manhattan.
Edge is located on the 100th floor of 30 Hudson Yards between W 30th and 33rd streets on 10th avenue and sunset is the most popular time to visit.
Be sure to arrive an hour before sunset so you don’t miss the spectacle, as the world’s most iconic skyline transitions into dusk with stunning oranges, yellows and deep blues in the sky.
In order to access an amphitheater-style outdoor viewing area, food or drinks must be purchased from the champagne bar. However, hot chocolate is all you need to gain access to one of the best viewpoints in New York City from Edge at Hudson Yards.
The Empire State Building
Allison Green @ Eternal Arrival
One of the most impressive views over the Manhattan skyline can be found from the top of the Empire State Building! The most photographed building in the world is also a great place to get a view over New York City.
The Empire State Building is an expensive trip — $46 for a regular ticket, $85 for skip-the-line tickets, and an added surcharge of around $40 for access to the 102nd floor. But it is worth it for some great views over the city!
If you are traveling in anything close to the high season — summer or pre-Christmas — you definitely will want to book skip-the-line tickets as the lines can sometimes exceed 2 hours.
The Empire State Building is one of the older observatories and the elevators are a bit slower than the more flashy One World Observatory and The Edge, so that plus its popularity make wait times quite long.
Of course, being that you’re up on the Empire State Building, you won’t see the building itself in the skyline, but you will see great views of the Chrysler Building and One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the United States.
The Empire State Building is open between 8 AM and 2 AM daily — yes, every day of the year! In my opinion, the best time of day to visit the Empire State Building is either first thing in the morning (arrive at 7:30 for an 8 AM open time) or a few hours before sunset and sticking around for the impressive sunset views over the city on a clear day. Of course, if you have skip-the-line tickets, just about any time is a good time!
There are several subway stations that will easily take you to the Empire State Building. The closest two are 34th Street–Penn Station and 34th Street–Herald Square.
230 fifth Rooftop lounge is an amazing lookout and restaurant on the 5th street, of course, and guess what number… 230!
I have to be honest I am including this place even if I didn’t make it there. It was my last night in NYC and I was going to celebrate it with my friends who chose this place because they know how much I love to photography NYC from up above. Unluckily it was pouring with rain and because there was an entrance fee if you get there after 5 pm on weekends, it didn’t really make sense. So we passed.
The terrace is quite popular among NewYorkers and tourists alike not only for the spectacular views over the bustling city but also for the incredible food they serve and the cozy ambiance.
They accept all walkins but if you want to make a reservation for a group of 3+ there is a minimum spends required.
For the Opening hours it’s better you check on their website for updated info as they may be changes.