Manhattan truly does not lack sights at dizzying heights. The famous skyscraper in New York is certainly the Empire State Building - for a long time the tallest building in the city and setting for numerous films, series and novels. Thanks to the spectacular view over the Big Apple, it is also one of New York's top tourist destinations. Due to the high number of visitors all year round, it is highly recommended to book online for a timeslot in advance.
By Klaus Kainz
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The queues for entry and elevators can get long, especially on holidays and just before sunset. With a skip-the-line ticket, you can save both money and nerves.
NYC: Empire State Building Tickets & Skip-the-Line
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Empire State Building: Express Entry
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NYC: Empire State Building Sunrise Experience Ticket
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Book a tour through the Empire State Building for an exclusive experience.
The New York Pass®: 100+ Attractions including Empire State Building
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New York City 1-Day Hop-on Hop-off with Empire State and Statue of Liberty Ferry
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New York City 1-Day Hop-on Hop-off with Empire State Building Admission
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Statue of Liberty & Empire State Building 5-hour Tour by Car
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Express Pass VIP Private Tour of the Empire State Building
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7 tips for visiting the Empire State Building
The top of the Empire State Building | Photo: Unsplash, Marcos Paulo Prado - CC-BY 2.0
Long queues are avoidableNot in the mood for crowds? Visit the Empire State Building early in the morning or late at night. Nice side effect: The view is even more spectacular in the morning and at night.
On the main deck observatory on the 86th floor | Photo: Unsplash, Frederick Marschall - CC-BY 2.0
Enjoy the panorama dressed appropriatelyThe best view can be seen from the observation deck on the 86th floor. It's relatively cool even on sunny days, so don't forget warm clothes - in addition to sunglasses.
WiFi and multimedia guideThe Empire State Building offers free WiFi and a virtual tour with extra materials that can be viewed via QR codes in German, English, Spanish, French, Italian, Mandarin, Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean.
Attraction for LoversThe skyscraper is the right address for romantic dates: from Thursday to Saturday a saxophonist plays on the observation deck on the 86th floor - song requests are possible. The music starts from September to May always at 9:00 pm and lasts until midnight, in the summer from 10:00 pm to 1:00 am. On Valentine's Day, a few lucky couples are even allowed to marry in the Empire State Building, but for this, you have to win an annual lottery!
Admission with City PassMost city tickets and city passes for NYC already include standard entry to the Empire State Building. However, two are particularly noteworthy in relation to admission to the skyscraper: the Go New York Explorer Pass offers express admission without queuing, and the New York CityPASS includes the Day & Night ticket.
Tower Lighting with MeaningOn a trip to New York, there's a good chance you'll see the top of the Empire State Building lit up in bright colors. On holidays and anniversaries, appropriate colors are chosen to commemorate the respective events in the evening. For example, the tower shines in American red, white, and blue on Labor Day. Occasionally, the lights also relate to current world events – in 2023, for instance, the lighting was used to commemorate the victims of the earthquake in Turkey as well as the war in Ukraine.
Choose the Right Ticket!The Empire State Building is not the same as the Empire State Building. The building offers different attractions on different floors for tourists. So when buying a ticket, make sure you made the right choice. What you can do in the building can be found in the following editorial.
View from the 86th floor | Photo: Unsplash, Chris Ladouceur - CC BY-SA 2.0
The Empire State Building - A must in New York
The gigantic skyscraper is one of the most famous in New York and attracts more than 4 million guests annually.
The observation decks of the Empire State Building compared
The building offers two different observation decks, for which a corresponding ticket must be purchased. On the 86th floor, however, you can still upgrade the ticket during the visit.
On a clear day, the view from the 1050ft (320m) high observation deck on the 86th floor extends to six surrounding US states. The use of binoculars is included in the admission price. For everyone who wants to queue as short as possible, the Express Pass is offered as a skip-the-line ticket.
Some locals would say that the 102nd floor at an altitude of 1223.75 ft (373m) is overrated. It is a rather small space with glass windows and without an outdoor terrace, so photos are better taken from the 86th floor. You also have to queue for another elevator, the Central Park and the bridges are however more visible from the higher viewing deck. The 102nd floor was completely renovated in 2019.
The exhibition areas are located on the 2nd and 80th floors, where the planning, construction and use of the building are illuminated from different perspectives. Art is also shown in the Empire State Building - included are selected exhibition areas, which are particularly outstanding:
Here you will find multimedia installations and original documents as well as memorabilia of the 3,400 people who built the skyscraper.
The historic building as a pioneer in climate protection: Sustainability and energy efficiency are the focus of this exhibition.
NYC: ABOVE AND BEYOND
As a special offer, an algorithm in this department of the Empire State Building, after answering some questions, puts together a personal program of Big Apple sights - good, if you lose track in the big city.
