Summit One Vanderbilt Observatory: The Ultimate Guide (including ticket prices, how to get there, tips for visiting and what to wear)
What is SUMMIT One Vanderbilt?
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is an observation deck and immersive art installation located on the 57th – 59th floor (equivalent 93rd floor) of the One Vanderbilt building. It is New York City’s newest and most unique observation deck, offering a multi-sensory experience from start to finish.
This page contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
This post contains a full guide to visiting SUMMIT One Vanderbilt. It includes sections on what to expect during your visit, ticket information, opening times, hints and tips, directions, a map and general FAQs. I visited in SUMMIT in summer 2022.
Please use the table of contents below if you would like to jump straight to a particular section.
In a hurry? Here are some quick SUMMIT links:
- The entrance to SUMMIT is inside Grand Central Station terminal.
- Get your SUMMIT tickets here.
- SUMMIT is not included in the NYC Go City Pass – however this pass is excellent value if you are in town for a few days.
- You will need sunglasses if you don’t want to wear the ones they give you at SUMMIT. Shop sunglasses on Amazon.
- Looking for Edge NYC? Read my Edge NYC post, or get Edge tickets here.
- This is the best mid-range hotel in Manhattan.
Where is SUMMIT One Vanderbilt?
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is situated at 45 East 42nd Street, with the entrance inside Grand Central terminal.
See How to Get to SUMMIT One Vanderbilt towards the bottom of this post for directions.
How tall is SUMMIT One Vanderbilt?
The One Vanderbilt building is 1,401 feet tall. It is the tallest observation tower in midtown Manhattan, and the 4th tallest skyscraper in NYC (in 2023).
Whilst SUMMIT is technically located on the 57th – 59th floors, these are the equivalent height to the 91st – 93rd floors of similar height buildings. One Vanderbilt has higher ceilings than other buildings of its size, therefore it has fewer floors.
The other three tallest buildings in New York City are One World Observatory, Central Park Tower and 111 W 57th Street.
Contrary to popular opinion, SUMMIT One Vanderbilt is taller than Edge NYC, which at 1,268 feet, comes in at 6th on the list. However, Edge has the highest outdoor observation deck (the adventurous City Climb platform).
What sort of art installation is at the top?
The art installation is called Air: by artist Kenzo Digital and is located across the top three floors of the building. It comprises huge mirrored floors and ceilings, with reflective materials which create an endless optical illusion effect.
There are also silver floor sculptures, a room filled with silver balloons, digital wall displays and mirrored boxes.
What happens on a visit to SUMMIT One Vanderbilt?
SUMMIT offers 360-degree views of the Manhattan cityscape below, with views for miles in every direction on a clear day. It has an outdoor terrace, huge floor-to-ceiling windows and bar at the top.
Read on for a full walkthrough of a typical visit to SUMMIT.
You will only be permitted to enter 15 minutes prior to the time stated on your ticket. There is no waiting area, so if you are early, you will have to hang around until your allotted time.
When you enter, you will be given a wristband and asked to wait in line for security.
Once through security you will have your photo taken, which will be put on a backdrop and available to purchase on floor 2.
Next, you will join another line to receive your shoe-covers, for walking on mirrored floors. You will also be given sunglasses if you are visiting during the daytime, as reflective surfaces can be very bright in direct sunlight. You can also wear your own sunglasses (my favourite sunglasses are here and here).
Note about shoe covers: they are not great for photos, but you can’t take them off. It is best to wear flat shoes. Stiletto heels and steel toe caps are not permitted.
Next is a quick face-scan taken on an iPad, and then into the elevator up to the 57th floor.
The elevator is fast. There are mirrored panels, but no digital video show like the Empire State, or Edge NYC. There is also no welcome video like at One World Trade Center. You just go into the elevator and straight up to start your immersive experience.
When you exit the elevator you will walk through a very bright hallway with floor-to-ceiling white lights. Now is a good time to put your sunglasses on (depending on the time of day). There is a sense of coolness and calmness here, which is achieved with ambient soft background noise and air-conditioning which feels remarkably like fresh air.
You will then walk into the first part of the experience: Transcendence 1.
There are three levels, and it is important to note that you cannot turn back to a previous level. This is to control the level of traffic.
