Summit the latest New York Observation Deck, sitting aloft the 14001 ft One Vanderbilt Building in Midtown Manhattan. The Deck Promises Panaroamic Views of Midtown and Beyond, Stunning Art installations, Heartounding Glass Floors, Glass Elevators, and sky-high cocktail bars.
In our review, we take a trip up to the Summit to see if the Hype lives up to reality. We check out the different zones, take a look at the views on offer, investigate the art installation and added attractions, and of course, try out the New Apres Bar! Our Review of The Summit One Vanderbilt will let you know if this New Attraction is another New York Must Do or if you can skip it in favor of one of the many other New York Observation Deck available in the City.
The Summit One Vanderbilt Review
- Height: 73rd Floor and up – 1,020 – 1,200 Feet
- Cost: Adults: $39 – Child $33 (5 and Under – Free) – Live Prices
- Cost + Ascent: Adults: $59 – Child $33 (5 and Under – Free) – Live Prices
- Sunset: + $10
- Location: One Vanderbilt, Vanderbilt Av, New York
- Prominent Landmarks: Empire State Building, Central Park, and Midtown Manhatten
- Indoor or out: Indoor
*Tax and Booking Fees not Included
What is The Summit One Vanderbilt?
It feels like only yesterday New York just had two observation decks but in 2015 the Empire State Building and the Top of the Rock were joined by The One World Observatory and the City was spoiled for choice of Observation Decks. Then in 2020, the badly timed opening of the Edge brought the number to 4 and now the Prestiguueous One Vanderbilt Building has opened, it is crowned with New York’s 5th and most intriguing Observations Decks.
The Summit is situated on the 73rd floor of the New One Vanderbilt Building and is quite unlike any of the other Decks available in New York. While deck’s height of 10,20 ft is not that impressive, the deck is on many floors and the top height is a lofty 1,200 ft, just below the One World Observatory and the 102nd floor of the Empire State.
Rather than relying on just providing stunning views of the City, which is already available from the competitors, the whole deck is an interactive art installation where the building, the art, the cityscape, and yourself all converge to form really stunning immersive art scapes that really blow your mind. We take a look at each level, what to expect there, and what the actual views are below.
One thing to remember is the Summit is an INDOOR Observation deck and on the whole, we prefer outdoor spaces as they offer far superior photographic opportunities and just feel more raw and real! Of course when the weather is poor, and the wind chillingly arctic, you may pine for the toasty warmth of an indoor deck.
One Vanderbilt is one of New York’s latest Skyscrapers and sits at the 4th highest building in the City, and the 28th tallest in the world at 1401 ft. The $3.3 Billion Tower sits right next to Grand Central Terminal and offers expansive views right across the City. Its location gives it very good prominence with very little in the way, dwarfing the now quite petite Chrysler building just a few blocks away.
Most Of the city’s new buildings are pretty awful. Their position and design all tend to be quite terrible. There is nothing that has gone up recently that really enhances New York’s Skyline. Not like the old towers such as The Empire State, One World Trade, or even the Bank of America Tower. Boring and Blocky seem to be the modern theme.
One Vanderbilt is an exception. We really like the design and find it quite striking as it towers up from its central position. It does not detract from any other building and instead adds a new and interesting focal point to the City’s Skyline. We particularly like the White Lighting it takes on at night where the slanted rooftops take on the air of a snowcapped mountain top.
There are three main options for entry to the Summit. You can visit the main areas as detailed below, or upgrade to add on the Ascent option, a daring lift hoisting you to 1200ft in a glass elevator! And finally, there is the premium option which basically just provides you with a Cocktail from the Apres Bar.
- Adult – $39
- Child – $33 (6-12) (5 and Under – free)
This is the basic option, this gets you entry to the Main Deck, Air, Levitation, and Apres Bar. It includes pretty much the whole experience EXCEPT Ascent.
