SUMMIT One Vanderbilt Vs. Empire State Building Comparison

By Stuart Bak

Selecting the best observation platform to visit when in New York is a very tall order indeed (pun intended), with five titanic towers to choose from. These, for the uninitiated, are the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, Edge, SUMMIT One Vanderbilt and the One World Observatory. Each of these has its own unique quirks and views, but perhaps the greatest contrast in experience is to be found between hit-tech newbie SUMMIT and Art Deco OG the Empire State Building. We pitched these two skyscraping icons against one another to find out which one should top your Big Apple bucket list. Dive into our SUMMIT vs Empire State Building comparison to find out...

Empire State Building

Empire State Building at night

Name: This one requires no introduction... the Empire State Building is up there with the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal and Sagrada Familia as one of the planet’s most famous structures.

Age: Construction of the Empire State Building began in March 1930 and was, quite remarkably, completed just 14 months later in April 1931.

Empire State Building in a Nutshell: Surely the most iconic Art Deco edifice on the planet, the Empire State Building was the world’s tallest building for over four decades, until topped by the World Trade Center’s North Tower in 1970. This monolithic Manhattan masterpiece has starred in hundreds of movies and TV shows over the last century, including King Kong (obvs), plus Tom and Jerry, Independence Day, Friends, The Smurfs and, well, the list goes on and on. Its observation platform on the 102nd floor is still one of the highest (and most visited) in the city, nearly a century after that monster gorilla first took the al fresco route to the SUMMIT.

Empire State Building: Vital Statistics 

  • Height: 1,454 feet (443 meters) to the tip of the tower on the roof. The top-floor observation platform is 1,224 feet (373 meters) up.
  • Number of floors: 102.
  • Elevators: 73.

What’s the Empire State Building Experience Like?

Observation platform at the Empire State Building

You’ll get some of the best views of the Chrysler and Flatiron buildings from up here. In fact, arguably the only downside is that the awesome views don’t include... the Empire State Building itself. Console yourself by papping some of the Big Apple’s other landmarks, including Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, the Brooklyn Bridge and the One World Trade Center (to name just a few). The 86th floor is where you’ll likely want to spend the most time, thanks to its open-air platform and unparalleled photo opportunities, but it would be remiss not to go all the way to the top while you’re here. Be aware though that the platform on the 102nd floor is fully enclosed, a bit smaller, and has a tendency to get quite busy.

Fascinating Empire State Building Fact of the Day

The narrow tower that rises a further 200 feet above the Empire State Building’s roof was originally designed as a mooring point for zeppelin airships, once considered the future of international air travel.

Empire State Building Fast Facts

Empire State Building

But how does the Empire State Building compare to SUMMIT One Vanderbilt? Let’s find out...

SUMMIT

Mirrored room at SUMMIT

Name: Officially SUMMIT One Vanderbilt to hammer home that the platform is at the very top of the One Vanderbilt building in Midtown. 

Age: SUMMIT opened in October 2021, making it (at time of writing) the newest observation platform in town. Fittingly, the building that hosts the immersive, space-age SUMMIT experience is a soaring futuristic wedge of steel, glass and terracotta tiles.

SUMMIT in a Nutshell: It’s testament to SUMMIT’s desire to add something new and unique to the observation platform scene that the resulting experience is somewhat tricky to summarize. There are the views of course: great, sweeping panoramas over Manhattan’s iconic skyline and beyond. But what makes SUMMIT really stand out are the dreamlike immersive experiences and cool art installations within; all clouds, mirrors and optical illusions that will – if the PR blurb is to be believed – help you ‘escape the boundaries of perception’.

SUMMIT: Vital Statistics 

  • Height: One Vanderbilt is the fourth tallest building in New York (disclaimer: at time of writing), standing 1,401 feet (427 meters) high. SUMMIT’s observation platforms hover a knee-weakening 1,100 feet (336 meters) above Madison Avenue.
  • Number of floors: 93.
  • Elevators: 42.
  • Visitors: SUMMIT welcomed a whopping 1.4 million visitors in its first year.

What’s the SUMMIT Experience Like?

SUMMIT

This one isn’t just about the views. A standard ticket also includes access to SUMMIT’s trippy journey through mirrored rooms, floating silver orbs and clouds bearing your own face. Transcendence sets the scene with reflective surfaces that repeat the Manhattan skyline, the clouds and, well, you, to infinity. Enter a dreamlike state as you pass through Unity and Affinity before experiencing the ultimate thrill in Levitation, a series of perspex boxes that protrude from the building and seem to float above the city streets, affording heart-stopping views of Madison Avenue 1,063 feet below. You’ll also bag some of the best snaps of the Empire State Building and Lower Manhattan from up here in the clouds. Requiring an additional ticket, Ascent takes thrill seekers higher still aboard (and we can’t stress this terrifying detail enough) glass-bottomed elevators that rise a further 120 feet into the sky.

