If you’re planning a visit to New York City, the Empire State Building is likely on your must-see list. With over 4 million annual visitors, this world-famous landmark can get crowded, leading to long lines and potential travel hiccups. To make the most of your experience and avoid common frustrations, our tour guide shares some helpful tips and tricks.
Your Ultimate Guide to Visiting the Empire State Building: Tips and Tricks for a Perfect Visit
If you’re planning to visit the Empire State Building observatory, keep in mind that it’s open every day of the year from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., and the last elevator goes up at 1:15 a.m. With your ticket purchase, you can choose to go up to the 86th-floor observation deck or the 102nd-floor for an additional fee. To save time and avoid an extra line, it’s recommended to purchase your tickets online in advance. The ticket prices vary from $31 to $36, and children under 6 get free admission.
Experience the Thrill of Being on Top of the Empire State Building
The elevator ride to the Empire State Building’s observatory is a quick journey, taking less than a minute. Once you reach the top, you’ll have the freedom to explore the deck at your leisure. On clear days, visibility can extend up to 80 miles, providing stunning views of several of New York City’s iconic landmarks, such as the Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Center, One World Trade Center, Central Park, Times Square, and the Statue of Liberty. You can even catch a glimpse of five different states: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Delaware.
Although there are no restaurants or eateries available, restrooms and binoculars can be found on the 86th floor, while the gift shop is situated on the 80th floor and is open throughout your visit. There’s no time limit to how long you can stay, and the entire experience usually takes around an hour. If you want to return to see the view at night, you can purchase a night pass and revisit without buying another ticket. To avoid waiting in long lines, it’s advisable to purchase your tickets online in advance. Prices range from $31 to $36, and admission is free for children under six.
Navigating Security at the Empire State Building: What You Need to Know
Airport-style security screening is mandatory for all visitors to the observation deck. Certain items such as glass, alcohol, professional cameras and equipment, markers, musical instruments, costume masks, luggage, and more are strictly prohibited. As there are no lockers available, it is best to avoid carrying these items with you.
Make sure to use the restrooms on the second floor before proceeding to security, as there are no restrooms available at the observation deck. Additionally, if you bring a stroller, ensure that it can be folded before entering the elevators.
Accessibility at the Empire State Building: Making Your Visit Inclusive and Enjoyable
The Empire State Building offers accessibility options for those with mobility impairments, such as motorized or non-motorized wheelchairs, and features ramps and lowered viewing walls throughout the observatory. In addition, guests can download a multi-language, interactive audio tour guide app prior to or during their visit.
Skip the Lines at the Empire State Building: Insider Tips for Avoiding the Wait
To avoid the large crowds at the observatory, consider visiting during off-peak hours such as right after the observatory opens at 8 a.m., around 3 p.m., or late at night, around midnight. Weekends should also be avoided if possible. The winter season, except for the period around Christmas, tends to be the least crowded, although visitors should be prepared for colder weather.
For those unable to visit during off-peak hours, the VIP Express Pass can be booked to skip all lines and head straight to the top. This pass starts at $69 per person.
For an even more exclusive experience, visitors can consider booking the Premium Experience Package, which includes a 90-minute guided tour of the building with all-access privileges to the 86th and 102nd floors, and skip-the-line privileges. The Sunrise Experience offers priority entrance before the general public to witness the sunrise over the city.
You can also read: “Get Lost in the Sights and Sounds of Chinatown: Top Places to Explore”
Getting to the Empire State Building: A Transportation Guide for Tourists
To find the Empire State Building using GPS, use the street address 20 W. 34th Street, which is located between 5th and 6th Avenues.
If arriving by subway, take the 1, 2, or 3 train to the 34th Street/Penn Station stop, or the B, D, F, M, N, Q, or R train to the 34th Street/Herald Square stop. If you are arriving at Penn Station via Amtrak or NJ Transit and prefer walking, the building is only two blocks east of the station.
A helpful guide tip is to locate the observatory entrance on 34th Street by looking for the number 20 and the word “observatory” over the doorway. The entrances on 5th Avenue or 33rd Street are private and not accessible to visitors.
Exploring the Empire State Building from the Ground Up
For those who want to enjoy spectacular views of the Empire State Building without spending too much, there are alternatives to the expensive ride to the top. Take an NYC ferry from Lower Manhattan or Brooklyn for only the cost of a subway swipe ($2.75) and get off at 34th Street, where you’ll be treated to impressive vistas of the Manhattan skyline with the Empire State Building in a perfect spot. Check the NYC ferry schedule for the latest departure times and routes.
Even if you decide not to go to the top, it’s highly recommended to set aside some time to appreciate the building up close. The Art Deco lobby is stunning and can be accessed free of charge. If you’re willing to buy a ticket and forego the observation deck, explore some of the exhibits on the 2nd and 80th floors. As one of the largest office buildings in the world, the Empire State Building boasts a rich history and unique architecture that is waiting to be discovered. Visit their website for the latest updates on open exhibits.
