Top of the Rock Vs Empire State Building?

Visit New York and one of the questions you get asked is always “did you visit Empire or Top of the Rock?”.

Of course we are talking about the Empire State Building or the Rockefeller Building. It seems like people are always talking up the virtues of one over another:

“Top of the Rock gives you a view of Empire all lit up at night”

“You get to do the famous ‘beam walk’ at the Rockefeller” 

“Empire State Building is the most iconic”

You get the point. I have a completely different take on this conversation – why would you want to choose between the two? Yes – both are tall buildings with amazing views; but for me, that’s where the comparisons stop.

The purpose behind the buildings are very different and although they are both Art Deco in style, it comes through in the design in varying ways. Empire has the decadent style that I (and other gamers) have come to associate with the Bioshock games; beautifully ornate but slightly creepy. Rockefeller seems to be less overstated and quietly absorbs the Art Deco touches into a more sleek exterior.

The atmosphere of Empire is one of historic importance, with ushers in costume and rope style queuing systems to fit with the carved ceilings. There was a sense of expectation and entitlement within the building, feeding into the style of the day. Rockefeller however, was different. Giving nods to the history and the working class people involved in the development of the building, it had a much more ‘down to earth’ feel and there was more of a fun element to the visit. In particular, the Skyride (otherwise known as an elevator which looks like it will catapult you through the ceiling, Charley and the Chocolate Factory style) and the Breezeway – where you have your own colourful squares following you across the room as you stand just inside of the observation deck, were lots of fun!

Views of Central Park are incredible from the Top of the Rock in the day time (you won’t see anything of Central Park at night – although the huge expanse of darkness where you know the park sits is also pretty cool, but not particularly photogenic!). Night time from the Top of the Rock will also give you amazing views of Empire, lit up in its full glory.

Empire is something else. All that nostalgia, Hollywood movie screen time and old elegance combine to create an experience that is hard to forget. The views across lower Manhattan are stunning and it’s here that you can put your panoramic photography skills to good use. I challenge you to take a bad photo from the top of Empire – it just can’t be done!

So, if you plan a visit to New York and someone asks you which building you are heading up, or which was better, please give them a sharp tap on the nose from me – there is no comparison; do yourself a favour, visit both and collect experiences that will never leave you.

Planes, Ships and Space Shuttles: Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, New York

Whilst not all of our group wanted to visit the museum, Wandering Beeb sold it to me on the chance to see a real life space shuttle. Not something you do everyday, I was quite happy to give up a couple of hours of mooching about New York to visit the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, located on the Hudson River in the Hell’s Kitchen area of Manhattan.

Aircraft Carrier Intrepid served in World War Two, the Cold War and the Vietnam War and is now a floating museum, telling the stories of the crew and the histories of the wars in which it served. It’s a huge museum site, complete with a submarine, space pavilion and Concord. A must for any transport, history or space geeks. I’ll let you guess which ones we are!


Heading on to the deck of Intrepid, the sheer scale was incredible- a number of restored airplanes were on display alongside gun battlements and yet there still felt like there was enough room to fit a good couple of football pitches down the middle. The planes really gave a sense of scale and proportion, making us feel like tiny ants on the flight deck.



A restored third deck gave a really good insight into daily life on Intrepid, with narrow quarters and a uniform grey covering everything, it was difficult to see how the people serving on the ship didn’t experience claustrophobia much more frequently. The contrast between the compressed lower quarters and the wide open spaces of the flight deck were huge.

Growler, the Guided Missile Submarine took us through a tour of the crews area, the torpedo room and the control room. It was hard to reconcile what must have been fast paced, pressured and crowded activity in the submarine during active duty with the calm and quiet museum experience of today.


We spent a serious amount of time walking through the various exhibits, taking loads of photographs and everywhere you looked, there was something new to see or a story to hear. The exhibits really gave a sense of people’s lives serving on Intrepid in a way that other museums sometimes fail to do. The human element was front and centre and this made it much more relatable. I spent most of the visit trying to soak up as many facts and stories as I could so that I could share them with my dad when I got home. It was the kind of place that I thought he would love.


The highlight of the visit was absolutely the Space Deck. Entering the pavilion, we were surrounded by the voices of pilots and mission control. These were actual recordings of their conversations, giving us a real sense of their experiences. The centrepiece of the Space Deck was Enterprise, a shuttle which was part of the NASA Space Shuttle Programme, carrying out test flights outside of the Earth’s atmosphere. There was a real sense of excitement in the room and the surrounding exhibits told a clear story of the development, experiences and history of the Shuttle.


Visiting the Intrepid Museum was a great way of understanding more about history, life on Intrepid and the developments that have take place to progress our journey into space through NASA and the Space Shuttle programme. It was a perfect way to spend a couple of hours and we can truthfully say that have been in the same room as Enterprise, gaining us a couple of extra geek points in any space related conversations!