Fascinating SUMMIT Fact of the Day

Ok, it’s hardly a crowded field, but the great glass elevators that rise 120 feet above the SUMMIT terrace are the largest of their kind in the world.

SUMMIT Fast Facts

  • Opening hours: 9AM-midnight, year round. Last entry is at 10PM.
  • Tickets: there are several booking options available on the SUMMIT website.

Closest transport links: the entrance to SUMMIT is located on the main concourse of Grand Central Terminal.

Silver orbs at SUMMIT

SUMMIT One Vanderbilt vs Empire State Building: Which Should You Visit?

Apart from the fact that these both boast observation platforms some 1,000 feet (and then some) up in the sky. SUMMIT and the Empire State Building are really quite different prospects. Visitors who crave old school New Yoik vibes should definitely plump for the Empire State Building’s selfie-tastic Art Deco lines and angles. Indeed, this century-old stalwart is worth visiting for the bragging rights alone. If, however, you fancy something a little different, it has to be the hypnotic futurism of SUMMIT’s immersive zones and its gravity defying glass platforms that permit fearless visitors to gaze straight down to the street far below.

Save on New York Activities and Attractions

Save on admission to dozens of New York attractions, including the Empire State Building, with The New York Pass. Check out @NewYorkPass on Instagram for the latest top tips and attraction info.

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Cab Etiquette In NYC: All You Need to Know

We’ve all been there. You stayed out a little later than you planned, and you’re a little worse for wear. You need to go to bed, but the city’s unfamiliar to you. The public transport maps might as well be Jackson Pollock paintings. So you do what every single person does in films and TV shows based in New York. You raise your hand, and within seconds a yellow cab’s pulled up beside you. Hopefully you’re on your way in seconds and home safe and sound, but if anything seems off or you need help and advice, read on. Here’s what you need to know about cab etiquette in NYC. Can a cab driver ever refuse me service? Yes, but only if the trip is more than 12 hours long, or if their ‘taxi’ light is off. 12 hour+ journeys are against the law in the US, and only taxis with their lights on are currently working. If you’re staying far out of the city centre, perhaps get in the cab before telling them where you’re going. It might seem sneaky, but once you’re in their cab they are legally obligated to take you to your destination. Crazy, right? My taxi is loud and uncomfortable. What can I do? A lot, thankfully. Riders have rights too, after all. If your driver is on a call or using their phone, they’re being super illegal. Feel free to remind them. If the cab is too hot or cold, depending on the time of year, you can also request they put the air con/heating on. And if their music is too loud, by all means, politely ask them to turn it down or off. Just don’t berate their choice of genre. However, if the driver refuses these, or any reasonable requests, you have the right to get out at any time. And remember to take down their medallion number if you want to make a complaint. It’s on their licence plate, the hood of the taxi, and on your receipt if you request one. What if I’m being loud, and making the driver uncomfortable? Firstly, why...would you... do that? Secondly, while drivers have no legal grounds to ask you to keep it down, have some respect for them. And for yourself. Driving a taxi all day is exhausting, and navigating the hectic streets that never sleep requires concentration. Cab etiquette in NYC, or anywhere works both ways. Be respectful, and you’ll likely earn their respect. And a safer and quicker journey home, too. Should I stare at them creepily through the rear-view mirror? No. No, don’t. Why would you even...? How much should I tip? Tips are big business in New York, as they are in the rest of the US. But sadly you’ll be expected to pay over the odds in the Big Apple. 20% of the fee is the recommended amount. If you’re paying with card instead of cold hard cash, the amount of gratuity will automatically be added to the charge. It could go as high as 30%, so keep that in mind if you’re squeezing pennies. Of course, if you’re an out-of-towner and they’ve been helpful with info or recommendations, why not be a nice little human and show them your gratitude with money? Tipping’s the best way to thank them, but if you want to go above and beyond because they did, hop on the nyc.gov website and leave a glowing review, you selfless beauty. If the driver asks for cash, is it OK to use my card instead? Yes. Every taxi in NYC is required by law to take card, so if your driver says they don’t have a machine or that it’s broken, it’s a ruse. Persist, and victory will be yours. Drivers may also mention they’ve selected ‘Cash’ instead of ‘Card’ and that they can’t reverse the decision. This, too, is a ruse. Stay strong, and wait for the card machine. It’s simply a case of them pressing a single button to make it happen. Also get your receipt - it contains lots of vital information like their medallion number which you’ll need if you lose something in the cab, or want to make a complaint. That’s what you need to know about taxi etiquette in NYC. We hope these tips help. Of course, we’re always open to suggestions, so if you have any other top tips you’d like to add, let us know in the comments below! Stay safe, travelers. Has this cab etiquette in NYC blog satisfied your itch for all things New York? No? Still prefer public transportation? Sure thing, here's more about the metro system in NYC.
Dom Bewley
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Best Things To Do In NYC In Summer 2019

