New York City from above

There's nothing quite like seeing a city from above and New York City is no exception - it really looks quite something when you're up high and looking across Manhattan.

See what I mean? I snapped this from the iconic Empire State Building, which is where I'm recommending you head to get the best view of the city at night (you can visit until 2am). You could tie in your visit with sunset to experience two epic views but expect it to take longer to get through security, if you do. (If you're more of an early bird and prefer to see sunrise, this requires a more expensive ticket.)

We headed to the Empire State Building at around 19.30 on a Tuesday evening in December - long after the sun had set - and walked straight through security to enjoy a quick mooch around the exhibition before we headed up to the observation deck. We used our New York Pass which got us up to the 86th floor observation deck for free (the usual price for an adult ticket is $47.73) - if there had been a queue, we'd have been able to skip it - and you can upgrade to the 102nd floor, if you wish.

Don't fancy seeing New York from quite that high? If you look in the lower third of the photo above, just off-centre, you'll see a strip of red and blue lighting. That's 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar, which is where we headed with friends on our Saturday evening in the city. It may not be quite as high, but a rooftop bar is a great way to see New York City from above whilst enjoying a drink (or two) - and from this bar you get a fantastic view of the Empire State Building.

If you do visit this rooftop bar, you need to take your passport or driving license, which they'll take a copy of. And, don't worry so much about the dress code if you're visiting in winter because it will, likely, be freezing  and you'll keep your coat on... Yes, those red dressing gowns will gratefully be worn! (The Empire State Building was also freezing, even though they now have heaters dotted around the observation deck - those heaters don't, however, stop the brutal wind. Wrap up warm!)

There's no guarantee, of course, but if you see New York City from above in the day, the weather will probably be a little kinder than at night. We headed to Top of the Rock first thing in the morning and, again, used our New York Pass to visit for free (usual price for adults is $41.37 - visiting at sunset costs $52.26), though in this instance we had a short queue to get a timed ticket. With 30 minutes to wait, we grabbed a quick drink from Starbucks before we headed up to the 70th floor.

The 70th floor is outside, making it perfect to snap your photos, though you can also see New York from behind glass on the 67th and 69th floors, if you'd prefer. The awesome advantage Top of the Rock has over the Empire State Building is that you have a view of Central Park, which is why I'd recommend visiting in the day to ensure you can actually see the park - though the view is getting a little blocked with all the new skyscrapers going up.

Other options for seeing New York City from up high include the One World Observatory, ascending the Crown of the Statue of Liberty, by taking a helicopter ride over Manhattan, or heading to Edge at Hudson Yards (opens March 2020). One World Observatory is definitely on my list the next time I visit New York City, and whilst Edge wasn't open at Hudson Yards when we were there in December 2019, The Vessel was.

Designed by Thomas Heatherwick, The Vessel is free to visit, but you do need to book a timed ticket beforehand if you want to actually go in it and up it (there are some walk-up tickets available on the day). It's basically a giant honeycomb sculpture, 16 storeys high, with interconnected staircases which take you to the top to see views ahead towards New Jersey or back towards Manhattan.

OK, it's definitely not as tall as the Empire State Building or Top of the Rock, but it is a free and quirky way to see New York City from "above" and it also puts you right next to the High Line (more about that another time). I think it's worth booking a ticket and spending twenty minutes or so exploring the sculpture though Olly, who doesn't like heights, found The Vessel worse than scaling the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock because it's open and exposed. You have been warned if you're the same!

What do you think to New York City from above? x

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