Where to Find the Best Views in New York City
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TPG Contributor Mitch Berman has lived all his adult life in Manhattan, and his son, TPG Teen Contributor Kofi Lee-Berman, was born there. Here, they share their love of heights and their vertical hometown, with text by Mitch and pictures by both of them. Visit Mitch and Kofi’s photo blog and Kofi’s travel blog for more.
As a California kid from a suburb full of ranch houses, when I first looked up at Manhattan, I fell in love. At some level I’d resolved then and there to move to New York, only I just didn’t realize it at the time.
Though I’ve now spent most of my life in Manhattan, I still look up sometimes and feel that same old sense of amazement wash over me. It’s a great city for a great many reasons — one of them is it just doesn’t look remotely like anyplace else. Here’s a look at some of my favorite places to find the best views in the Big Apple.
The Met’s Roof Garden Café and Martini Bar
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a fantastic resource for New Yorkers and visitors alike. While most people stay inside to see all the magnificent works or art, you shouldn’t miss another — the rooftop’s nearly 360-degree views of Fifth Avenue and Central Park, stretching downtown all the way from 83rd to 59th Street, and across all the way to Central Park West.
The Met’s rooftop also features revolving art exhibits like Cornelia Parker’s Psychobarn, pictured below, and a thriving bar that fills up for cocktail hour.
The High Line
While the High Line might be a relatively new park — most of its length opened only in 2011 — it was an immediate sensation. Built on a long-disused rail line, it’s a 1.45-mile biopsy of Manhattan, offering a brand new perspective on the city. Nowadays the park is listed in just about every travel guide, and there are usually so many visitors that it can be hard to maneuver.
I was trapped up there during a recent storm, when the rain started coming down in sheets. Without an umbrella, I had no choice but to wait it out and it ended up being a blessing in disguise — I soon discovered everyone else had cleared out and the High Line was mine!
The Bar at 230 Fifth
You can get great views of both the Empire State Building and Madison Square Park from the top of 230 Fifth, a bar that bills itself as the largest outdoor rooftop garden in New York. And it must be — there’s space for hundreds of people, with full views on three sides.
Several excellent buildings stand alongside Madison Square, the original location of Madison Square Garden.
First, you’ll see the narrow, campanile-like Metropolitan Life Clock Tower. At exactly 700 feet, it was the world’s tallest building when it opened in 1909.
One of my favorite buildings is right next door, and is now known as Eleven Madison Avenue. Begun in the 1920s as the Metropolitan Life North Building, it was originally supposed to attain a height nearly double that of the Metropolitan Life Clock Tower. But the grandiose project was hard-hit by the Great Depression, and construction ground to a halt in 1933. The 29-story stump of what would have been the world’s tallest building was finished only in 1950.
A somewhat more successful construction project went up in 1931. The Empire State Building became a worldwide icon when King Kong fell off the top only two years later. It would reign as the world’s tallest building for nearly four decades, surpassed only by the World Trade Center in 1970. After September 11, 2001, the Empire State Building was once again New York’s tallest building, until One World Trade Center opened in 2014.
One World Observatory
The new highest building in the western hemisphere, One World Trade Center has an observatory 1,254 feet in the air, just 522 feet lower than its top. That’s quite high enough.
The observatory has windows on all sides (but it’s not open air, unfortunately), and you can look toward Brooklyn and its famous bridge.
The Brooklyn Bridge Area
The walk from the Brooklyn Heights promenade over the Brooklyn Bridge toward Manhattan yields some of the best views of the city. This is no undiscovered treasure, however — the bridge is crowded with what seems like shore-to-shore selfie-takers. And deadly speeding bicyclists. Stay in the pedestrian lane, no matter how crowded it gets!
Back on the Brooklyn side, admire the Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn Bridge Park.
If all this walking has helped you work up an appetite, stop by Grimaldi’s in Fulton Landing (on the Brooklyn side), serving whole pizzas only (no slices) in a glorious building at One Front Street. For dessert, treat yourself to a delicious sundae with hot fudge and a mountain of roasted almond slivers at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.
And if You’re Lucky, From the Air
This view of the 2015 winter snowstorm and deep freeze was snapped, appropriately enough for The Points Guy, from a plane window.
It’s a treat whenever we fly this close over our hometown, but last winter was special because so many parts of Queens and Central Park were snowed over, and ice floes formed over the shallower surfaces of the East River. New York was truly transformed, and by luck we got to see it all from above.
What’s your favorite view in New York City?