Room 1: Transcendence 1.
Transcendence 1 is an enormous mirrored room with glass panels so you can see the floors above, which are also mirrored. This creates a never-ending optical illusion. The Manhattan skyline seems magnified and is reflected in every surface. No matter where you stand and which direction you look in, it is a dramatic visual experience.
There are floor-to-ceiling views of the city to the east, west and south. To the east is probably the best view of the Chrysler building that I have seen anywhere in New York City.
Note about clothing: there are warnings on the SUMMIT website about not wearing dresses and skirts due to the mirrors. To spell it out, people could see up your skirt. There is a non-reflective path you can walk if you are not comfortable on the mirrors, but this will reduce the enjoyment of the experience significantly. I wore thick tights, but jeggings or a jumpsuit might be better.
Room 2: Reflect.
This room is significantly more chilled. There is an art installation on the floor which looks a bit like silver mercury drops. It is called ‘Clouds’ by Yayoi Kusama. There are more amazing views of the city, with your first view looking North in this room. At the far end is a model of SUMMIT One Vanderbilt with some facts and figures on the wall.
Room 3: Affinity.
This room contains the multi-sensory silver balloon experience. There are mirrored floors and ceilings with large silver balloons (thick balloons, like beach balls) floating around with the aid of some air machines. It is great fun to play with the balloons, you can throw them to each other and bounce them around.
There is also a digital wall with a beautiful display of blue and white clouds. This display is also reflected in the mirrors and even on some parts of the outside of the building through the windows. This side is facing North towards Central Park.
From Affinity you will take the elevator up to the next level on the 58th floor.
Room 4: Transcendence 2.
The second Transcendence room has a view directly down into the first Transcendence room, which adds to the optical illusions. It’s hard to see where one room ends and another room starts. The lighting outside also will look a little different due to it being around an hour after you first arrived.
A great idea is to visit about an hour before sunset, so you can get to Transcendence 2 just as the sun is setting.
There is a circular opening in the floor here, which creates a round optical illusion down to the lower floor. The lights also change colour, and the view of the Empire State from across the balcony is simply stunning.
Room 5: Levitation.
Stepping through to the next room, you will find two giant glass sky boxes attached to the side of the building (1063 feet up) and a line to have your photograph taken inside one. Only the staff can take these photos, you are not permitted to take photos here yourself. The glass boxes are a thrilling/terrifying experience depending on how faint hearted you are! You can purchase the photo at additional expense.
Room 6: Unity.
For this room you have to scan the QR code on your wristband, and you will see your face appear in the clouds on the digital wall. Your face will be ‘made out of clouds’ rather than a photograph.
After Unity you will ride the elevator to the top level of SUMMIT One Vanderbilt.
Room 7: Après.
Après is a cocktail bar on the 59th floor with beautiful views.
If you go at sunset you will walk into a lively rooftop bar with a DJ playing dance music and an outdoor balcony deck with drinks and snacks. The vibe is positive and upbeat, with people dancing outside on deck as well as inside the building.
This is also where you will find ‘Ascent’, the glass elevators which can take you up to the higher floors on the outside of the building for an extra $20. These are the largest glass elevators in the world! They will take you up 1,210 feet above 42nd Street.
From the bar, you then take the elevator down two floors and walk through a gift shop before getting in the line for the elevator to exit the building. This line is long but goes down quite quickly. When you get to the bottom there is another gift shop (which seems to be selling the same items as upstairs).
What is the best time to visit SUMMIT One Vanderbilt?
In my opinion, visiting about an hour before sunset is the best time to go. Allow 30 minutes to get through security first. Your visit is not timed and you can stay as long as you like.
What are the ticket prices?
There are three types of One Vanderbilt ticket:
- Basic SUMMIT Experience: The main general admission tickets are $39 for adults 13+ and $33 for youths over 6. Children under 5 go free.
- Mid Range SUMMIT Ascent: This ticket includes the Ascent glass elevator experience. $59 for adults over 13 and $53 for youth. Under 5’s go free.
- Top End Ultimate SUMMIT: Both of the above plus a cocktail or mocktail included (note you have to be over 21 to drink alcohol in the USA). $73 per adult over 13 and $67 for youths.
