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Top of the Rock
You can’t visit New York without going up one at least of its skyscrapers, and to my mind this, the tallest of the Rockefeller Center’s many buildings, is the best of them. The Empire State Building may be higher, and perhaps more famous, but there are two disadvantages to ascending that rather than 30 Rockefeller Plaza (to give this its proper name). Firstly, when you’re on the Empire State Building you can’t see the Empire State Building! Secondly, the queues for that are notoriously long, even if you’ve booked in advance, whereas when we visited the Top of the Rock (admittedly arriving as it opened at 8.00 AM) we walked straight up to the counter to pay, and then into the first lift. This takes you to a mezzanine level with an exhibition about the history of the building. As part of this you’ll be invited to sit on a steel beam with a photo behind of the New York skyline. This is a bit of a “tourist trap” moment, as later you’ll be offered the opportunity to buy the photo, which now looks as if you recreated the famous image of builders perched on such a beam high above the city. But we gave that a miss, and headed straight into a second lift that whisked us up to the top.
Talking of the lift, the ride up is part of the experience, with lights and images projected onto its ceiling. This is your first glimpse of the stylish makeover that the Top of the Rock has recently undergone. The upper floors reflect the same style, with ultra-modern features (including a fascinating light installation) that somehow complement very well the Art Deco style of the building itself.
There are various ticket options here. We chose the Sunrise and Sunset ticket, which allows you to make two visits on the same or consecutive days. Why would you want to do that? Well, check out my day and night photos (the latter are in my Nightlife tip) and I think you’ll agree it is worth it! Our first visit, quite early on a sunny day, gave us pretty clear views of Manhattan, though inevitably there was some haze from pollution, and the low sun probably added to that, while also making the photos more atmospheric. On this first visit we stayed about an hour and a half, with the sun gradually getting warmer and the roof top busier, though never too crowded. Part of the lowest terrace was shut for a fashion shoot but as there are three altogether it didn’t inhibit our enjoyment (and in fact added to Chris’s, I rather suspect LOL). Of the three terraces, the 67th and 69th floors are partly indoor, but include outdoor terraces with transparent safety glass. The 70th floor, the uppermost level, provides a completely open air, unobstructed 360-degree view. Not the best place for those nervous of heights, and a bit windy, but great for photos.
Later the same day (about 6.00 PM) we returned for our second visit, which I’ve described under Nightlife, as in my opinion it’s one of the best possible ways to appreciate this city after dark.
Top of the Rock is open from 8.00 AM to midnight, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The first lift is at 8.00 AM and the last at 11.00 PM (though times vary on holidays). There’s no time limit as to how long you can stay on the observation decks.
It’s open year round, regardless of weather, though the open-air parts of the roof may be closed.
There are no restaurant facilities at the top. This is a deliberate decision by the management intended to help keep the observation decks clean and litter free (you’re not allowed to bring your own food and drink either) but we would have welcomed a chance for a cup of coffee at least after our early start that morning.
You can buy a leaflet for $2 which points out all the buildings and other sights you can see from the top – and some you can’t see, like London!
Visiting in September 2008 we paid $30 each for our double visit ticket (a single visit would have cost $20). There are of course various concessions, and also a number of combination tickets (e.g. Top of the Rock and a Circle Line tour, or Top of the Rock and MOMA (the Museum of Modern Art).
Top of the Rock
One of the things I like doing when I visit a new city is take pictures and look at places from above. For me to do this in NYC, I chose Top of the Rock because:
1) you can include the Empire State Building in your pictures
2) there was barely a line of people to buy tickets (like 3 or 4 people in front of me)
3) it was close to my hostel (hehe).
Top of the Rock isn't as high as the Empire State but it offers great views of the city that never sleeps from the 70-story observation decks. You can buy a booklet, for 2 US (Jan 2010), including all the landmarks that you can see from here.
After buying the ticket, there's 3 short films that you can see while waiting to take the elevator (if there's a line, if not you can skip this). You'll then take the elevator to the first stop at the 6tth floor, that has an indoor observation deck and the Swarowski store. The top panel of the elevator is glass and as you go up, there's a small light show that reminded me of being teletransported or taken out of Stargate.
