Rockefeller Center Tour & Top of the Rock in New York City

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Funded by namesake John D. Rockefeller Jr., son of the founder of Standard Oil and the world’s first billionaire, Rockefeller Center is comprised of 19 different buildings built during the 1930s during the height of the Great Depression. It’s known as a “City within a City” because of its size and encompassing buildings and businesses. The most well known and most recognizable building, 30 Rock, now known as the Comcast Building, was built in 1930 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1987. Seventy stories tall, NBC owns 27 floors and has programming including all four hours of the Today Show, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live and several other popular NBC shows housed in the building. The building looks out over 8 million people and 29,000 acres of land. Guests can take tours of the complex and also explore the three highest floors of the complex (called Top of the Rock) through a separate, or combined, ticket.

Travel Tips:

  • I do not recommend the tour for the toddler set, or even most elementary school children. The website states “appropriate for ages 12 and up” and I think that is accurate. However, our son is younger than 12 and he was very engaged. ** He’s a huge history buff.

  • Tours are mostly outside- dress for the elements. Guests are given headsets to make hearing the tour guide easier, which was very helpful. However, tours are limited to 25 people and our tour guide was never more than 10 steps away from us even when we were in the back of the group, so it’s still a very intimate and welcoming experience. 

  • Tours start inside the main floor, to the right of the Information Desk and last 60-70 minutes.

  • Restrooms are not available on the tour- visit restrooms on the lower level before the tour starts.  Restrooms are also available before the start of the Top of the Rock experience.

  • Pricing and online ticket sales for both the Rockefeller Center Tour and Top of the Rock can be found here. There is a reduced rate when purchasing a combination ticket. Note that tickets for Top of the Rock are time sensitive with a 15 minute window.

  • Both the Rockefeller Center Tour and Top of the Rock are part of many New York City tourist tickets including New York City PASS and the New York Pass.

  • We always take the train into Manhattan, but information on parking can be found here.

10 Stops on the Rockefeller Tour & Top of the Rock:

  1. The Comcast Building, which includes limestone and glass decoration such as the central figure “Wisdom” with light and sound sculpture at the entrance. created by Lee Lawrie and 240 glass blocks windows above the entrance. located inside the portion of the building.

  2. Windows into the Today Show studio (Studio 1A) at the corner of 49th Street. There is a large pedestrian area where crowds usually gather, hoping to meet the hosts or special guests. This space is also used for concerts and special programming. 

  3. The Promenade and Channel Gardens, one of the most photographed areas of Rockefeller Center, leading to the ice skating rink. The designs, created by the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, change over a dozen times a year, based on the seasons. During warmer months, the ice skating rink converts to an outdoor dining space. There are also six shallow pools with spouting fountain heads that represent the beliefs of Imagination, Alertness, Thought, Leadership, Will, and Energy, designed by Rene P. Chambellan.

  4. Display of 193 flags that represent members of the United Nations, which are displayed on all four sides of the plaza. You can read more about our visit to the United Nations here

  5. Prometheus, a bronze sculpture designed by Paul Manship, which is displayed in front of the rink and is used as a support for the Christmas tree that is displayed in the Center during the holidays. Check out Rockefeller’s credo “I Believe” which is displayed  on the west side of the plaza.

6. Lower level Concourse with ground entry to the skating rink. The indoor space has several restaurants, shops, business displays- even a post office! You can see the full list and map here

7. International Building, which includes 10 metallic sculptures that are composed of 16,000 individually balanced stainless steel leaves resting on steel cables called Light and Movement and created by Michio Ihara. At the top of the escalator (the original from the 1930s) is a bust of Charles A. Lindbergh, created by Paul Fjedle, and a marble plaque with a quote by Lindberg.

8. Atlas, a 14,000 sculpture created by Lee Lawrie that is displayed outside the north entrance to the International Building.  The sculpture stands 15 feet tall atop a 9 foot pedestal and looks out onto St. Patrick’s Cathedral across the street. 

9. Intelligence Waking Mankind, a mosaic of over 1 million glass tiles! The mosaic includes spans across the entire entryway at 1250 Avenue of the Americas depicting “Intelligence” towering over the world and “ knowledge triumphing over the evils of ignorance. “

10. The Lobby of the Comcast Building (aka 30 Rock) which has displays of several pieces of art by in between the elevator banks. 

Top of the Rock check in starts at . All guests must go through metal detectors, a brief display with photo opts, and a four minute introductory video (narrated by NBC news anchor Lester Holt) before taking a 43 second elevator ride (make sure to look up as the elevator rises!) to the 67th floor. Guests may explore the 67th floor, which has both indoor and outdoor oathways and indoor bench seating to enjoy the view. Take an escalator to the 69th floor and explore the outdoor terraces that include a special “Love” photo opt and then walk a short flight of stairs to an unobstructed view.

Dining and shopping at Rockefeller Plaza: There are dozens of well known stores from FAO Schwartz and the Lego store to Tiffany’s and Swarvoski surrounding Rockefeller Plaza and inside the main concourse. Check out the full list here. Be sure to visit the Shop at NBC Studios which has tons of merchandise from popular television shows (past and present!) Top of the Rock also has several smaller gifts shops on floors 67 and 69. There are also dozens of dining options throughout the complex, from the famous Rainbow Room and Bar Sixty Five to quick service and snack options like Starbucks and Bouchon Bakery. A full list can be found here

If you’re looking for other adventures throughout Manhattan, check out our full list of almost two dozen places here, a list of holiday activities here, and a list of “rainy day” activities here. And follow along on our adventures on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Disclaimer: Our family was given a media pass to explore both location. All opinions expressed are my own.

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