The Vessel is one of New York City’s newest attractions. This futuristic spiral staircase, which is the centerpiece of Hudson Yards, looks like something out of a science fiction movie. It’s fun to visit and fun to photograph, but it’s not without controversy.
In this guide to the Vessel, we share with you everything you need to know about how to visit the Vessel, from photo tips, to how to get your tickets, and how to have the best experience.
What is the Vessel?
The Vessel is a spiral staircase where 154 flights of stairs, for a grand total of nearly 2,500 steps, are linked together. It was designed by Thomas Heatherwick and it cost $200 million to construct the Vessel.
The Vessel opened in March 2019 and it quickly became one of Manhattan’s most popular attractions.
Since its opening, the Vessel has closed several times. During the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Vessel closed for social distancing.
Tragically, three people have committed suicide by jumping from the Vessel. The Vessel closed after each of these incidents, and calls to dismantle the Vessel have gotten more adamant in recent months.
Instead of dismantling the Vessel, more security measures were put in place in order to keep it open to the public.
Staff at the Vessel was tripled. These staff members are trained to watch for behavior that could indicate if someone is considering self-harm. Visitors have to enter in pairs or groups.
Despite these added security measures, many people still think that the height of the barriers on the Vessel should be increased or that it should be dismantled.
View from the Equinox Hotel.
Where is the Vessel?
The Vessel is located in the Hudson Yards. This is the Manhattan’s newest and most expensive neighborhood. Construction costs are estimated to hit $2 billion and this is one of the largest private real estate development projects in US history. The construction of Hudson Yards is expected to be completed in 2025.
The Vessel is the centerpiece of Hudson Yards. To get here, take the 7 train to the 34th Street – Hudson Yards station. Once you exit the subway station, it’s impossible to miss the Vessel. You can also get to the Vessel by taxi, Uber, or Lyft, or by walking the High Line.
How to Visit the Vessel: Hours of Operation & Ticket Options
Hours of Operation
The Vessel is open 7 days a week from 10 am to 8 pm.
The first hour (10 am to 11 am) is free. For the rest of the day, it costs $10 per person to visit the Vessel.
Tickets can be purchased online in advance or at the entrance to the Vessel.
Online, you can reserve your time slot at 10 am. Since this is the only time that you can visit the Vessel for free, time slots can “sell out” in advance. We spent several days in and around Hudson Yards, and from what we saw, the 10 to 11 am time slot was the busiest time to visit the Vessel.
Get updated hours before your visit and make your reservations online on the official website.
What to Expect on Your Visit to the Vessel
Your entry ticket gives you a window of time that you are permitted to enter the Vessel. For example, if your entry ticket is from 1 pm to 2 pm, you can enter at any time during this hour. If you arrive early (for example, at 12:30 pm), you will have to wait for your time slot. If you arrive late (2:02 pm), the staff will reschedule your visit for a future time and/or date, depending on availability.
The first thing that we noticed was the very large numbers of staff onsite. As we approached the Vessel and just before showing our tickets, we were welcomed by three different staff members.
At the base of the Vessel, your ticket will be scanned and then you are free to wander among the different levels. There is no time limit but most visits last 30 to 45 minutes.
There is an elevator for those who cannot climb stairs. Access to the elevator is reserved for those with disabilities.
The Vessel in Photos
I had a lot of fun taking photos here. There are many unique viewpoints, not only of the Vessel, but also of Hudson Yards.
All of the photos in this guide were taken with a Canon 5D Mark IV and a 16-35 mm lens.
The base of the Vessel.
First view of the inside of the Vessel.
Looking straight up from ground level.
The view from one of the openings on the first level.
As you climb up the steps, you can zig zag your way up one side or you can slowly circle around the Vessel for different views.
There are 154 flights of stairs. It sounds exhausting, but mostly likely you will pause so many times for photos that you won’t really get tired.
Could this be one of the coolest elevator rides?
Getting close to the top.
Alien spaceship or New York City tourist attraction?
It took us about 25 minutes to climb to the top of the Vessel (we stopped A LOT for photos). We spent about 10 minutes on top before heading back down. Our entire visit lasted 45 minutes.
The top level of the Vessel.
We made one full lap on the top level before heading back down. I wish I kept a tally of how many of those 154 flights of stairs we climbed on our visit.
Let’s have one more look at those stairs!
Best Time to Visit the Vessel
If you want to visit the Vessel for free, the only time that you can do this is the first hour of the day, from 10 am to 11 am. From our experience, this is also the most crowded time to visit the Vessel.
The end of the day would also be a nice time to visit, particularly around sunset.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a time limit?
No, once you are on the Vessel, you can stay as long as you like. Most visits last 30 to 45 minutes. We spent 45 minutes here.
What if you are traveling solo?
To visit the Vessel, you have to visit in pairs or small groups. This rule was recently put in place to prevent another suicide attempt. If you are traveling solo, one of the Vessel staff members will accompany you during your visit.
Does the Vessel close if the weather is bad?
The Vessel can close during extreme weather. During our visit, the Vessel closed for several hours for thunderstorms that were located several miles away in New Jersey. Even though it was not raining in Manhattan, the Vessel did close.
If the Vessel closes due to extreme weather, you can exchange your ticket for a different date and time. But if it is raining and the Vessel stays open, you cannot exchange or get a refund of your ticket.
Is the Vessel worth it?
Absolutely. If you can visit during the first hour, your entry is free, making this one of the best free things to do in New York City.
For the remainder of the day, the $10 entrance fee is relatively cheap for Manhattan, especially compared to sights such as the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, which cost $30 or more.
If it is your first visit to NYC, I think it is more essential to visit the Empire State Building, stroll through Central Park, ride the ferry to the Statue of Liberty, and visit the 9/11 Memorial, than climb the steps of the Vessel. But if your visit to the city will be long (4 days or more), or if you just want to visit this side of Manhattan, then a visit to the Vessel is worth it.
What else can you do in the area?
Spend some time in Hudson Yards and Chelsea. Visit the Edge (Manhattan’s most thrilling observation deck), walk the High Line, and grab a bite to eat at Chelsea Market (our favorite restaurants are Los Tacos, the Lobster Place, and Takumi). You can also visit the Chelsea Pier to hit some golf balls at the driving range or visit the Little Island.
More Information about New York City
ITINERARY: 5 Days in New York City: The Ultimate Itinerary
OBSERVATION DECKS: Best Observation Decks in New York City: Ranked by Price, Location & View
THE EDGE: How to Visit the Edge: Photos, Tips & Is It Worth It?
ONE WORLD OBSERVATORY: How to Visit One World Observatory
WHERE TO STAY: Where to Stay in New York City: Best Hotels and Neighborhoods
BROOKLYN: One Perfect Day in Brooklyn, New York
If you have any questions about how to visit the Vessel, or if you would like to share your experience, let us know in the comment section below.
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