It’s true, the Empire State Building is iconic for it’s 360-degree views from the Observation Deck–but the cost is more than the $22 ticket fee. Along with its status symbol, you pay in terms of wait time (one-hour minimum), as well as long interweaving lines, cramped quarters, and packed elevators. If you suffer from any kind of anxiety, this is a tourist trap in its truest form of torture.
INSTEAD–head to the Rainbow Room for a spectacular view. Save the $20 you would have spent at the Empire State Building and buy yourself a cocktail–make it a Manhattan–and take in the view at 65 floors up from 30 Rockefeller Center. The bartenders are highly trained and attentive and the décor is art deco glamour (which beats the stale cement floors and kitschy gift shops all over ESB).
For a non-alcoholic option, head to the Top of the Rock at the 70th floor observation deck which towers over Rockefeller Center with a vantage point just as good as the Empire State Building. The wait is much shorter which makes for an infinitely more pleasant experience.
More great views around the city:
Metropolitan Museum of Art–The Rooftop
Open in warm weather months, the art roof garden offers breathtaking views of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline. The gift of philanthropists Iris and B. Gerald Cantor (of Cantor Fitzgerald), the Garden first opened to the public on August 1, 1987. Writer Mindy Aloff describes the Roof Garden as “the loveliest airborne space I know of in New York.”
Adult general admission to the museum is $25 which includes access to all exhibitions and gardens. You can purchase tickets online here.
Staten Island Ferry (free)
It’s the best free view of New York Harbor, Lady Liberty, and the Manhattan skyline that you could possibly ask for. Plus, it’s FREE–as not many things in NYC are. Among the sights you’ll see on this commuter ferry are Governors Island, Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, lower Manhattan, Wall Street’s skyscrapers, Ellis Island, and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.
This ferry operates 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, except from midnight till 6am, and each leg takes half an hour.
The ferry departs Manhattan from: Whitehall and Water St.
The ferry departs Staten Island from 1 Bay St.
For more info, call 718.815.BOAT
The Pen-Top Bar & Terrace
The former infamous astro-turf roof deck has been replaced with a new glass-encased bar for a futuristic James Bond vibe. Centrally located in Midtown–this bustling bar boasts stunning views of Fifth Avenue and Central Park as well as Midtown’s architectural gems. With plenty of tables at this slate-topped terrace, why not order a decadent cocktail and take it all in?
Located at the Peninsula Hotel – 700 Fifth Ave at 55th St.