There's 2 outdoor observation decks on the 69th and 70th floor.
As of Jan 2010, a ticket for an adult cost 21 US. One good thing about the tickets for TotR is that they're timed, so you choose a date and time slot that suits you if you buy your ticket online.
- Family Travel
Art Deco delight
Many people visit the Rockefeller Center in order to experience the view from the “Top of the Rock” (covered in a separate tip), but while this is stupendous, it’s by no means the only reason to come here. Indeed, the building you ascend for that view, known as the GE Building or 30 Rock (its postal address is no. 30 Rockefeller Plaza), is only one of several in the complex that is the Rockefeller Center. And many people come here not to go up, but down – beneath ground level are several floors of shops, ranging from smart clothes shops to newsstands, gift shops to book stores. There are also (apparently) over 40 places to eat in the complex, from Burger King and Starbucks to smart brasseries and the famous Rainbow Room.
Another star attraction is the famous Radio City Music Hall, and a guided tour of the complex will take you inside this venerable institution. Having done a tour on our previous visit to New York however, we didn’t bother on this occasion, but if you haven’t been before I do recommend it.
Instead, we enjoyed spending some time walking around the Rockefeller Plaza and the immediate surroundings, taking lots of photographs. If like me you’re a fan of the Art Deco style, you’ll love all the detailing on the buildings – ornamented doors, elaborate signs and numbers, and lots of art work from the period. The sculpture of Wisdom by Lee Lawrie, in photo 2, adorns the main entrance of no. 30 Rockefeller Plaza (the tall skyscraper at the heart of the complex), and the door in my 4th photo is of no. 620 Fifth Avenue, and depicts various trades and industries. At the heart of the complex is the sunken area which in winter is flooded and frozen to be used as a skating rink. For the rest of the year it’s a stylish outdoor café, still closed when we visited quite early on a Sunday morning. Dominating this space is a striking golden sculpture of the Greek Titan Prometheus, bringing fire to mankind, as seen in my main photo. The inscription on the wall behind the statue reads: "Prometheus, teacher in every art, brought the fire that hath proved to mortals a means to mighty ends."
Between this area and Fifth Avenue is a small terraced garden, the Channel Gardens, which was bright with cheerful marigolds on our visit (photo 5). This is a lovely space in which to pause for a rest if you’re exploring Fifth Avenue and feel the need to sit for a while. This to me, as much as Times Square or Central Park, feels like the real heart of New York.
Sculpture of Atlas
While at the Rockefeller Center do take a minute to walk the short distance up Fifth Avenue to its northernmost edge, opposite St Patrick’s Cathedral, where you’ll find this striking sculpture of Atlas, the Greek Titan who was believed to carry the heavens upon his shoulders as a punishment for defying Zeus. I love this sculpture! It looks great from every angle and makes a wonderful subject for photographs.
The sculptor of this piece was Lee Lawrie, who was responsible for eleven other pieces of art at the Rockefeller Center, including the friezes on no. 30 (see my tip on the Center for a photo of one of these, Wisdom). It was cast in 1936 as a companion piece to the gilded statue of Prometheus, another Titan, who watches over the Rockefeller Center’s ice-rink.
Have a close look at the globe he supports across his shoulders – there is a lot of astronomical detail to be seen. The north-south axis points to the North Star as viewed from New York City and fixed to one of the sphere's rings are symbols for the twelve constellations of the Zodiac through which the Sun passes during the year. Laid across his shoulders too is a wide, curved beam with a frieze which depicts the traditional symbols for Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Adjacent to Earth on this frieze (over his right forearm) is a small crescent symbolising the Moon.
- Arts and Culture
The ice skating rink at Rockefeller Centre
As part of our "lets do everything in the evening as it will look more impressive" we also had to live up to the fact that it was going to be freezing! But we went well equipped with our long johns on...dont tell anyone...and enjoyed it all. The thing with this particular area in NY is that its virtually impossible to get lost, because everyone is going the same way..everyone wants to see the same things...so please dont get worried if you dont know which street you're on..just follow the person in front of you...of course, this doesnt apply if they look like a crazy axe murderer!