- Adult – $59
- Child – $53 (6-12) (5 and Under – free)
For an additional $20 you get a ride on Ascent. This is a glass elevator that rises up to 1200 ft above street level, one of the highest points reachable in the City. Complete with a Glass Floor and a startling amount of open space beneath your feet. We look at this option below to see if it is worth the extra.
- Adult – $73
- Child – $67 (6-12) (5 and Under – free)
The Ultimate Package is essentially the SUMMIT Ascent but with a pre-paid cocktail. $14 is not cheap for a cocktail, but in New York, it’s not actually that bad, and considering the location, it’s pretty cheap. If you pay separately at the bar a cocktail will cost you $18, wine is $14 and beer is $10 so if you are only going to drink beer or wine you might be better waiting, but the cocktails are good value.
- Sunset -$10
- Photo Book – $22
- Apres Cocktail – $14 ($18 at the Apres Bar)
The Sunset option is a bit disappointing. This is obviously the best time to visit as you get to see the City in 3 “lights”. Daylight, Sunset, and Night. This will require hanging around for a couple of hours as the night descends, but it’s well worth it, it’s just a shame they chose to “cash in” on this popularity.
Note – we booked the last time slot before Sunset and got the whole sunset experience for $10 less. In fact, unless you book the earliest Sunset Slot you may miss it as there is a long queue to get to the top.
The Photobook might appeal to some but in the age of the smartphone, we are not sure it’s a worthwhile choice. Finally, if you don’t book the Ultimate package, you can still pre-pay for a cocktail if you book the basic package without the Ascent.
How to Get Summit Tickets
You can get your tickets as a walk-up, but it is very busy right now and still has limited occupancy so this is a poor idea. Most days are completely sold-out up to a week in advance and Sunset is even earlier! The best option is to book Direct from SummitOV.com and get a booking as soon as possible, especially if you want a sunset time slot.
The other 4 Observation decks are now all included on the Cities Attraction Passes. The Summit is not yet included, but we imagine it will make its way onto them in due course as the initial hype dies down.
Officially, if you miss your slot then you lose your money. This seems overly harsh and is NOT in line with the other Observation Decks. We think they may rethink this in the future, again once the hype has died down.
The FAQ states that if you are late they will try and get you in, but there is no guarantee, we think if you do miss your slot definitely ask for a re-schedule as this is a terrible policy and there might be some leeway.
Again they are being VERY rigid on the Weather Policy. Some days in New York the Cloud Descends and views from up high are basically the inside of a cloud. It’s pretty disappointing to spend hundreds of dollars and not get to see anything. Once more we hope they revisit this once the hype has died down as it’s a poor policy and will lead to a lot of disappointment!
The Summit Experience
Journey to the Summit
The Journey starts in the Main Lobby and is in our opinion a complete shambles. We were first ushered into a queue before moving from there to another queue for reasons that were never made apparent, then while waiting in this queue a woman came and started shouting at us. She needed to see our Vaccination Status, which is fine, but she was screaming that we had not asked her to show it here before. Well if we had ever seen her before in our lives we might have done that, but really is it not her job to ask us, and can she not do it without screaming?
We then stood in this queue for a bit longer 5-10 mins with no real idea what was happening. This was indoors and very much not socially distanced. At this point, a guy came round asking people who had not upgraded if they wanted to and if so he took them off to the front, as we had already upgraded we needed to remain where we were…?
Eventually, we got moved to another Queue. Here we resided in our cattle pen for about 10 mins before a guy came along and tried to Gee us up as if we were about to go out to play football. He was all for getting us ONLINE, we just wanted to get out of a queue!
Eventually, we got out of this queue to join, you got it, another queue. This was to watch a movie. Sorry, we can’t tell you if it was any good as we were getting fed up and didn’t watch it. Then there was another Queue to put dusters on your feet. Then Another queue to get your photo’s taken, before moving through a pretty cool mirrored hallway, where we were just one queue away from the Elevators! Madness, it took nearly 40mins to get through this chaos (and that was with sipping the movie).
