Seeing the sun set over the beautiful New York City skyline was the number one thing on my bucket list for my trip to the Big Apple. Not only was I so excited to catch all the buildings during the pink glow of sunset, but I also wanted to see the concrete jungle all lit up at night! The Rockefeller Center (with the observatory deck, the Top of the Rock), was what I finally decided on, and I’m so glad I did this! There are lots of things to consider, so here are a few tips for visiting the Top of the Rock at sunset:
I really think the Top of the Rock gives the best view. There are lots of different observatory views where you can see Manhattan—I’d say the Empire State Building, the Top of the Rock, and the Freedom Tower are the top-end and most popular. While the Empire State Building is taller than the Top of the Rock, I really think that the Top of the Rock is the best since it has the Empire State Building actually in it. A New York City skyline shot wouldn’t be complete without the Empire State Building!
The Top of the Rock is expensive. Tickets for the Top of the Rock start at $32. Prices are comparable for other observatory decks. My advice? Pick just one during your trip to New York City, and get the best view possible. And obviously if you’re reading this post, I think it should be the Top of the Rock!
Buy your ticket in advance. The Top of the Rock is done by timed entry, so they only have a limited number of tickets for each time slot. If you really want to see the sunset, you should buy your ticket in advance, either online or at the Rockefeller Center in the morning. I think I got fairly lucky, in that I showed up just about 5 hours before sunset and was able to get a ticket. But I was also just one person (benefits of traveling solo!), and it was during the week and in October (shoulder season).
Check the sunset time, and buy your ticket for about 20-30 minutes before. As everything is done by timed entry, you’ll have to buy a ticket for a specific time. Sunset during my time in NYC was at 6:30pm, and so I bought my ticket for 6:10pm. I would have liked more time to get a better spot (see below!), but got tons of great pictures both before, during, and after the sunset.
Show up precisely at your ticket time, and be patient going through security. They really don’t like people loitering around, so only show up to the Top of the Rock entrance section at the precise time on your ticket (maybe you could show up 2-3 minutes early, but might still get turned away). You’ll then have to go through security—it’s a strict, airport-like security, so make sure you don’t have anything illegal or dangerous or stupid on you. Then you can get into the elevator, which will take you all the way up to the 67th floor!
There are two more levels once you get off the elevator! Going through security and getting up to the elevator should only take 10-15 minutes tops. Once you’re off the elevator, you’re at the lowest of three levels at the observatory! There are two more levels to climb up—the second level is the best, as there’s a slightly better view, but still enough space to move around. The third level (the top level) may be extremely cramped, and seeing as how it’s a small space, it might not be worth sticking around.
Stake your spot and stay there. There will be a million other people in New York City who will have had the same idea as you (see the sun set from the Top of the Rock). I was surprised at how many people stayed after sunset, and in general at the size of the crowd on the decks. Once you have a good spot facing the city skyline, stay there. Don’t move, and don’t let anyone (no matter how big their camera is) push you around!
Visiting the Top of the Rock was one of the highlights of my trip to New York City! Seeing the city at sunset was simply magical and I already can’t wait until I find myself there again!
Have you ever been to New York City? What was your favorite thing there?!