New York is the most photographed skyline in the world, with more famous landmarks known worldwide than any other city. From the Empire State Building to One World Observatory, Rockefeller Center to the Chrysler Building and the ubiquitous aerial image of the island of Manhattan with the picturesque Central Park gracing its centre. New York is a feast for the eyes from any level and any vantage point.
There are however several must visit places to go to get some of the most iconic and unforgettable views of the city that never sleeps.
The Empire State Building
No trip to New York is complete without a visit to the Empire State Building observatory 86 stories above Midtown Manhattan. At one time it was the tallest building in the world and remained the tallest building in the world until the construction of the World Trade Center in 1973. It once again became New York’s tallest building following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, only to be replaced again by the new One World Trade Center in 2014.
The Empire State Building offers 2 observation decks. The first is on the 86th floor and is an outdoor observation deck offering unobstructed 360 degree views of Manhattan and the outer New York boroughs. On a clear day you can see for over 300km.
The second observation deck of the Empire State Building is located on the 102nd floor and is an enclosed viewing platform and is dramatically smaller than its 86th floor sister. When taking the elevator up to the 102nd floor you step back in time to the original elevator for the brief ride. Once you step out into the viewing area you will find yourself in a much smaller observation deck, what you lose in space and size you make up for in amazing views. The 102nd floor is also a big winner during the winter time as you are not belted by the icy winds racing off the Atlantic Ocean and is a much more enjoyable viewing experience.
Not everyone is aware but there is actually an 103rd floor observation deck of the Empire State Building, however this is only accessible for selected (usually celebrity) guests and VIPs and used for promotional opportunities.
One World Observatory
Once again the World Trade Center is the pinnacle of the New York skyline. Reopening in 2014 One World Trade Center is located next to the footprints of the former world trade towers. One World Observatory sits atop this magnificent structure providing some of the most majestic views of Manhattan possible.
Located over two floors the One World Observatory is the cutting edge in terms of what a modern observatory experience should be. It begins on the ground floor with a dedicated entrance just off the corner of West and Vesey Street and easy access via its Priority tickets express lane. The elevator ride to the top is something to behold.
Once you have reached the pinnacle of the tower you will be greeted with amazing panoramic views of the city with floor to ceiling glass ensuring optimal viewing conditions. One World Observatory also includes a small snack bar and a full service restaurant.
One World Observatory also offers visitors the option to upgrade to its One World Explorer package which includes an iPad specifically designed to enhance your experience as it moves with you around the observatory and allows you to zoom into what you are looking at and gain additional information and perform flyovers across some of New York’s most iconic landmarks.
Top of the Rock
Sitting atop the famous Rockefeller Center, home to the Rockefeller ice skating rink, NBC’s Today Show and the NBC Experience Store, Radio City Music Hall and the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Top of the Rock offers some of the best views of Central Park and Midtown Manhattan you’ll find in New York. Similar to the Empire State Building the Top of the Rock includes a small museum for waiting visitors to enjoy and also a collection of 3 short films about Rockefeller Center and its famous tenants.
Once you have arrived at the top you are greeted with amazing panoramic views stretching from Central Park to the North to Lower Manhattan to the South. The only disappointing aspect of the experience is that most of the views are from behind large panes of glass which act as security for visitors from leaning over or dropping anything from the great height. There are small sections in between the large sections of glass to allow for unobstructed views and photographs however these are highly sought after so you may need to wait til you can enjoy the views.
Staten Island Ferry
By far and away the best views of lower Manhattan can be seen from the city’s cheapest vantage point. The Staten Island Ferry is a free commuter ferry which operates 24hours a day between Staten Island and the Staten Island Ferry Terminal at the southern most tip of Manhattan.
Ferries run every 15 minutes during the morning and evening peaks and every 30 minutes during other times of the day. The trip takes approx. 25 minutes each way. For the best views of the Manhattan skyline be sure to remain at the rear of the vessel after its departs and you will see the skyline in all its glory. Likewise on the return journey make your way to the front of the vessel on the lower passenger deck for the best views. The Staten Island Ferry also provides some of the best views of the Statue of Liberty, the best views can be seen from the upper deck on the right hand side of the vessel as you join from the Manhattan terminal.
Ellis Island is where the most early immigrants to New York and America can trace their ancestral roots as it operated as America’s largest immigration facility from 1892 to 1954. Today it is one of the cities most popular museums chronicling the journey many first Americans made on their way to make a better life for themselves.
The views that can be found from the northern most tip of Ellis Island offer visitors some amazing views of Lower Manhattan, with unobstructed views stretching from the Upper West Side all the way down to the southern most tip of Manhattan and looking across New York Harbor to Governor’s Island.
As someone who has crossed the Brooklyn Bridge in all weather conditions I can a test that no matter what the weather, sun, rain, sleet or snow there is something magical seeing the New York skyline from a unique perspective through the bridge cables and looking across the skyline to see that new World Trade Center rising above the towers of Lower Manhattan.
Walking Brooklyn Bridge provides visitors with a sense of just how grand Manhattan is with views sweeping from Lower Manhattan all the way to the United Nations and beyond.
Whether you are looking to the North, South, East or West from any spot in Central Park you will get a uniquely New York perspective of the amazing office buildings, apartment buildings and architecturally designed public spaces.
Some of the most amazing views can be found in the lower (southern) section of the park. One of the most popular spots is adjacent to the Trump ice-skating rink. This spot allows for magnificent views of the northern most tip of Midtown Manhattan including the famous Essex hotel, Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle and one of the most requested wedding photo is from New York brides wanting to be photographed standing next to The Pond with the Plaza Hotel in the background.
Equally impressive views can be found overlooking the Upper East and Upper West Sides of Manhattan from further north of the park. Strawberry Fields offers some great views of the Upper West Side and in particular the early architecture of the area including the famed Dakota Building where John Lennon was fatally shot.
No matter where you go in New York the view is constantly changing with new buildings piercing the skyline and old buildings being redeveloped into modern masterpieces. From street level or high above New York has some of the most breathtaking views available to tourists of any city.