The main elevator takes you up to the first part of the Summit Experience Air. This mirrored elevator gives you a glimpse of what you are walking. We do slightly worry about people with Photosensitive Epilepsy due to the flashing lights.
Air is the Main deck of the Summit and is a large interactive art installation by the modern Artist Kenzo Digital.
The Centerpiece for this is the stunning Transcendence. This is an infinity mirror room that features floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the City and reflects this scene endlessly in a series of mirrors and windows to surround you in a mindblowing, inception-Esque, visual wonder. It’s really hard to put into words but the imagery does the floor justice, although actually walking out onto the floor is pretty challenging for your mind to cope with.
There is also Transcendence 2, it is the upper level and gives some amazing perspectives on the main deck. The scale of the mirrored decks really shows up here and you can look down on the guests below.
There is also the Affinity section that fills the space with mirrored globes, which looks very Cool. Up close these are just shiny beach balls filled with helium and while it’s pretty fun batting them around it’s a bit naff really.
Levitation is the second section of the deck and offers the brave the chance to step out over nothing. This clear glass box extends out over the ether and allows the brave to step out and really get to see the City from a unique perspective. This is the Ultimate Instagram Show as you are literally levitating over the cityscape below.
The View for levitation is out over Bryant park and gives some really stunning views over the city. It’s just a shame the perfect insta-selfie shot is not the most iconic view of New York. However, if you look over to your left you can get some epic views of the Empire State Building.
This section is carefully managed with a queue line and photographers available to take your photos. This is definitely an experience where the old part of your brain kicks in. While the intelligent frontal parts tell you this is perfectly safe the more primitive parts start screaming that it’s not ok to walk out over nothingness!
The final attraction of the Deck is Ascent and this is an optional part of the attraction, costing $20 extra to add on to the original price. Here you board a Glass Elevator and ascend higher than any other visitable part of the tower right up to 1200 ft above ground level…With a pane of glass beneath your feet.
Our Opinion, Skip this!
In short, it’s a tourist trap, in fact depending on your position in the Elevator it’s an out-and-out SCAM!
The Elevator can comfortably fit 12-14 people in with everyone getting a front-row view. However, they force 16-18 people in meaning 4 people get to stand at the back and see NOTHING. This is not very good practice and leads to a lot of disappointment.
Even if you are lucky and get a front-row place then there is not really much to see. The View is no better really than the view from out on the Apres Deck Below, and you only get a few seconds to take it in. It’s also crowded and generally unpleasant. The fact you are on the Glass, to begin with, means it’s not really scary either and you kind of ignore the Glass floor.
Really this is $20 which is far better in your pocket. We think this runs off FOMO with people worrying about what they are missing out on. Let us assure you it’s nothing worth worrying about.
One of the stand-out features of the Deck is the Apres Bar and Restaurant. The Bar is situated high up in the building, something we worried would not be the case as Apres means “After” so we were worried that the bar was down in the lobby to get a drink afterward. It’s not, it’s right up on the top level of the deck just a little bit lower than the Lifts.
The Bar is quite small and this means we think it’s probably worth buying a drink prior, either with the Ultimate Package or as an add-on. This way you are going to be guaranteed entry to the bar whereas at busy times it may be restricted to walk-ups.
$14 is not overly terrible for a good cocktail at an NYC rooftop bar such as this, compared to Bar 65 or Bar 54, two very popular Rooftop Bars, both have cocktail prices well over $20!.
The Summit is definitely marketed as being an immersive art installation as opposed to a mere Observation Deck, but really, many will see this as merely a gimmick. Above all the Deck has to offer amazing views. Now at 1000-1200ft that is not hard and with Manhattan as the backdrop, you are guaranteed breathtaking views. But that is not enough.
Not with the intense competition from 4 other observation decks. All the bells and whistles in the world won’t cut it if the view is poor. Fortunately, The location of One Vanderbilt is pretty much perfect and the Views out over New York’s Landmarks are right up there.