We had walked down from 96th Street where we were staying to 72nd Street and then caught the subway to Times Square on 42nd Street. Just around the corner, literally, on 47th Street is the Rockefeller Centre. Now Im sorry if I describe everything I see as "it was just like it is in the movies!", but it really was!!!! Places like New York are the kind of places that you feel like you've been to before you actually have! And thats why it is fun...to see places in real life! There was the ice skating rink where you had to pay a whopping $10 or more I think to go on it, and even if you brought your own skates you still had to pay a lot..Im guessing the locals dont come here! And there was a HUGE Christmas Tree all decked out and looking so pretty. So I had my obligatory photo taken here and then we moved on to our next stop...Bryant park.
I took photos of the ice rink on my non-digital camera so have yet to print those..so please come by another time and they'll be up!
Rockefeller Center at first appears to be a mere shopping area nestled into the heart of Manhattan but the man its named after is perhaps the most famous man of the United States' most intriguing period. Though originally envisioned by none other than John D. Rockefeller himself as the site of an Opera House for the Metropolitan Opera, the Great Depression that ensued after the stock market crash of 1929 caused him to change his plans. By keeping the breadth of the endeavor great but changing it course to a more commercial one, he single-handedly financed the biggest private building project of the modern era and thus entrenched himself in the American psyche forever. When times were at their roughest, J.D. Rockefeller gave the people of the US something to hang onto. This is most eloquently captured in the famed photos of US steelworkers sitting on beams hundreds of feet above New York City when they might otherwise been out of work. Their smiles and high perch a symbol of American optimism and determination against all odds.
Rockefeller Center always has it charms but the only visit that really matters is one at Christmas when the the whole area takes on a Miracle on 34th Street surrealism. After living in the area for many years, I finally got to experience this magical time. It's well worth braving the cold and crowds.
- Budget Travel
- Road Trip
At the 69th floor, there's a room that provides a light show called the Breezeway and it uses motion detectors to follow you wherever you go inside that room. You get a randomly selected color that can be blue, red or green. Sometimes you'd get one color, sometimes 2 or all 3, and the shapes go between a cross, a column or row or a whole wall.
Here's a short video of VT'er VZ-Pam and I "dancing" in the Breezeway (on VT pcg821's NYC page).
- Family Travel
The Rockefeller Center is sometimes called a 'city within the city'.
Its beautiful Art Deco Buildings are connected to each other via an underground concourse called the Catacombs - there are shops down there, but I didn't feel the pull to browse, as it is kind of dark and sterile down there, and there is much more happening above ground!
There is a sunken plaza with cafes, plus a really pretty promenade with a fountain and, when we were there, loads of tulips.
The Rockefeller Center is famous as the home of NBC Studios and also for the huge Christmas trees they have here each year.
We really enjoyed sitting in the sun here and doing some people watching.
- Budget Travel
- Historical Travel
The Heart of New York
Rockefeller Center, an official landmark since 1985, is a 3-block square complex of business, retail, entertainment and dining in midtown Manhattan - 19 buildings in all between 48th-50th St and 5th-7th Ave. The site was once a botanic garden owned by Columbia University, and was leased in 1928 by John D. Rockefeller. What's really impressive about this masterful use of public space is that it was built during the Great Depression, and the beautifully decorated art deco complex, designed by a team of top architects headed by Raymond Hood, remains one of midtown's focal points to this day.
In the middle is the sunken Rockefeller Plaza, probably most associated with Christmas, from its famous tree to the ice skating rink, and the stores in the Center itself and on 5th Avenue.
The NBC television network's studio at the southwest corner draws a weekday-morning crowd. In the northwest corner is Radio City Music Hall (see tip below), and across 5th Ave are Saint Patrick Cathedral (the largest catholic cathedral in the USA) and the department store Saks 5th Avenue.
- Luxury Travel
Top Of The Rock
One hundred times the experience of the unbelievably disappointing Empire State Building.
Firstly a PROPER pre-bookable online ticket system that actually works and isnt just an excuse to get money off you earlier. It enables you to choose precisely the time and date of your visit, so hopefully no queuing when you arrive. Couldnt really put this to the test though as we went at 8.45am on a Sunday and there was a sum total of about six other visitors.
