We all know the Empire State Building, Top of the Rock and 230 Fifth offer great aerial views of New York City. That being said, sometimes you just want a less crowded and non-touristy experience. To help you enjoy unforgettable Big Apple views the way the locals do, here are Travel + Escape’s top picks for where to enjoy lesser-known views in New York City.
Upstairs at the Kimberly
145 E 50th Street, New York City
Located in Midtown East on the 30th floor of the Kimberly Hotel, Upstairs at the Kimberly is a swanky rooftop lounge offering classic cocktails, farm-to-table food fare and aerial views through their floor-to-ceiling glass indoor dining room and outdoor rooftop patio adorned with cascading ivy walls and whimsical strings of incandescent bulbs. Sample dishes like crunchy spiced “Duck Cigars” with pomegranate dipping sauce, flavorful lobster sliders and Italian-inspired mushrooms stuffed with goat cheese and pesto.
While many rooftop bars have blaring club music and a wild party scene, Upstairs at the Kimberly is more of a swanky lounge that’s great for those looking to catch up with friends and enjoy good conversation. That is, if the front-row views of the Chrysler building don’t take your breath away. Take in the view while sipping their signature “Chrysler” cocktail, which features liquefied honey, fresh squeezed lime and lemon juices, cognac and Champagne or sparkling wine served in a Champagne flute with a lime wheel garnish.
Roosevelt Island Tram. Photo courtesy of Brett Saffer Images. (top photo credit)
Roosevelt Island Tram
Access at 59th Street & Second Avenue Station
A lesser-known scenic experience in NYC is the Roosevelt Island Tram. Simply swipe your MetroCard to access the tram, which includes a panoramic gondola ride over the sparkling East River. From the south side of the tram, you’ll enjoy views of the Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, United Nations Building, Randall’s Island, Astoria and the Upper East Side of Manhattan. You’ll also feel like you can reach out and touch the Queensboro Bridge as it runs alongside the tram. The Roosevelt Island Tram follows the same path as the F Train, but provides a much more scenic and fun way to get to and from Roosevelt Island and Manhattan. Tip: Before exiting on the Manhattan side look down to take in dizzying views of 1st and 2nd Avenues.
Statue of Liberty. Photo courtesy of Tom Fakler.
DSW Designer Show Warehouse in Union Square
40 E 14th Street
While known for having an expansive shoe selection, the DSW store in Union Square is also one of the best spots in the city to enjoy unparalleled views. Take the escalator up to their 6th floor to take in aerial views of Union Square Park, the beautiful clock tower of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower, the Empire State Building and the Fuerza Bruta Theater. The best part? You won’t have to purchase a $20 cocktail to enjoy a great view as the experience is completely free.
Sitting in the shadow of the Empire State Building. Photo courtesy of Randy Scott Slavin.
Vu Rooftop Bar
17 W 32nd Street
Located in Koreatown, Vu Rooftop Bar is a lesser-known and unpretentious rooftop bar located on the 14th floor of the La Quinta Hotel. Part of the experience is entering through the budget-friendly accommodation, which is the last place one would expect to find a trendy rooftop venue. Once you get to the top, you’ll be immersed in a casual yet ambient atmosphere with friendly staff, comfortable couches and an outdoor patio where you can sip handcrafted yet inexpensive drinks in the shadow of the Empire State Building, allowing you to really experience the enormous size of the iconic building. We recommend visiting during their daily happy hour from 5pm to 7pm, where you can also enjoy $5 cocktails and beers as well as $3 shots.
Photo courtesy of Alma Restaurant
187 Columbia St Brooklyn, NY 11231
Located in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood in Brooklyn you’ll find Alma Restaurant. Featuring three distinct floors, this stylish Mexican restaurant serves up traditional cuisine fused with American and Asian influences and strong margaritas. The real draw to the venue, however, is the panoramic views of the Brooklyn piers, Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline. The best view can be found on their rooftop — especially facing Columbia Street — which has tables (not barstools) for a comfortable and scenic roof terrace experience. We recommend visiting at night when you can see Lower Manhattan twinkling against a darkened backdrop — especially when paired with their spicy guacamole and a mixed tequila tasting.
Public art along The High Line. Photo courtesy of Anita Breland.
The High Line
Runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th & 11th Avenues
An abandoned elevated railway that was converted into an urban park, the High Line provides more intimate views looking down on individual New York City streets, making you feel both immersed in the city’s architectural culture yet distanced as you walk through the High Line’s gardens, lawns and public art. The experience is less about getting an aerial view and more about getting a unique view as you feel like you’re growing with the skyscrapers — and close enough the touch them. The High Line allows visitors to truly appreciate the large variety of architectural styles in New York City and how they seamlessly blend together to enhance the local eclectic culture. For example, next to an old weathered brownstone covered in graffiti you may find a contemporary building with reflective siding and an optical illusion-creating angled facade, showcasing both the the city’s roots as well as its future. Moreover, from the High Line you’ll have prime views of an array of landmarks, some of which include Chelsea Market, the Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, State of Liberty, the abstract yet functional InterActiveCorp headquarters building created by famed architecture Frank Gehry and Diane von Furstenberg’s design studio on the High Line’s southern end featuring a geodesic glass box top that looks like a diamond that fell from the heavens. Moreover, the Hudson River follows the park adding a tranquil element to the experience.
Lower Manhattan from Staten Island Ferry. Photo courtesy of Tom Fakler.
Staten Island Ferry
For a relaxing and free way to enjoy prime NYC views, ride the Staten Island Ferry. Sip a cold brew (yes, the ferry serves beer), and enjoy the Manhattan skyline fading in the distance as well as close up views of Lady Liberty as the ferry sails past the iconic statue. Once you reach Staten Island, head to Wagner College, walk out onto Howard Avenue and toward the main entrance to a clearing in the hedges where you can take in a postcard view of the Verrazano Bridge, which is best viewed at night with a twinkling cityscape.
What’s your favorite NYC view? Please share in the comments below.