One World Observatory vs Top of the Rock – Which New York viewing platform is better?

The three major viewing decks in New York are One World Observatory at the World Trade Centre, the famous Top of the Rock, and of course the Empire State Building.

Empire State vs Top of the Rock has been done to death, but what about Rock vs WTC?

Let’s compare!

The views

So this is obvious, but the views from both buildings are as unbelievable as you might expect.

One World Trade Centre is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere – so tall in fact that you can even see the curvature of the earth as you look out over the Atlantic Ocean, let alone the Brooklyn Bridge, Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and the Manhattan skyline.

The Rock on the other hand offers a very different experience to the One World Observatory because it’s so much closer to all the iconic buildings that make up midtown Manhattan, including the Empire State, the Chrysler and the new impossibly thin and tall apartment buildings that have sprung up in recent years. One World Observatory on the other hand offers a much higher and more broad view of the city and surrounding islands.

The overall experience

Arriving at One World Trade Centre is an experience all on its own. Walking through Ground Zero is humbling, and seeing the new building towering above is very inspiring.

As you head through the building’s entrance, first up it’s the airport-style security checkpoint, followed by an indoor queue area lined with wall to wall screens telling the story of the construction workers, and a passageway made of rock foundations. We’d come for the views, but the build up is almost as impressive.

The lifts, which have have screens on all 4 walls and the ceiling, take you 100 floors into the sky showing a timelapse of New York through the years. Once at the top, you step out of the lift and watch a short projection mapped show before an incredible climax at the end – I won’t spoil the surprise, but it was all very impressive, and more akin to something you’d see at a Disney park.

The journey back down to earth is just as impressive as it was on the way up, with a ‘glass elevator’ simulated descent thanks to the amazing lifts.

As for Rockefeller…

The lifts appear fairly standard when you first enter, however it soon becomes apparent that they have a glass ceiling, offering a view all the way up the lift shaft to the top of the building, with blue lights along the route!
The glass panel ceiling is very slightly frosted, and a projection is played on the ceiling with scenes of NYC and NBC alongside some music. Very cool! I couldn’t help but think though… Imagine if the floor was also glass?! Wow.

Although the Top of the Rock doesn’t offer the same fanfare and theme-park-style pre-shows as One World Observatory, the views speak for themselves and are incredible. The photos do the view no justice what so ever, especially at night.

Both amazing all-round experiences, and both well worth doing!

The price

There’s no denying that both of these are expensive. It’s New York after all. But in my opinion they are well worth it.

One World Observatory Top of the Rock
Adults $38 + tax
Children $32 + tax
Adults $40 + tax
Children $34 + tax
+ $10 per ticket at sunset

During the daytime, there isn’t much in it – the Rock is $2 more per ticket.
At sunset however, due to demand prices increase dramatically at the Rock to $50 per adult + tax.

So which one’s better?

To be honest with you, the more I think about it the less fair it seems to compare the two.

As it’s the tallest building in the western hemisphere, the One World Observatory gives a very impressive view over New York and New Jersey, including views of the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan . The Top of the Rock however, although much shorter, is right in the centre of midtown Manhattan, giving a much closer and clearer view of the iconic buildings surrounding it.

The bottom line is, even though they’re both NYC viewing decks, they’re very different from one another. One gives a very high up view for over 45 miles, whereas the other is nestled among the towering buildings in the middle of the city.

Both One World Observatory and Top of the Rock are brilliant attractions, and are in my opinion a ‘must do’ when visiting New York for the first time.

I’d recommend visiting One World Observatory during the day, then Top of the Rock at night to see NYC lit up, for a totally different experience. Despite the high price of entry, it’s well worth it for the amazing views, especially at night.

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