Well thought out museum / information station at the entrance detailing the history and construction that went into The Rockefeller Center, including a virtual reality simulation of what working at the top of a skyscraper looks like, and the obligatory 5min film show (that mostly repeats what youve just seen / read).
The automatic elevator up has a glass roof and the 70 storey shaft has been lined with neon tubes for a Buck Rogers experience.
Once at the top, the 8ft reinforced glass sheets that stop you falling off the edge give a near perfect 360 degree view of Manhattan. So, unlike the ESB, you dont have to squeeze your camera through railings to get a good shot.
With views of Central Park (and obviously The ESB itself) there really is no contest between Top Of The Rock and The Empire State Building - unfortunately the ESB can rely solely on its celebrity status, rather than the experience, to pull in the crowds...
- Family Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Rockefeller Center Plaza
Ok, I was so jazzed about being able to finally see the famed Rockefeller Plaza. Wow, it is beautiful and what a gem among the concrete jungle. I wished I had more time to take better pictures of it, but I was on a whirl-wind tour group headed by sister the little hurricane who lead the way.....lol! You can do a self tour and you can pick these pamplets up at the front desk in the GE Building. The security and information personel were so friendly and just awesome. Me and my sister had fun chatting up a storm with them!
Rockefeller Center Tour Hours:
Mon - Sat: 10:00am - 5:00pm (depart every 60 minutes)
Sunday: 10:00am - 4:00pm (depart every 60 minutes)
TOURS DEPART EVERY HOUR FROM THE NBC EXPERIENCE STORE inside the GE Building!
RESERVATIONS ARE RECOMMENDED
Call (212) 664-7174
The center began in 1926 and was one of the most significate undertaking to intregrate art, architecture, and landscaping in the middle of a urban city to serve the needs of busy office workers.
The plaza is the very heart of the center. It is is converted into a ice skating rink during the winter months and it is where the annual Christmas tree lighting is a holiday attraction. Any other time it serves as a stunning outdoor restaurant with a full view of the Greek mythological statue "Prometheus - stealing fire from the gods as a gift to man", forged in bronze and covered in gold leaf.
- Arts and Culture
Something New and Special in Rockefeller Center
Something brand new & special for your New York holiday. Top of The Rock is the newly renovated observation deck in Rockefeller Center, 70 stories above the city. You don't have to look over a fence or wall to see the city. Instead, how about a 360 degree, panoramic view of New York through fully transparent safety glass. A totally unobstructed view too. See the Empire State Building to the south, Central Park to the north, and everything else that makes New York so special. Hey, if you see me, wave - I promise I'll wave back :-)
Top of The Rock is open 365 days a year, 8:30am to midnight. It's been 20 years since we've been able to see the city from the top of Rockefeller Center. This is brand new, and you know it's got to be special.
- Family Travel
Skating in the City
NY during the holidays is a wonderful time. I particularly enjoy skating on the ice at Rockefeller Center. The people you meet here are always pleasant and this is one way of staying warm outdoors. The Christmas tree adds a nice festive touch also. If you dont skate, come down and enjoy the wonderful art deco architecture and the surrounding shops.
- Adventure Travel
Home to a city of office workers this place and worth a visit to see the architecture alone, there is an ice skating rink set up here from October time and it is also home to the massive Christmas Tree during the festive period.
Radio City Music Hall is part of the complex.
And there are some dam fine public toilets in the ground floor of the shopping mall, handy to know.
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
Rising to a height of 259 metres, the GE Building, as it is officially known, is one of the highest skyscrapers in Manhattan. It was completed in 1933 as part of a complex of buildings known as the Rockefeller Center covering a central location in Midtown Manhattan. The Art Déco building was designed by Raymond Hood, but other architects and artists contributed to the structure. It was originally named the RCA Building, after the Radio Corporation of American (RCA), a subsidiary of General Electric (GE), which was the building's main occupant. When GE re-acquired RCA in the 1980s, the building's name was officially changed to the GE Building. In New York, it is more commonly referred to as "30 Rock" because of its address: "30 Rockefeller Plaza". The building is also famous for having the headquarters of NBC Studios (a major TV channel also owned by GE), as well as for hosting the annual Christmas Tree. In the winter half of the year, an ice skating rink opens just outside the building.
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