In the world pre-Covid-19, New York City was one of my favourite places to visit. The hustle, bustle, the bright lights of Broadway and the hidden gems (to tourists at least) toward Greenwich Village and Chelsea. Growing up in the UK, it felt like everything I loved was set in New York City. Whether it was Mia Thermopolis in her Greenwich Village loft, or the f.r.i.e.n.d.s sat around their gigantic cups of coffee, or Rory Gilmore running away to meet Jess in the big city, or Kevin McCallister lost in the city, or Crocodile Dundee showing people what a knife was. I could go on, clearly, but New York has always seemed like the magic faraway tree to me. Even as I grew up, New York was still ever present whether I was watching Sex and the City almost ten years after it premiered, or obsessively watching 30 Rock, or discovering the joy of the opening monologue of Saturday Night Live, New York was well, everywhere. Of course, to a true New Yorker all the things I’ve just mentioned are ludicrous depictions of a highly fictionalised version of their city, but can we let a girl dream a little please?
Anyhoo, I’ve been distracted into the dreamscape of NYC and completely veered off topic. I suppose the point of this blog post is to share with you how one of the most touristy things you can do in New York doesn’t have to be shameful, because it can be just as magical as you imagined it to be, and that is climbing to The Top of the Rock.
Rockefeller Plaza was for many years just the place where I’d see romantic sweeping shots of New York at Christmas, couples ice skating, Buddy the Elf with Zooey Deschanel, you know the drill. Then I fell in love with 30 Rock and became utterly enthralled by the whole world that exists within 30 Rockefeller Plaza. So, the opportunity to visit it became too much to bear, and I am now the proud owner of two tickets up to the Top of the Rock. I know, it was too much really but let me have my indulgences, please?
So, onto the nitty gritty of it –
A trip to the Top of the Rock will cost you $38 per adult which is obviously a pretty penny, but they do offer a poor weather guarantee. So you can book safe in the knowledge that if your time slot comes up and it is hideous visibility and thrashing rain, they will hopefully be able to rebook you to a more convenient time. With that in mind, I would recommend aiming to head up 30 Rock early on in your trip, so that just in case you do need to re-book you have a few more options to play with.
I would absolutely advise booking your ticket as far in advance as you’re comfortable doing so. You’re then onto the fun part of selecting the best time to go. The Top of the Rock website actually is very helpful at pointing out the time slots which coincide with sunrise/sunset and if you’re there for some stunning photos of New York then I would absolutely recommend going for one of these. However, if you’re after the vast reaching views of the city and beyond then I would recommend going for mid-morning, just after the early morning haze has burned off (especially in the summer) but before the heavy heat sets in.
Once you reach the fated day of your visit, grab your fully charged camera, a bottle of water, and anything else that might be necessary at the time of year you choose and head for the basement at 30 Rock. Down there you’ll find the queue, and an array of lifts which you’ll be directed into before exploring the story of Rockefeller Plaza and then shooting up into the rafters in one of the coolest lifts I have ever experienced. Yes, granted, the bar might be pretty low on lift entertainment, but the Top of the Rock lifts have really managed to add information, thrill and aesthetic to their ride.
Once you’re out on top there are actually a few levels, and dozens of incredible vantage points to take in New York City below you. Whether you want to pry on the expensive homes of the Upper East Side or look down at the now tiny buildings of Midtown below you, you can do it all! Manhattan is your visual oyster! You can stay up the top for almost as long as you’d like, within reason, and I would say a good hour is plenty for most people. It gives you a chance to enjoy the views, learn a few things about the building you’re in and the city below you as well as grab dozens of photos of the iconic New York City skyline.
This post was written regarding a pre-Covid-19 travel experience and it is recommended you check local and international travel and movement guidance before embarking on any of the experiences written about in this post. Fingers crossed one day soon we are able to travel and see so many exciting things together.