There is cheaper pricing available for NY residents (type your zip code in here to see prices).
You will need to add another $10 for sunset admission. Book online here.
SUMMIT One Vanderbilt tickets are not included in any of the NYC passes, so you will have to pay separately. Evening tickets are the same price as daytime tickets, but sunset is more expensive.
Tips and things to be aware of at SUMMIT One Vanderbilt.
SUMMIT is open from 09:00 to 22:30 (but closed on Tuesdays).
Long selfie sticks (over 12mm) tripods and professional cameras are not allowed.
Luggage, carry-on bags, wheeled bags and suitcases are not allowed. Handbags are ok – expect them to be inspected prior to entry. There are no lockers.
Stiletto shoes, work boots and sports cleats are not allowed.
Be careful of your clothing, remember there are mirrors everywhere. Skirts and dresses (without tights) should be avoided. A jumpsuit like this one would be a good choice.
Tickets are not available on the various City Passes and have to be bought separately. However the City Passes are excellent value for money if you are visiting NYC for more than one day.
In the photos on the official website, people are wearing normal shoes. Unfortunately this is not the case in real life. You will have to wear your shoe covers and keep them on until you reach the bar at the top level. The main reason for this is to protect the reflective surfaces. I recommend wearing comfortable shoes under your shoe covers.
How to get to SUMMIT One Vanderbilt
The entrance to Summit One Vanderbilt is inside the Grand Central Station terminal, in the Vanderbilt passage. This is located towards the rear of the building, look at the overhead signs in the main concourse and you will see a sign for the Vanderbilt passage.
Subway lines 4, 5, 6 and 7 serve this area, and it is also accessible by road (Uber, Lyft or taxi). If you are going by car, there are parking garages nearby, but they are expensive.
Personal Opinion: Is Summit One Vanderbilt Worth it?
100% yes. It was a unique experience and lots of fun.
SUMMIT is my favourite observation deck in NYC. It offers beautiful and immersive art installations, as well as 360 degree views of New York City, and the whole experience is very well managed. Book tickets here.
SUMMIT is not the tallest viewpoint in NYC, but personally I prefer slightly lower views, as they offer great views of buildings from a similar viewpoint (rather than looking down on them from above).
One of the best things about SUMMIT is the way it intertwines the modern art inside with the panoramic views of the lower Manhattan skyline outside.
What Else is there to do near SUMMIT One Vanderbilt?
SUMMIT is situated in midtown Manhattan, with Bryant Park, Madison Avenue and New York Public Library all within walking distance.
Grand Central Station is a tourist attraction in itself, and it also houses an excellent food market on the street level.
If you visit Top of the Rock, you can get a great view of the top of Summit One Vanderbilt. If you go at night, you may see the top of the building glowing in different colours.
Where to Stay in New York City (Manhattan)
Here are my top picks for Manhattan hotels on Booking.com:
Best luxury hotel: 33 Seaport Hotel is a 5 star hotel right next to Wall Street and the Financial district. 10 minute walk from Brooklyn Bridge subway station.
Best mid-range hotel: Hilton Garden Inn New York/Midtown Park Avenue is a 3 star hotel with on-site restaurant, just minutes from the Empire State Building.
Best budget hotel: Hotel St. James is a 2 star hotel in the theatre district with a guest library, business centre and free wifi.
You can see the current hotel deals in Manhattan here.
I recommend reserving your room immediately to get the best price. It’s usually free to reserve on Booking.com, and you can always cancel later on. Most properties on Booking.com allow free cancellation up to the day before the booking date.
Summit One Vanderbilt FAQs
Is SUMMIT One Vanderbilt worth it?
Yes, the SUMMIT One Vanderbilt experience is totally worth it. This new observatory and immersive experience is a must-do on any itinerary for Manhattan.
How long does it take to do SUMMIT One Vanderbilt?
I recommend allowing at least 2 hours for your experience. You might need longer than this if you wish to spend time in the cocktail bar or the gift shop. Bear in mind at peak times there can be a queue for the elevator to get back down to ground level.
What is the SUMMIT One Vanderbilt experience?
The SUMMIT One Vanderbilt experience is an immersive, multi-sensory tourist attraction in Manhattan, New York City. It combines art, mirrors and panoramic views at the top of a skyscraper to give a unique experience.
