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The Empire State Building Experience

Visiting the Empire State Building:
The Empire State Building, located in the heart of midtown Manhattan, is one of the most recognizable and iconic landmarks in the world. Built in 1931 during the Great Depression and at the peak of the skyscraper craze, the 103-story limestone building opened after only thirteen months of construction. The framework rose at an astonishing rate of four and a half stories per week, making the Empire State Building the fastest-rising skyscraper ever built.

If you've never been to New York, visiting the Empire State Building is a must do attraction.  You'll be able to head up to its 86th floor at 1,050-feet above ground and step out onto the observation deck to look out at magnificent 360-degree views of New York City.  

The 86th-floor observatory has both a glass enclosed area and an outdoor deck spanning the building's circumference. 

The Empire State Building Experience:
The Empire State Building Experience allows you to embark on a journey through one of the most famous landmarks in the world, where you will experience a newly restored Art Deco lobby, learn about the building construction and sustainability efforts to reduce the energy and carbon footprint of the building. 

The Empire State Building Experience can be broken down as follows:

1st Floor - Lobby

  • Take the escalator or elevator up to the 2nd floor, located on your right hand side when entering the building
  • The Empire State Building lobby is one of the few interiors in New York to be designated a historic landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.  
2nd Floor - Sustainability Exhibit and Security Check-In
  • Designed for visitors to first clear security, buy tickets if needed and check out the Sustainability Exhibit while waiting in line for the elevators up to the 80th floor.
80th Floor - Dare to Dream Exhibit
  • After getting out of the elevators, you'll come across one more line for elevators up to the observation deck.  While you wait in line, you can check out the Dare to Dream Exhibit which captures the building’s history, engineering and construction.
86th Floor - Main Observation Deck
  • Enjoy 360-degree views at the highest open-air observatory in New York offering views of Central Park, The Hudson River and East River, The Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square, The Statue of Liberty, and more.  
  • Once you're done enjoying the views, you'll make your way down into the Official Empire State Building Store, where you can buy souvenirs and other items.
  • There will be one more line and set of elevators you'll encounter on your way back down to the 2nd floor.
102nd Floor: Top Deck 
  • Located sixteen floors above the 86th Floor Observatory offering even better views.
  • You can purchase an upgrade ticket at the 86th floor deck or can buy it online before visiting.
Empire State Building Experience

Once you've made it through all of the lines and elevators, your visit will culminate at the 360-degree open-air observation deck, The Empire State Building’s 86th Floor Observatory Deck, where you'll encounter breathtaking views of New York City.  

It was cloudy and overcast on the day we went, but nonetheless, the views were still spectacular.

View towards Central Park
Views of the Hudson River

Tips For Your Visit:
I would recommend buying tickets in advance and getting here as early as you can.  We went first thing in the morning on a Saturday and were able to beat the crowds.  As we were leaving around 12:30 PM, lines were getting very long and it would be tough waiting in long lines with small kids who would run out of patience fast. 

Other tips include:
  • Beat the crowds by visiting early or late:
    • For more space and less wait times, visit between 8AM and 11AM
    • Or if you prefer night views, visit after 10 PM
  • Kids under six are free:
    • Note that if you bring a stroller, you’ll need to fold it before entering the elevators.
  • There are three lines to get to the 86th floor observatory deck, which includes a line for tickets, a line for security, and a line for the elevators. 
  • You can save time by purchasing your tickets in advance online. 
    • You won't be able to skip the security line, but you can skip to the front of both the ticket line and the line for elevators by purchasing an Express Ticket upgrade.
  • One thing to note is that if you don't want to pay more for express service, you can always skip the last elevator line at the 80th floor by taking the stairs six flights up to the 86th floor.  
    • We did this and took the stairs from the 80th floor, saving ourselves quite a bit of time at the last line for elevators up to the observatory deck.  We got some great exercise climbing up the stairs as well.
  • Plan your breaks. Make sure to use the restrooms on the second floor before getting in line for the elevators as you wouldn't want to lose your spot in line.
Location: 350 5th Ave, New York, NY 

Location in the heart of NYC
Hours: Open 365 days a year from 8 AM - 2 AM

Tickets: A standard ticket bought on-site or online from the Empire State Building Experience website will cost you $32 (Adults), $26 (Kids), or $29 (Seniors)

If you're planning on visiting multiple attractions in New York City, then I'd recommend buying a pass that includes multiple attractions that will help save money on all of the places you'll be visiting during your visit to New York City.  

Examples include the New York CityPass or the New York City Explorer Pass.  I plan on highlighting the differences between these options for New York City in a future post and seeing if it makes sense to buy a pass or purchase each attraction ticket individually.

New York City Explorer Pass: NYC Attractions 

Art Deco Display in the 1st Floor Lobby