Saturday 6 April 2024

Top Tips for visiting Summit Skyscraper New York {review}

This year I took a trip up the amazing Summit One Vanderbilt building, the latest destination skyscraper to visit in New York City. The views were stunning! I thought I would share some of my photos and also a list of top tips that might help if you are thinking of visiting.

looking towards downtown Manhattan, lots of buildings of varying heights

Top Tips for going up the Summit:

1. Buy tickets online in advance.

I recommend buying from the Summit website in advance if you’d like to guarantee to be there at a certain time. Pick an hour before sunset for daylight, sunset and night time viewing, or further in advance if you think you want a space by the windows on Transcendence 1, the first floor you reach, which has the most window space. It is so cool to see the landscape change from day to night, so I highly recommend this time if you can! But if you want to be in Summit when it’s at its quietest, you’ll need to be on the first elevator up - and the queue for that starts around half an hour before opening time. I’ve heard it gets busy quickly though so it’s difficult to escape the crowds. There are still plenty of photo opportunities though, despite all the people up there!

street sign showing where summit is

2. How to find The Summit:

Easy to find if you go to Grand Central station and go out to street level.The entrance is just around the corner from the main station entrance, next to TD Bank on 42nd Street. I’ve seen it said that it can be confusing to find from inside Grand Central itself because there isn't any obvious Summit signage - instead follow signs for the exit to Vanderbilt Av then take the elevator up to 42nd Street. The actual entrance to Summit is on a mid-level, so if you come in from the street, don't go down the escalator like we did as you'll pass the entrance and not be able to get off! We went back up then took the elevator down to that mid-level, but there are also stairs down to it.

3.  It's a one-way experience.

There are 3 floors to explore and once you move up a level you can’t go back down, so think about what you want to see, where, first. The first floor you arrive at after taking the super fast lift (it's actually the 91st floor!) has the most space by the glass windows. We only discovered after coming home that there is a light show there as the sun goes down. At 530pm (for a 7pm sunset) there were already lots of people sitting by the windows, camping out ready for sunset, or posing for Instagram photos, but we still managed to take some good photos on this level. 

looking towards downtown Manhattan, lots of buildings of varying heights and river around

4. Take sunglasses! 

The first floor is super shiny and reflective and it can make your eyes water when you first walk in. Plastic sunglasses are apparently provided on the way in (that you have to hand back after your visit) but we somehow missed seeing these even though it wasn’t busy when we entered.

5. Don’t wear a skirt. 

Because, reflections…

a reflective view of all of lower manhattan

6. Wear cool clothes or thin layers. 

All that sunlight and glass means you will warm up super quick. When you get to the outside section on floor 93 you might want a cover up though - it was pretty windy out there in March! 

7. Be prepared for strange sounds. 

There is some kind of soundtrack playing on the first two floors, not super loud but I found it a bit eerie. The sounds were made using glass instruments, I'm not sure how to describe them, maybe a bit like wind whistling around (even though it wasn’t!). They unnerved me and made me feel unsafe at times. I've only read about what they were since we got home. On the 93rd floor, around the bar area, there was some great chilled out DJ style music playing and I much preferred that.

8. The Affinity room is mayhem.

Perfect for those Instagram photos but that's also the reason why I couldn't spend much time in this room. Lots of silver balls on the floor and ceiling, and floating somewhere inbetween, and lots of people and children in amongst them all. I did laugh at this photo my daughter managed to snap though.

me in a pink jumper holding up a silver balloon. my hair is flying out backwards

8. Sky box is worth the queue!

After Transcendence 2 on the second level there are two glass ledges suspended 1,100 feet above Madison Avenue area, where you can step onto a transparent sky box and see the road below. We waited approx 20 mins in the organised queue (as a Brit, I love a good queue if it's well organised) which I felt was worth it (although probably not if it makes your legs go to jelly and you start to feel nauseous, ha). 

viw of Hudson river and the edge skyscraper in manhattan

Once in the box you smile for official photos with your back to the view but you also get 30 seconds to take your own photos there, either of yourself or of the views all around, or both!

me sitting on a glass floor very high up

9. The outside elevator no longer operates. 

Ascent was an outside the building elevator with a glass floor, an extra part of the experience to go even higher but it had a slight malfunction last year 😱 so hasn’t been available to book for a while. Not sure it will open again but I think the experience was just fine without it and I won't be rushing to book that if it ever does reopen…

tall buildings in foreground and central park behind

10. Allow lots of time for your visit. 

We were up there for around 3 hours from 5pm and didn’t get bored at all. We weren’t hurried along at any point during our visit so it definitely felt like value for money (currently $46 per person if you buy online in advance). You can see 360 views all around the building; downtown with the beautiful Empire State and the One World Observatory, the Edge, Central Park and my personal fave, the Chrysler Building:

chrysler building in foreground and river behind

11. Chill out at the top.

Enjoy a cocktail or some bar snacks on the 93rd and final floor before heading outside - or go outside first and come back in for the bar after! The views from here are just as good looking downtown or over to the Hudson river to the West. 

looking towards downtown Manhattan, lots of buildings with night lights coming on

12. Finally, check out your photo package.

When you scan your face at the start, they edit this into a cloud which is funny to look at. There’s somewhere along the way where you can scan your wristband to see this on a big screen but somehow we missed that part 🤷🏻‍♀️ Just before you leave the Summit you are given the option to see all the photos. The official photos they ask you to pose for at the very beginning (you don't have to say yes to this if you don't want to) are added to a variety of green screen positions so you can appear to be enjoying Summit without lots of other people. We didn’t buy any of the official photos but thought they weren't too expensive if you did want to, and we enjoyed looking at them!

looking down on buildings in Manhattan, lots of buildings of varying heights

Would I go visit Summit again? Yes, for sure! I'd try to pick a clearer day for a more amazing sunset (there were a few too many clouds when we went) and I'd be more prepared with all of my top tips...

me taking a photo in a mirror that shows empire state and lower manhattan behind me

If you love New York as much as I do and you'd like to hear what I got up to in NYC last summer (spoiler: I went up the Empire State for sunrise, one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had!), see my post about that trip titled Travelling solo to New York City, or tap on the photo below: 
bike and flower display at top of empire state building

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