I realise that the title of this post may inadvertently attract a slightly different type of reader. So before we go any further, I’ll just clarify: this is not a handy guide to recreational pharmaceuticals on offer in The Big Apple. It is, however, my take on getting the best views of one of my favourite cities in the world.
New York pulses with supercharged energy. It’s bold and brash and really, really BIG! To truly appreciate the scale of the city, you’ve got to get up close and personal with the Giants of Manhattan.
The Statue of Liberty
Measuring 93 metres (305 feet) from the ground to the top of her torch, and weighing in at over 200 metric tonnes, ‘Liberty Enlightening The World’ (Lady Liberty to her friends) stands proudly on Liberty Island in New York’s harbour and is the city’s iconic landmark. France gifted the statue to the United States in 1886, as a celebration of both the union’s victory in the American Revolution, and the abolition of slavery.
A limited number of visitors each day get to climb the 354 steps to the statue’s crown, where the observation deck offers spectacular views of Manhattan.
- You can only gain access to the crown if you’ve bought Crown tickets in advance (online or by telephone) through Statue Cruises. Tickets include the ferry service and access to both Liberty Island and Ellis Island, with an audio tour of both.
- Crown access tickets sell out extremely quickly, so it’s essential to book them well in advance – preferably as soon as they go on sale (approx 3 months before the visit date). I checked the Statue Cruises website obsessively every day around the time I was expecting tickets to come on sale, then pounced as soon as they did!
- For more information about visiting the crown, head over to here.
The Empire State Building
At the time of its completion in 1931, the 102-storey Empire State Building was the world’s tallest building, looming 381 metres (1250 feet) over the streets of Midtown Manhattan. Add on the antenna spire, and this Art Deco colossus stands 443 metres (1454 feet) tall. The 360° views from the 86th floor observatory are breathtaking, and visibility from the 102nd floor deck on a clear day is up to 130 km (80 miles).
By timing your visit to coincide with the sun setting, you’ll see the city’s transition from day to night. A spectacular sight! Obviously, twilight is a very popular time of the day to visit and the queues for security screening and the elevators could be hours’ long! It’s pricey but definitely worth paying for the VIP Express Pass, which allows you to skip the lines all the way to the top… it took us less than 10 minutes from the time we handed those precious tickets over to the liveried doorman to the time we stepped out onto the 102nd floor deck.
Further information on visiting the Empire State Building can be found over here.
Top of the Rock
Top of the Rock, the six-level observation deck atop the skyscraper, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, was first opened to the public in 1933. The upper decks are 259 metres (850 feet) above street level, offering fantastic views over Central Park by day and the city lights by night.
- The timed ticket system of Top of the Rock eliminates waiting in line and means you can plan to visit at a time that suits you best. See here for further details.
- A lot of people prefer the Top of the Rock over the Empire State building. They reckon it’s less crowded and that the view is less obscured, with a great view of the Empire State itself. Personally, I preferred the Empire State Building – it seemed so much more of a special occasion experience, but possibly that was the VIP Ticket :-).