Top of the Rock vs SUMMIT One Comparison

By Stuart Bak

Ever since King Kong first swatted planes like flies from atop the Empire State Building, the Big Apple has been obsessed with creating towers that reach ever further heavenwards. As a result, nearly a century after that iconic movie first astonished audiences, the Manhattan skyline is liberally dotted with skyscrapers of 1,000 feet or higher (though the Empire State Building remains resolutely within the top 10, fact fans). All of which means New York isn’t short of an observation platform or six, all vying for your dollar with their superspeed elevators, interactive displays and dizzying 360-degree views across the city and beyond. Our Top of the Rock vs SUMMIT One Vanderbilt comparison takes a look at two of the best...

Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock

Name: Monikers don’t come much more literal than Top of the Rock. You’ll find this stunning observatory on floors 67-70 of The Rockefeller Center. In other words at the, um, top of the Rock.

Age: Considered one of the most impressive projects of the Great Depression era, The Rockefeller Center was built and opened in the 1930s. Top of the Rock opened at the top of 30 Rockefeller Plaza way back in 1933.

What is Top of the Rock? One of the oldest observation platforms in town (second only to the Empire State Building, which beat it by a mere two years), Top of the Rock boasts 360-degree views of the Big Apple and beyond from the 67th, 69th and 70th floors of 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

Top of the Rock: Vital Statistics 

  • Height: 850 feet (260 meters).
  • Number of floors: Rockefeller Plaza has 70, the Top of the Rock experience is on floors 67, 69 and 70.
  • Elevators: 60. Top of the Rock’s Sky Shuttle elevator takes less than a minute from bottom to top.
  • Visitors: around 2.5 million every year.

What’s the Top of the Rock Experience Like?

Viewfinder at Top of the Rock

The Rockefeller Center – aka 30 Rock – is a glorious, skyscraping work of art in its own right. Feast your eyes on this piece of iconic Art Deco eye candy before heading inside for more Instagram-feed-filling snaps of the Joie Chandelier, a sparkling confection that soars three stories through the Grand Atrium lobby and contains no less than 14,000 crystals. Suitably bedazzled, it’s time to step aboard the Sky Shuttle to speed skywards for the main event. And what an event! We’re talking 360-degree views across the entire city to Long Island, New Jersey and even – on clear days – as far as Connecticut. This is also where you can find some of the finest Empire State Building views in town, as well as spotting Central Park, the Chrysler Building, Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, the Yankee Stadium and more. There are indoor and outdoor spaces, with some of the very best views to be had from the 70th floor’s panoramic outdoor terrace. Drink it in at your leisure; there’s no time limit on your visit.

Fascinating Top of the Rock Fact of the Day

The architectural design of Top of the Rock is intended to mirror that of a grand 1930s ocean liner. Try not to get seasick!

Top of the Rock Fast Facts

Top of the Rock
  • Opening hours: 9AM-11PM daily, year round. Last entry is at 10.10PM.
  • Tickets: general admission to Top of the Rock is included with a New York Pass, which also gives you access to over 100 more NYC attractions. Alternatively, you’ll find various ticket options at the Top of The Rock website.
  • Closest transport links: multiple subway services call at 47th-50th Streets-Rockefeller Center station. There’s also discounted parking available at Rockefeller Center SP+ garage at 25 West 48th Street.

But how does Top of the Rock compare to SUMMIT? Let’s find out...

SUMMIT

SUMMIT

Name: SUMMIT One Vanderbilt. Or just plain old SUMMIT to its friends.

Age: A relative newcomer to the NYC skyscraper scene, this humongous wedge of glass, steel and concrete opened to the public in September 2020, with SUMMIT following in October 2021.

What is SUMMIT? Well, if the marketing blurb is to be taken at face value, it’s three levels of immersive space that will, amongst other things, ‘reset your senses’, help you ‘escape the boundaries of perception’ and see you ‘break through to a new realm’. In short: it’s a thrilling immersive experience in the sky; a futuristic take on more traditional observation platforms like Top of the Rock, the Empire State Building and the One World Observatory.

SUMMIT: Vital Statistics 

  • Height: The One Vanderbilt building is 1,401 feet (427 meters) tall and its SUMMIT observation platforms are a dizzying 1,100 feet (336 meters) above Madison Avenue.
  • Number of floors: 93.
  • Elevators: 42.
  • Visitors: SUMMIT welcomed 1.4 million visitors in its first year (up to October 2022).

What’s the SUMMIT Experience Like?

Mirrored room at SUMMIT

Where to begin? The standard ticket includes several extraordinary experiences. There’s a trippy art installation in four different ‘chapters’ by Kenzo Digital, in which mirrored walls and ceilings reflect you, the sky, the clouds, the city skyline and everything else to infinity. Interact with floating silver balls and see your own face take shape in the clouds. Meanwhile, Levitation sees brave souls step out into glass boxes that hover a knee-trembling 1,100 feet above Madison Avenue. Yikes. Steady your nerves with a drink at Après, where the wraparound outdoor terrace affords views stretching for up to 80 miles, before deciding whether to opt for the ultimate add-on experience. Called ‘Ascent’, this part of the SUMMIT journey involves traveling a further 120 feet above the observation platforms inside – wait for it – a glass-bottomed elevator. Nerves of steel are essential!

Fascinating SUMMIT Fact of the Day

One Vanderbilt’s elegant facade is made mainly from glass and terracotta tiles. The tiles are the same as those used on the ceiling in the adjoining Grand Central Station; a respectful nod to the old from the new.

SUMMIT Fast Facts

Silver orbs at SUMMIT
  • 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.

Top of the Rock vs SUMMIT: Which Should You Visit?

If it’s just great views you’re after, Top of the Rock does the job for significantly less dollar than you’ll have to part with for SUMMIT’s all-singing, all-dancing multisensory experience in the sky. If, however, you like a slice of immersive action and some properly scary sky-high experiences alongside your city views, SUMMIT may well be the one for you.

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