Top of the Rock

The wind was whipping at me as I viewed the Big Apple from a perspective that I never experienced before. From where I was standing, Central Park, Times Square, the Hudson River, the Chrysler Building, the Brooklyn Bridge and other landmarks took on a different meaning for me. No, this isn’t the top of the Empire State Building. This is view from Rockefeller Center’s observation deck 70 stories above New York City also known as the Top of the Rock.

I needed to get on the top of 30 Rock. After so many days, I felt somewhat claustrophobic in Manhattan. For some reason, the skyscrapers were “closing in on me” after spending some time here. I went through that feeling about 25 years ago when I was last here. I’m not sure if anyone else feels that way about the nerve center of New York City, but if I had to give advice, I would tell you to take a trip to these observation decks. Yes, the brochures will exclaim that you will be treated to, “expansive vistas,” but there is no much more to this experience that an article or brochure cannot do justice. I’ll attempt to explain it right here: Coming up here gives you a sense of freedom. That’s it. Somehow seeing for miles and miles does something for the mind and soul.

The observation deck is composed of three lower levels and three upper levels. Since I was elated to be here, I had to experience just about square inch. Whether I was viewing New York behind a safety glass on one level or on the open-air view level, I was impressed. Aside from the ultimate view of the city that never sleeps, the Top of the Rock visit also includes an indoor viewing area and multi-media exhibits that tell the story of this legendary structure. I soon learned that the observation deck was first opened to the public in 1933 and closed in 1986. It was then reopened in November 2005.

After being treated to the Top of the Rock, I browsed the gift shop which is full of great New York paraphernalia. From here, I went straight to the Plaza to skate for the first time in years.

Skating at The Rock

My attempt at skating happened about 30 years ago. I won’t go into detail, but it was a complete debacle. Indeed, I was 10-years-old, but I’m still embarrassed about it. These days, my daughter is a pro and lately, she has been urging me to join her on the ice back at home at a local indoor rink north of Atlanta. I always passed up the offer. “Why risk injury?” I would reply. When my daughter and her friend recently visited our local ice rink, her dad informed me that I was a wimp. OK, that did it. I had to get on the ice at Rockefeller Center. I had to prove the “blowhard” wrong. After a rather long wait into the cramped changing room where I somehow got the skates on. I actually balanced myself and ambled over to the rink which appeared a lot smaller to me than when I remember seeing it for the first time on NBC TV’s Saturday Night Live in the mid 1970s. Even though my daughter informed me that I have a long way to go, I managed to make a number of trips around the rink without falling. So if I can do it, anyone can. Believe me, there are few professional skaters at this rink. Here’s the kicker to the story: My neighbor doesn’t skate. The excuse: bad knees. Who’s the wimp now? On a lighter note, my daughter had the time of her life. If she had her way at this attraction, we would never have had the opportunity to visit Rock Center Café.

Dining next to the rink

After skating for about an hour, we worked up quite an appetite so we decided to visit the Rock Center Cafe. I confess that the lunch menu is amazing. I settled for the mouth-watering and filling Crab and Risotto Cakes. My daughter went for the pasta as usual while my wife ordered the Sweet Potato Gnocchi. The lunch menu also includes a choice of appetizers, sandwiches and entrees including Pan Seared Turkey Tenderloin, Penne Caprese and Farfalle with Shrimp. These creations are the product of Executive Chef Antonio Prontelli. The desserts, by Executive Pastry Chef Michael Gabriel, are sinful. Cheesecake, key lime pie, apple crostada and corn bread pudding are, “off the charts delicious.”

To me, Rockefeller Center is legendary. I’m thrilled that I set aside a day to visit.

Top of the Rock

1-877-NYC-ROCK or 1-877-692-7625

Rock Center Café


Skating at Rockefeller Center


Fast Facts

Top of the Rock is open 8:00 a.m. daily to midnight. Visit Top of the Rock for prices and other details.

Top of the Rock’s deck was originally designed to evoke the upper decks of a 1930s grand ocean liner, outfitted with deck chairs, gooseneck fixtures and large air-conditioning vents intended to look like stacks on a ship’s deck. Rock Center Café’s Executive Chef Antonio Prontelli was born in the Bronx to Italian immigrants from Tuscany.


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