First, we have Central Park, it’s not the best view as New York’s moneymen have built tower after tower along Billionaires row, largely obscuring the Park from most of Manhattan south of the Row, Cheers Guys. But you still get as good a glimpse as possible past the towering monstrosities.
You also get great views of the Chrysler Building and midtown Skyscraper Cluster including the Bank Of America Tower and the City Glow that radiates out from Times Square. You will get views out over the east river and the Husdon along with the Famous Bridges over to Brooklyn.
Oh, and there is the best, unobstructed view of the Empire State Building you are likely to find in New York. Really this is what we all want to see and we were pretty mean about the Edge’s impeded glimpse of this Icon and praise is heaped on TOTR for its view, but this is higher, closer, and even more perfect. It really is THE place in NYC to get a great view of the most iconic buildings in the world.
Downtown, One World Trade Center, and the Statue of Liberty are both visible but they are distant. Downtown makes a great backdrop for the Empire State, but other than that it’s pretty murky and far away and the Statue is but a speck.
Things We Don’t Like about the Summit!
Things seem to be shaping up nicely for the Summit, but it’s not all rosy in the superhigh garden. In fact, there was quite a lot we found really offputting about the whole experience.
We rank the One World Observatory as the WORST Observation Deck in New York, despite it being the tallest, and suggest the 102nd floor of the Empire State as a skip, when we rank the main deck as No1! What do all are less favored observatories have in common? They are inside…and so is the SUMMIT
The first problem with this is one that really upsets us. Glass has a real detrimental effect on Photography. Photos NEVER come out as well through the glass as without. Dirt on the Windows, reflections, and simply distortions from the glass all add up to a hugely reduced image. This is one reason we don’t like the enclosed decks.
The second is they are just not as exhilarating. The view is nice enough but if you are not faced with the harsh realities of the outdoors, the wind, the cold, the exposure, it just doesn’t feel as real. To fully appreciate the height and the full experience of being on top of Manhattan you have to be outside.
The Summit combats these in a number of ways. The Indoor Space itself is a photographer’s dream! The Endless reflections, infinity mirrors, and stunning light mean you can grab some really mind-blowing shots unlike anything else in the City. These will surely become cliche over time but you are going to grab some fantastic memories. And the Glass Floors, Levitation viewing pods, and glass elevators all add up to make this are really cerebral experience that is unlike anything in New York. The One World Observatory is just basically an observation deck with windows, this is so much more.
Apres has a small outdoor area but it’s behind glass, and as such subject to all the above issues apart from you getting wet and cold if it rains! They have not even given you the handy gaps the TOTR provides to poke your camera through.
There are a lot of glass floors and exposed drops around the Summits deck. The Space is really stunning but it’s pretty pulse-raising for those with a nervous disposition to heights. Anyone with a serious fear should stay away really as there is a lot to provoke a really serious reaction. Even walking on the glass floor is a bit nerve-racking and the large amounts of liability waivers included in the booking process are unnerving!
We love it for the visceral and cerebral experience but some will find the deck overwhelming. It’s not all clear glass floors over plunging heights but there is a fair amount of unnerving visuals. Even the Elevator up to the top is enough to evoke some reactions!
The Queuing System at the bottom is utter Chaos. We have detailed this above but it’s Organised Chaos. And we don’t mean that in the not-so-bad way, we mean they have deliberately organised it to be Chaos!
It’s just queue after queue after queue in an unnecessarily small enclosed area. And this is with TIMED Entry slots!
This is the reason we think the queue is so bad. They seriously oversell the Attraction. The Main deck is a heaving mass of people and a million miles away from the publicity shots filled with Space and Air!
There were people lying on the floor all over, coats and bags were strewn about the place, and getting a clear view out of any window was very challenging. The Deck is made for the Insta generation, and everywhere you looked was someone trying to bag a quirky instagramble moment. It really was a little off-putting.
With maybe half the number of people, the experience could be quite magical but rammed to the gills like this, it was just a constant mission to try and avoid people and find some space.