The sun is out, and the only snow you'll see will be dolloped on cones. Yes, summer is finally, finally upon us — time to hang up your windbreakers, hip shakers. If you're looking for something wild to do this weekend, or taking a vacation to the Big Apple, we've got some suggestions that should keep you more than occupied. Here are some of the best things to do in NYC this summer. Starting with... Central Park Bike Tour There's never a better time to take a ride around NYC's most famous park than in summertime. Bring your own bike or rent one onsite, and take a tour around the park's most famous landmarks like the Cherry Hill Fountain, and Strawberry Fields. Ride with a guide for a more educational experience, or go your own way. Whichever you choose, you're bound to have a blast. Gay Pride Celebrate diversity and equality by attending Gay Pride. While events are happening all throughout June, the climax is the NYC Pride March on Sunday, June 30. This year is special as it marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a huge turning point for queer rights, so you can be sure it'll be unmissable. Expect performances from LGBTQ icons like Madonna, a huge parade, and plenty to eat and drink. Bryant Park Movie Nights Make the most of the sunshine, grab a few friends, and find the perfect spot in Bryant Park to watch some classic movies. Bryant Park Movie Nights is back, and if you've ever been before you know what to expect. If you've not, don't miss out. There's lots to eat and drink, and you'll have the chance to watch award winners like Goodfellas, as well as cult comedies like Anchorman and Coming To America. Macy's Independence Day Fireworks What better way to get lit this Fourth of July than attending one of the greatest fireworks displays in the country? Macy's annual bang bonanza returns to the Brooklyn Bridge this year. Nothing screams freedom like 75,000 fireworks being set off over the course of a half hour. And while you're there, make the most of your 11% discount at Macy's Herald Square. Coney Island Why not add a little sand and sea to your summer by heading over to Coney Island? Over two and a half miles of beach are at your disposal, so you should definitely find a spot for you and some friends to lay some towels and relax. Go for a swim, or simply soak up some rays under the sun. It's a convenient alternative to an expensive beach holiday, and it's only a train ride away. And if you want to make an evening of it, Brooklyn boardwalk's got restaurants and bars to keep you busy, and then of course there's Luna Park if you fancy some exhilarating rides. Definitely one of the best things to do in NYC this summer! Shakespeare In The Park If you fancy getting a bit of culture, stop by the Delacorte Theater in Central Park for a show. It's open-air, so it's the perfect place to watch some of the world's most famous plays, courtesy of the world's most famous playwright. And you might even catch performances by some of the world's most talented stars! Acting juggernauts like Al Pacino, Denzel Washington, and Meryl Streep have all graced the stage in the past. Summer Streets NYC If you've had a little too much to eat and drink this summer, and you're feeling a little soft around the edges, try your hand at lots of free activities at this year's Summer Streets event. Get your blood pumping with a spot of rock climbing, or ride the huge, breathtaking zipline. You'll also find walking tours, pop-up shops, and plenty more to do once you've burnt off some of those calories. And best of all, seven miles of the city are car-free, so you don't need to worry about breathing in fumes or back-flipping into traffic. US Open Sorry golf fans, this is the other US Open. But in that case, tennis fans - rejoice! The greatest stars in the ball-hitting world will be congregating at Corona Park this August for the US Open. Nets will be skimmed, grunts will echo, and eyes will dart back and forward. As usual, expect plenty of choices when it comes to food and drinks, and music performances too. Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise Get a different view of the city's beautiful skyline while making the most of the dwindling summer months by taking a Downtown Sightseeing Cruise. You'll glimpse all of NYC's most iconic landmarks like the Statue of Liberty, and during the hour-long cruise, your tour guide will keep you entertained and educated. 29Rooms Ever wanted to enter the mind of your favorite celebrities and artists? You won't want to miss 29Rooms. As you will gather from the name, 29Rooms is a collection of 29 interactive exhibits designed by celebrities, creatives, and brands for you to get lost in. This year, the theme is 'human connection', so expect politically charged and thought-provoking experiences. Taste Of New York at Brooklyn Brewery If you're out and about, why not stop by the Brooklyn Brewery for a beer to quench your thirst? Brooklyn is world-renowned as the birthplace of the craft beer revolution. And where better to take shelter from the beating sun, and enjoy a nice, refreshing beer than in the establishment that started it all? And if you want, stay for a few more? No judgments here! Diner En Blanc Fancy a colossal picnic where everyone's wearing white? Strangely, we actually have you covered. Diner En Blanc is a little elusive. It takes place in different areas every year, but if you find it, you'll be treated to great food, refreshing drinks, and a night under the stars. A great way to end the summer with a bang. These are just some of the best things to do in NYC this summer!
Dom Bewley

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