Artistry in Light
This exhibition provides insights into the work of those responsible for the lighting of the facade of the Empire State Building.
New York skyline with East River | Photo: Unsplash, Thomas Habr - CC-BY 2.0
The Empire State Building - History and Fun Facts
As a New York icon, the Empire State Building can, of course, boast many historical fun facts and interesting stories.
High, higher, the Empire State Building
The Empire State Building was peerless after its completionuf A in 1931 - until the 1970s it was the tallest building in the world and the first with over 100 floors. After that, it remained at the top of New York for a long time until the World Trade Center was built - after the devastating terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and until the construction of the new World Trade Center, the Empire State Building was once again Manhattan's tallest building. Today it is mainly used for commercial purposes, apart from the tourist observation decks.
The Empire State Building in Blockbusters
Hardly any film scene is more famous: The giant ape King Kong terrifies all of New York as he ascends the mighty Empire State Building under attack from fighter planes. But beyond that, the iconic skyscraper was an important backdrop for numerous feature films, such as James Bond or Sleepless in Seattle. In one of the most famous scenes of the 1990s, in the film Independence Day, aliens even blow up the building.
The Empire State Building from the air | Photo: Unsplash, Bryan Angelo - CC-BY 2.0
Annual Stair Race
Once a year, the stairwell, which is usually closed to guests, opens. This is for the annual stair-climbing competition, where professional athletes, celebrities, and participants selected by draw complete the 1,576 steps to the 86th floor as quickly as possible - always for a good cause - the proceeds go to disability sports. The men's record is 9 minutes and 33 seconds by the Australian Paul Crake, the women's record is 11 minutes and 23 seconds by the Austrian Andrea Mayr.
The Empire State Building: A very popular motif | Photo: Unsplash, Magnus Andersson - CC-BY 2.0
Empire State Building as Artwork
The huge New York building has not only served as the setting for countless blockbusters. Andy Warhol, probably the best-known representative of pop art, shot an silent art film called Empire, in which the titular skyscraper can be seen in slow motion for eight hours - unbearable for film fans but famously infamous as a Warhol artwork.
Unusual transmission tower
Since the 1980s, the antenna on top of the Empire State Building has served as a transmission tower for radio and television stations. However, this was not originally planned. In fact, zeppelins were to be able to dock here, as the skyscraper was equipped with an anchor hook. But after a one-time test with a small airship, this never happened.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Empire State Building wheelchair accessible?
Yes, the attraction is in accordance with the so-called “Americans with Disabilities Act”. Disabled toilets are available, wheelchairs and assistance dogs are allowed.Read more.
May I take photos?
Yes, but not with professional cameras - such are banned in the building.Read more.
Will my bags be searched?
Yes, security checks take place. Items such as weapons, bottles, instruments, sports equipment such as skateboards, large packages or camera equipment will be confiscated.Read more.
How long should I plan for my visit?
Guests are recommended to allow at least 2 hours including the time slots for security checks and waiting times for elevators. In the afternoon, before sunset and on major holidays, you should expect 3 hours. The duration of a tour of the Empire State Building varies depending on the provider and if other attractions in New York are visited during the tour.Read more.
Is the attraction suitable for a visit with children?
A tip for families: Because of the long queues, an express ticket should be chosen, as an alternative games can be brought along that can be played during the waiting time. Toilets are also available on the top floor.Read more.
Can I take my stroller into the building?
Yes, strollers are allowed. But be careful! You have to fold it up on the observation decks.Read more.
Empire State Building is number 2 in New York and number 14 on the worldwide list of the tallest buildings with an observation deck.
The opening hours of the Empire State Building vary depending on the month and season. However, it should open no later than 10:00 AM and not close before 10:00 PM. With some luck, the operating hours can extend to 8:00 AM opening and 2:00 AM closure.
9 W 34th St New York, NY 10001 USA
Tickets for the 86th floor of the Empire State Building cost $44 for adults, $42 for guests over 62 years old, and $38 for children between 6 and 12. Children under 6 are free. Express tickets for the 86th floor cost $84 and admission tickets for the 102nd floor cost about $30 more. The prices can change seasonally.
how to get there
The entrance is located on Fifth Avenue and is easily accessible on foot from other locations in Midtown Manhattan. By subway, you can also get to the Empire State Building at Penn Station/34th Street (lines 1, 2 , 3) or 34th Street/Herald Square (lines B, D, F, M, N, Q, and R). The Hop-On-Hop-Off buses that operate in New York usually also stop directly at the high-rise building.
Written byKlaus KainzAs a studied historian, Klaus is not only interested in historical sights, but also in their fascinating backgrounds. For TicketLens, he gets to the heart of the most interesting information about attractions and travel destinations.