View the Manhattan Skyline: 10 Unique Ways

One of the most recognizable and well known skylines in the world, the Manhattan Skyline is definitely a sight to behold! Whether viewing during the day or at night when the city comes alive with countless numbers of lights, you will be dazzled by the beauty to be found!

When visiting New York City, you will find plenty of ways to view the Manhattan Skyline. You can ride to the top of some of the tallest buildings in the city, set out on a cruise in the NYC harbor, visit one of the small islands surrounding Manhattan, or take to the air with a helicopter ride above the city to experience the once in a life-time views!

The One World Observatory

One of the newer ride to the top experiences in New York City, the One World Observatory is one of the best ways to see New York City from above. With the ride to the top experience you will travel up 102 stories in 47 seconds. Once you reach the top you will step out first into a gallery area where you will watch a short film on New York City before the screen pulls back and you are treated to your first views of the skyline.

You will then be directed to a 360 room with views of Manhattan from the tip and Statue of Liberty all the way around and as far back as the Empire State Building and beyond on a clear day. If you’re brave enough you can walk over the 14ft. wide circular glass window built into the floor and watch as life in the city goes on below you.

If you’re hungry, you can stop by Illy Caffe & Gelateria for a quick snack or if you plan ahead, enjoy a full meal at ONE Dine.

view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the one world observatory, one of the best ways to view the Manhattan skyline
View of the Brooklyn Bridge from One World Observatory.

The Edge

The Edge is the newest and one of the best ways to view the Manhattan skyline. The outdoor sky deck is 100 stories up in the Hudson Yards neighborhood of Manhattan and suspended in mid-air. The Edge boasts 360 degree views of the city, including the Statue of Liberty, One World Trade Building, the Empire State Building, and Central Park. unobstructed by clear glass walls.

If you are looking for a thrilling experience, keep checking back to experience the City Climb, which is set to open in November of 2021. The City Climb will take you up a 45 degree angle staircase to the edge of the skyscraper, where you will lean out over the city! (This is not an experience for the faint of heart!).

The Empire State Building

The ride to the top of the Empire State Building is another one of the best ways to view the Manhattan Skyline and one of the most classic attractions in New York City. A ride to the top will take you to the 86th floor observatory with the option to include the 102nd floor observatory. When you reach the top you will delighted by 360 degree views of the city and its top attractions-Statue of Liberty, Central Park, and everything in between!

The Empire State Building is open for sunrise tours, daytime tours, sunset tours, and night time tours. If you are in the city long enough or plan on coming back multiple times, make it a mission to see it during the day and at night!

view the Manhattan skyline from the empire state building at night
View from the Empire State Building at night.

NYC Harbor Cruise

A NYC Harbor Cruise is a unique way to view the Manhattan skyline from ground level. The 1.5-2 hr. long circle line harbor cruises leave from Pier 83, pass Hudson Yards, and then continues to take you past many of the much anticipated sites. You will continue down past the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, High Line, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Brooklyn Bridge, and Manhattan Bridge before swinging around and heading back to Pier 83.

Keep your eyes open throughout the entire journey as you will catch several unique views of lower Manhattan as you go. There are options for day time and night time cruises or specialized Christmas and New Year’s Eve cruises.

view of the Manhattan skyline from Ellis Island
Manhattan Skyline View from Ellis Island.

The Top of the Rock

The Top of the Rock observatory, standing 850ft. tall, boasts 360 degree views from Central Park all the way down to the Statue of Liberty in the distance. While not quite as tall as the other observation decks in New York City, being able to see the contrasting city views with the greenery of Central Park is well worth the trip!

The experience takes you up 70 floors to both indoor and outdoor observation decks. You will find a small gift shop at the top with plenty of shopping and dining options within the Rockefeller Center.

View of Central Park from top of the rock
Central Park from Top of the Rock.

Ellis & Liberty Island: Statue Cruise

The island that represented hope for so many passing through, Ellis Island, stands today as one of the best ways to view the Manhattan Skyline while also learning about the history of he United States and Immigration. The great views start as you enter the boat and head over to Liberty Island so get your cameras ready for views of both Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.

When you arrive to Liberty Island, you will be free to wander the grounds. Stroll around the pedestrian walkway, where you will find views of the statue, NY harbor, lower Manhattan, and the Jersey City Skyline. After visiting Liberty Island you will move on to Ellis Island.

Visitors to Ellis Island can enjoy a tour of the main hall and other restored sections of the building while learning about the history of immigrants who passed through the area and what their experience was like. For one of the best views of the Manhattan Skyline from Ellis Island you will want to visit the abandoned hospital complex end of the island, which can be done on an Ellis Island Hard Hat Tour.

Manhattan Skyline from Ellis Island Hard Hat Tour.

The Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge makes for a great walk over the East River, but also boasts some great views of the Manhattan Skyline! The bridge connects lower Manhattan to the NYC borough of Brooklyn. The pedestrian walkway over the Brooklyn Bridge begins at the intersection of Tillary Street and Boerum Place. You can also access the walkway from an underpass off of Front Street, leading to a stairway that takes you up to the walkway.

The pedestrian and bicycle bridge is layered over the motor vehicle road on the top level of the bridge, offering nothing short of stunning skyline views. One of the best things about things about this way to view the Manhattan Skyline is you can go at your own pace, soak up the views, and enjoy some sunshine!

Manhattan skyline from the brooklyn bridge
Photo by Colton Duke on Unsplash

Liberty State Park

While this option is actually located outside of the city in New Jersey, it is one of the best ways to get a ground level view of the Manhattan Skyline. It is also perfect for those looking to experience some of New York’s top attractions-like the Statue of Liberty Cruise, without actually entering the city. Located in Jersey City, NJ, Liberty State Park is located directly across from the tip of Manhattan, giving you some great views of iconic New York buildings like One World Trade Center.

You can also join a Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island cruise from the park, which is often times less crowded than you will find when leaving from Battery Park in NYC.

A Helicopter Tour

Viewing the Manhattan Skyline from above is best done on a helicopter tour of the city. The tour will give you views of the skyline and many of NYC’s most well known buildings and landmarks all at once, from One World Trade Center, Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Yankee Stadium, the South Side Sea Port, and more!

With HeliNY you can choose from several tours ranging from 15 to 30 minutes and varying with which attractions you will see. You can opt to see the city with daylight shinning or choose the city of lights tour and see the city aglow.

FlyNYON is another great option for helicopter tours of NYC. This tour leaves from Kearny, NJ, so you will have to go outside the city to join. FlyNYON offers many flight options, including both doors on and doors off flight options. Their tours range from 15 to 40 minutes. If you are visiting on a special occasion, like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, July 4th Fireworks, or New Year’s Eve, you can find specialized trips (although it will cost you a pretty penny!).

helicopter view of Manhattan skyline
Photo by Andre Benz on Unsplash

Governors Island

Governors Island is another fairly new way to enjoy the beauty of the Manhattan skyline. The island can be accessed by a ferry service leaving from the Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan. The ferry runs daily and is $3 per person (ages 12+).

The island has a long history of being a military fort/base location. In the early 1800’s two of the three historic forts was completed on the island. In 1911 the island was expanded by 100 acres, making room for an airfield, military housing, and warehouses. After its use as a military base, the island began to be transformed into a public park area in 2003 after being designated as a National Monument.

Today the island is a set of walkways, known as the Hills, large plaza, picnic areas, Slide Hill, and Outlook Hill, where you can capture great views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan Skyline.

view of Manhattan Skyline from Governors Island
Rhododendrites, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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10 Comments on “View the Manhattan Skyline: 10 Unique Ways

  1. Pingback: New York Winter Getaways: 8 Best Destinations - New York Discovered

  2. I will start by saying this post brought a real nostalgia for me. I miss the ease with which we once popped to NYC to visit. I love that there are so many different ways to see the Manhatten skyline. And like that you added a view from the water too. The one we still have on our list is to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.

  3. What a great list of viewpoints of the Manhattan Skyline. Hopefully we will make it to New York any time in the near future. We have been to Iran and Sudan – that means we have to apply for a visa, even as Europeans……

  4. Although I’ve been to New York many times, I’ve seen the skyline only from the Empire State Building and on a cruise. On the bridges, I was too scared to look back – at that time, my fear of heights (and bridges) was still quite strong. However, I think that Manhattan’s skyline is one of the world’s most iconic and impressive sights.

  5. I’ve been to all of these places, but not yet Governor’s island. A helicopter tour would be a great way to see the city, but surely expensive!

  6. I’ve done the Statue of Liberty ferry and climbed to the crown. I also went to the top of the Empire State Building. Amazing views. I will have to check out the other ideas next time I am in that area.

  7. Enjoying the Manhattan skyline is one of the things I want to do when in NYC. It’s an experience that you don’t find in any other big cities in the US. I wonder how much is the fee for the high towers observatory.

  8. Great pictures of New York and Manhattan and excellent tips for the best and most exciting vantage points. I will be happy to use them when visiting NY because I love to take pictures of cities, especially at night.

  9. Manhattan Skyline is surely one of the most famous skylines in the world. I am surely saving this post up for my next visit to New York. I have only been to the Empire State building and have not been to any of the other places. I am planning for NY again sometime soon and I want to be there for a longer period. Will try to visit some of these places if not all.

  10. This is such a great article. I have been to NY a few times over the years, but have never really found a great spot to view the skyline at. It is such a great opportunity to take some really nice photos, so on my next visit I will have to visit one of these 10 locations for sure!!

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