One Way System
Once you exit the first lift, you are on a one-way journey through the experience. We found this a little annoying as we were visiting at sunset. We hoped you could get a look at all the decks in all conditions but once you have passed through one section you cannot get back you actually only get to see things in one light. Only when we go to the final section, The Bar, could we slow things down and actually take it in and watch the changing faces of the City.
If you are visiting at other times then this would be no issue at all.
Before setting foot o the glass floor you are required to wear cloth overshoes. This is to protect the glass floors and stop them from becoming scratched to hell.
We are not exactly fans of having to wear the feather dusters over shoes. Certainly, those who have worn nice shoes for their glass floor selfies will be disappointed with their new look! We also have concerns over their safety. They really make things underfoot a little slippy, we wonder how long it will be before someone falls and the Summit gets a nasty Lawsuit!
There are some quite loud whooshing and rumbling sound effects played over the PA system and we really were not fans of these. They are supposed to portray a sense of movement, of rushing air, and elicit the sense of flying over the city.
We found them loud and distracting and at times alarming. Some of them really resembled the sounds of roaring engines, and that is not something you want to hear aloft a SkyScaper, especially not in New York. We dread to think what any actual survivors of that fateful day would make of the sound of a jet engine bearing down on them when at the top of a New York Building!
Turn them down a bit and sanitize them for more relaxing and subtle effects.
We really had a mixed experience with the Summit. There is no doubt they have created a unique and exciting space at the top of one of New York’s newest buildings. But the Chaotic journey up, the intense overcrowding, the constant reflections from the glass, and the pretty horrible Ascent Lift Ride all detract from the experience.
We think they have drawn a fine line with the experience between being gimmicky and actually providing experiences that are worthwhile, on the whole, they have steered just the right side of this line, with a few veering over to the gimmicky.
But really we think the negatives just about outweigh the positives. We think if it were not for one saving grace we would say avoid the Deck altogether. That grace is the View…it really is one of the best in the City, tied only with the ever wonderful Top Of The Rock. The View alone just about makes it worth heading up, but we just wish there was a bit less going on and a lot fewer bodies.
Maybe the numbers will drop down once the novelty wears off a little.
Other Observations Decks
The New Kid on the block has a lot to live up to and some stiff competition. Here are your other options
Empire State Building
The Most Iconic Building in the world and still the best in our opinion. There is just something so utterly “New York” about standing aloft the Empire State that everyone has to do it at least once in their lives.
Top Of The Rock
On paper, the Top Of The Rock is the loser here. It’s the lowest with the fewest bells and whistles, but it’s still a narrow second place to the Empire State. Why? It’s simply the best view. Looking head-on to the Empire State the TOTR offers mind-blowing Views of midtown, central park, downtown, Times Square, and the Empire State Building. An Absolute Must.
The Edge – Hudson Yards
This was the Newbie and offered a really unparalleled experience. With Glass floors and the stunning Titanic-esque point, it had all the hallmarks of a class-leading experience. The Let Down for us was the fact a great big building was directly in front of the Empire State Building, obscuring the view and putting a big dampener on the experience.
One World Observatory
The Tallest of the five and should have been the best, the One World was a letdown for us. The enclosed nature just kills the experience. The View is a little less brilliant than the others too, it’s just too “Downtowny”, with fewer iconic sights. Although it does have the best Statue View!
Which to Choose?
Honestly, if you had to just do one as a flying visit, it’s a tough call between Empire and Top of the Rock. But for most people, we say DO THEM ALL. Make your own mind up, There are all amazing in their own way. Buy an Attraction Pass and head on up. They only take an hour or so each and you can suck in the best views in the whole City!
Have Your Say?
Have You been up to the Summit Yet? What did you make of it? A Marvel of modern art or a tourist trap full of gimmicks? Just let us know your thoughts in the comments. How did you find the exposure? Did you get the wobbles or was it all ok? Again just fire away n the comments and do the same if you have any questions.