Few buildings are as quintessentially New York than the Empire State Building. But the thing is, you can probably skip it. It’s likely you actually want to get the building’s iconic Art Deco silhouette in your shot of the city skyline — and that’s not really possible when you’re standing on top of it.
So unless you’re desperate to reenact your favorite scenes from Sleepless in Seattle or An Affair to Remember, you’re better off saving your money. Here are seven other places you should go instead.
Top of the Rock
The three-level observation deck on the 67th, 69th and 70th floors of 30 Rockefeller Plaza doesn’t just provide you with a sweeping view of Manhattan (including the Empire State Building). From the deck’s northern outlook, you’ll also get a great shot of the 2.5 miles of Central Park stretching up toward Harlem.
While the tickets for Top of the Rock are timed for entry, there’s no limit to how long you can spend up there, so head up early if you want to snag a good vantage point for sunset. (You can also get great views from the balcony at Bar SixtyFive on the building’s 65th floor, but will need a minimum $65 spend.)
One of the Lower East Side’s newest residents, this ultra-zen hotel has a lot going for it – not least of which is the sweeping view of Lower Manhattan from its super-chilled 11th-floor rooftop bar, Last Light. Open from 3 pm until 2 am daily, this particular aerial watering-hole is a lot more laid-back than other hotel rooftop bars in the Bowery neighborhood.
One World Trade Observatory
There was a time when the Empire State Building was the tallest structure in New York City, but now that it’s been bumped down to number three on the list, save your money for a visit to the reigning champ. On a clear day, the One World Trade Observatory offers views of all five of the city’s boroughs and some neighboring states. It’s also worth it for the time-lapse journey of the NYC skyline’s evolution that you’ll be treated to in the SkyPod elevators on the way up.
The William Vale
For an all-encompassing view of Manhattan’s eastern flank (which is pretty spectacular come sunset), reserve a balcony table at The William Vale hotel’s rooftop bar, Westlight, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The street-food inspired fare will make it all the more enjoyable.
One of the closest glimpses you can get of the Empire State Building is from A.R.T., the rooftop bar at the Arlo NoMad hotel on E 31st St (the Empire State is between E 33rd and E34th). Not only can you enjoy a cocktail while you angle your perfect Instagram shot, but you can also test your nerves on the bar’s skywalk – a transparent glass floor that looks directly down onto the street 31 floors below.
FDR Four Freedoms Park
This Louis Kahn–designed park on Roosevelt Island is something of an architectural feat in itself. And while you can’t quite see the Empire State Building from here, it does offer an excellent view of the United Nations Building and other skyscrapers lining the banks of the East River. Aside from being a really nice picnic spot with stellar views, it’s also a coveted perch for viewing the Fourth of July fireworks and Manhattanhenge.
Seaplane to the Hamptons
This one’s a little splurge – OK, a big splurge – but if you’re Hamptons-bound anyway and can’t bear to squeeze in with everyone in the Jitney or inch along the Long Island Expressway among the other traffic, it might be well worth it. Why? Because as you come into land on the East River, (and you’re sitting on the right side of the plane), you’re privy to a stunning close-up view of the Manhattan skyline that you can’t get anywhere else.