Top of the Rock

An Epic Sunset on the Top of the Rock NYC

In New York, Travel, United States by Katelyn5 Comments

Top of the RockNew York City is notoriously an expensive city. Perhaps one of the most expensive in the world. As I was planning my weekend to NYC, I knew I wanted to do it frugally as that’s how I roll. I’m a frugal, budget traveler. I did a lot of research prior to departure and did come up with a list of many things I could do. However, there was one activity that was at the top of my “to do”list…. to go to the Top of the Rock and see an epic 360 degree view of Manhattan. And man did I get an epic view!

By sheer luck I was able to take in the panoramic views of New York City at sunset. After spending all day Saturday zigzagging across Brooklyn and Manhattan hitting up the highlights of NYC, my feet were getting tired and I decided to finish my day off at the Top of the Rock NYC. I had just finished up dodging tourists in News Times and picturing myself at Carrie Bradshaw’s failed wedding to Mr. Big at the New York City Public Library (you have no idea how excited I was to be there!) and my feet were done. I walked up Fifth Avenue to Rockefeller Center to see about taking the long elevator ride up to the top.

Rockefeller Center surprised me. It was definitely not what I was expecting. I thought it was just another skyscraper found amongst the concrete jungle of NYC. Quite the contrary! Rockefeller Center is actually a 22-acre “city within a city.” John D. Rockefeller Jr. leased the property from Columbia University in 1928 with the intentions of building an Opera House. And then the stock market crashed in its infamous crash of 1929 leading to the Great Depression. Rockefeller debated abandoning the property like many did during the tough times, but instead he became the sole financier in creating America’s first multi use retail, entertainment, and office space. It took over 9 years to build, but Rockefeller Center comprises of 19 buildings, an outdoor plaza, and many famous tenants. At the time, Rockefeller Center cost over $100 million to build! Rockefeller Center was declared a National Landmark in 1987 so I guess the investment was worth it.

The GE Building is home to the Top of the Rock. The GE Building is located at 30 Rockefeller Center and is the home of NBC TV. The TV comedy 30 Rock gets its name from the GE Building. The skyscraper was built in the art deco style and at 850 feet tall, it is the 13th tallest building in NYC. On the 70th floor of the GE Building is an observation deck with jaw-dropping 360 degree view of NYC.

In order to see the epic views from the top, you have to buy tickets. You can purchase tickets in advance on their website (which I highly recommend if you’re looking for a specific time) or purchase them in the box office in the basement of the GE Building. Personally I found the process extremely confusing. One person told me I could buy tickets where the elevators are located, but then I was redirected over to the box office across the basement. Once I located the box office I was told I could use the ticket machine with a credit card or get in line and pay with cash and/or credit card. There was essentially no line with the credit card machines so I chose that option. The screen showed the next available time window as 6:50-7:00. There were only a few tickets left so I grabbed it quickly.

And then the fun part, the waiting game. I had almost an hour and a half to kill before my alloted time. I grabbed a snack at the food court and headed outside into the plaza to people watch. Finally my time came and I made my way to the elevator. I was ushered in with about 10 other people and we rode up a bunch of floors to security. We got off and followed the maze of ropes through “airport security” and then hopped onto another elevator. We got off that elevator and walked through a little history museum. A photographer offered to take my picture on one of the “beams,” but I declined. I just wanted to get to the top! I was surrounded by a family from Germany and a family from the Bronx. Finally, it was my turn to enter the final elevator to the observation deck. The final elevator ride was right out of an amusement park ride. The lights went out and a video played on the glass top with music. I absolutely hate elevators (they mess with my equilibrium) so I did not enjoy the ride.

The doors opened and I pushed my way through the crowds to get the shot. The sun was just starting to set and I could see the reds, oranges, and yellows over to the west. I snapped pictures on the lower decks first not realizing that I could take the escalator to a higher deck for even better views! I reach the top deck just in time for the sun to set over New Jersey. It was stunning! New York, you impressed me!

The Top of the Rock is definitely a major tourist attraction, which I tend to try to stay away from. However, I am happy that I paid the $28 to see the sunset over one of the greatest cities in the world! The Top of the Rock is open from 8am to midnight almost everyday of the year. It’s quite expensive, ranging from $25 to $38, but I think it’s worth doing at least once in your life.

Have you been to the Top of the Rock? Was it worth the expense?



  1. Pingback: Sunday Postcard - November 2, 2014 - Diaries of a Wandering Lobster

    1. Author

      Yes, it was definitely a splurge item! Seeing the Manhattan skyline at sunset was pretty awesome though and in my opinion worth the expense. And most of the touristy things in NYC are pretty expensive.

  2. Do you remember how much time was between your starting your journey up the elevators and the sun setting? How much time are you allowed? We are going this coming wkd and wanted to buy the tickets in advance. Sunset sets at 6:29pm

    1. Author

      I would give it at least 30 minutes before the sunset starts. It’s best to get there early as you can always wait around at the top. The line does generally move fast once you’re in.

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