How much does it cost to go to SUMMIT One Vanderbilt?
Tickets to SUMMIT One Vanderbilt start at $39, with discounts for resident New Yorkers. See more information above in the Ticket Prices section, or purchase general admission tickets here.
Can I wear boots SUMMIT One Vanderbilt?
You can wear boots as long as they are not heeled boots or steel toe caps, or sports cleats. You will be walking on mirrored floors with thin shoe covers on.
Can I wear a dress to SUMMIT One Vanderbilt?
It is recommended that you wear trousers/pants or leggings. I wore a dress with thick tights, but I would probably wear jeans next time.
The official website says: “Due to the nature of the space and presence of reflective and transparent flooring materials, we recommend wearing pants, shorts, or tights to enjoy the full SUMMIT experience. For guests uncomfortable walking on reflective surfaces, we do offer a non-reflective privacy path throughout the space,”
Is Summit One better at night or day?
The best time to visit Summit One Vanderbilt is at sunset. Time your visit for one hour before the sun goes down, for the best views. If you intend to visit during the day, I recommend early morning to beat the crowds (it gets extremely busy during the day).
Is there a bar in SUMMIT One Vanderbilt?
Yes there is a cocktail bar and cafe called Après on the top of the One Vanderbilt building. It is 1,603 feet above the Manhattan streets. It has an outdoor bar on the terrace and a classic New York snacks menu, including hot dogs and pretzels. The bar is run by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Events and is the perfect place for a cocktail with a view.
How much did SUMMIT One Vanderbilt cost to build?
The skyscraper One Vanderbilt building was developed by partners Hines, SL Green Realty Corp and NPS. It reportedly cost $3.31 billion to complete.
Travel Advice for Your Trip to NYC
Climate in NYC
The rainy season starts in April and goes on till June, with an average temperature of 11C / 51F. It gets warmer from May and the rain starts to ease off. The hottest and driest month is July, with an average high of 28C / 84F. January and February have the highest chance of sow.
Tourist seasons in NYC
The low season is January to March, which is when hotels are the cheapest and the crowds are the lowest. The rest of the year can be considered high season. December is the most expensive month to visit.
The currency is the US dollar ($) and it comes in banknotes up to $100, although I don’t recommend using $100 notes. $50 notes are usually the highest notes used. Be careful because all the notes look similar and it is easy to get them confused.
Credit cards are accepted everywhere (including taxis) and they are generally used more than cash. If you don’t have a credit card (or you want to pay in dollars) you can request a free Revolut Debit Card here. You can use it immediately with Apple or Google Pay.
VISAs for NYC
Non-US citizens need to apply for a VISA, or an ESTA if eligible and staying for less than 90 days. Apply for your ETSA here.
The New York subway is an efficient way of getting around. Be aware it gets very busy at peak times. One trip costs $2.50 or you can buy a 7 day Metrocard for $29. You can pick one up in any subway station.
Click here to download a PDF of the New York City MTA Subway Map.
I don’t recommend hiring a car if you are staying in Manhattan. The traffic is very congested and the parking is hard to find, and expensive. You can easily hail yellow cabs, or use Uber if you prefer (it’s cheaper).
You might still want to hire a car if you intend to take a trip out of town, for this I recommend the car comparison site Discover Cars. In the USA they drive on the right.
I recommend the NYC Go City pass if you plan on seeing any tourist attractions. All the big attractions are included (including the Statue of Liberty but not including SUMMIT one Vanderbilt), plus lots of small ones too. You can also use it for food options, boat rides, ferry crossings and bicycle hire. Purchase your Go City NYC Pass here.
Related Reading for New York City
You may be interested in these other related posts from the blog:
- How to visit Edge NYC – the tallest sky deck in the western hemisphere
- How to walk from Chelsea Market to Hudson Yards
- How to see the Statue of Liberty for free
- 20 Best Travel Books every Traveller Must Read
Pinterest Pin – How to visit Summit One Vanderbilt NYC
Thank you for reading my post on Summit One Vanderbilt NYC (United States). I hope it has helped you to plan your trip.
Have you been to SUMMIT? What did you think? Feel free to share your experiences below in the comments.