An Insider’s Look at the 102nd Floor of the Empire State Building
Many people wonder if it’s worth the extra expense to ascend to the 102nd-floor observatory, which costs $62-$68 and includes admission to the 86th floor. Since the view from the 86th floor is already magnificent, it must be even more breathtaking from 16 floors higher, right? In reality, not really, as many reviews on TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Google attest.
If you don’t enjoy waiting in long lines, you’ll have to queue up again on the 86th floor to enter a cramped elevator that only accommodates a few people at a time. Once you reach the top, you’ll be enclosed in a relatively small room with glass walls and jostling with other visitors for the best view. Additionally, the glass causes reflections that can detract from your photos, and you won’t be able to feel the fresh air from outside.
Moreover, the views from the 102nd and 86th floors are quite similar since you’re already so high up. Frankly, the only real advantage is the possibility of fewer crowds. If you’re lucky, perhaps you’ll visit on a day when few people upgrade and have more space.
In all likelihood, it’s better to save your money and stay on the 86th floor. You’ll have more room to move around, better photo opportunities, and fresh air.
The Secret 103rd Floor of the Empire State Building
The 103rd floor is situated one level above the official “top floor” that the public can access. This floor features a small balcony that is open to the air and secured by a low ledge and a knee-high railing.
To reach the tiny balcony, visitors must ride several elevators that pass by the inner workings of the building and climb a narrow, steel staircase for the final ascent to the top.
Initially, this floor was designed to function as a mooring mast for airships that would be attached to the spire. Airships were once considered the future of modern air travel. Regrettably, this floor is no longer open to the general public, and only celebrities such as Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, and prominent dignitaries have been granted access to take photos up there.
If you aspire to take breathtaking photos in seclusion from the highest floor, it seems that you must first produce some chart-topping hits. The 103rd floor of the Empire State Building is one of New York’s most challenging and elusive hidden views.
Things to See and Do in the Surrounding Area
As a landmark situated in a bustling area, the Empire State Building provides an abundance of sights in nearly every direction. The location is situated on the edge of Koreatown, a small neighborhood packed with genuine Korean-style dining establishments. For those seeking reasonably priced yet delectable food options, consider visiting New Wonjo or Woorijip before or after your Empire State Building visit.
North If you head uptown, you’ll find yourself within a 10-15 minute walk of three major attractions: Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, and the New York Public Library. If you still have energy after a Broadway show, consider venturing down to the Empire State Building to enjoy the nighttime view.
South Beyond Koreatown lies Madison Square Park and the charming Flatiron Building. While the park is best experienced during daylight hours, if you find yourself in the area at night, make a stop at Eataly on the 23rd and 5th for casual dining, gourmet food shopping, or a few scoops of gelato.
West Herald Square is less than a block from the Empire State Building and is typically bustling with shoppers and diners. It’s a great option for either activity. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the largest Macy’s store in the world, which spans an entire city block.
Empire State Building FAQs: Answers to Your Burning Questions
The Iconic Empire State Building: A Symbol of New York City and American Culture
The Empire State Building is renowned for many reasons.
Upon its completion in 1931, the building reached a height of 1,454 feet, making it the tallest structure in the world. Additionally, it was erected in an impressively short amount of time (just one year and 45 days) during the Great Depression, a time of economic hardship for many Americans.
Although the observation deck was an attractive feature, it was challenging to persuade tourists and businesses to visit or lease space for many years. That all changed with the release of the 1933 film “King Kong,” which famously depicted the enormous ape climbing to the top of the building. This iconic scene in pop culture generated so much interest that millions of people flocked to the building.
And, in case you were unaware, the building is named after New York’s nickname, the Empire State, which reflects its affluence and resources.
Shining Bright: Who is Behind the Colors of the Empire State Building Lights?
After nightfall, the Empire State Building is illuminated with vibrant lights and can showcase up to 16 million different hues that shift in an instant. The staff chooses the colors each evening, frequently incorporating themes such as holidays or significant events.
The building typically displays its “signature white” color, but it also glows with red, white, and blue to commemorate Independence Day, radiates rainbow lights on June 28th in honor of NYC Pride, and features red and green with Candy Cane stripes during Christmas, among many other light displays. These are just a few examples of how the building uses light to celebrate.
A Proposal to Remember: Is the Empire State Building the Perfect Place to Pop the Question?
You wouldn’t be the first to do so! However, it is a lovely gesture. To enhance the romantic ambiance, a saxophone player performs on the 86th floor on Thursdays through Saturdays after 10 p.m. and can even take special requests.
Here’s an interesting tidbit: private wedding ceremonies are not permitted in the building. However, each year, a Valentine’s Day wedding contest is held to select one lucky couple to tie the knot at the Empire State Building on February 14th.
The Heart of the Big Apple: Why the Empire State Building is a Must-Visit Attraction in New York City
New York City boasts numerous iconic landmarks and the Empire State Building is undoubtedly among the most prominent. It’s awe-inspiring to consider that nearly a century later, with countless skyscrapers constructed in the city, the building has maintained its fame. For many visitors, glimpsing it for the first time, even just from the exterior, is a notable experience.
If your itinerary is already brimming with activities, don’t worry. You can still cover a lot of ground and capture that ideal photo of the Empire State Building with a tour of New York City’s most significant highlights in just a few hours.