A Complete Guide to Visiting the Empire State Building

Nestled in the heart of New York City lies the most iconic and the most photographed building in the world, the Empire State Building.

Construction began in 1930 and was completed in 1931 in record time, so fast that it took only one year and 45 days in the making.

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In 1932, it was the world’s tallest skyscraper(Now it is still one of the tallest buildings in NYC), towering at 1,454 feet up to the tip with 102 floors.

With its exquisite Art Deco architectural style, the New York City skyline would not be complete without the Empire State Building background.

Today, it is the symbol of New York’s culture and ambition. Moreover, it is one of the most popular must-see attractions in New York, with more than four million tourists coming every year.

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Visit the Empire State Building and learn why this is now the world’s most famous building.

In this article, I share a detailed guide to help you prepare for your visit to the building. From key facts to ticket prices and tips, read on to find out.

What Is in the Empire State Building

You might be wondering – what is inside the Empire State Building? From top to bottom, you will see the tower lights from the antenna, 102nd observatory deck, 86th observatory deck, and 0 to 85 offices. Now, let’s dive deep into each part of the building.

On the east side of the building are revolving doors that lead to the main lobby. The main lobby is from Fifth Avenue and is accessible for free for all tourists. It is a must-see wonder of the building for its historic interior and impressive ceiling design.

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As you come up to the 86th floor, it is the main deck observatory where you can see the New York City skyline in the open air or enclosed area.

There are binoculars available to get a magnified view of the buildings. At the top deck is the 102nd observatory floor which is accessible from the elevator on the 86th floor.

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The 102nd observatory is a confined deck, so you can only view the skyline through tall glass windows. It takes 1,872 steps to reach the 102nd floor, but you don’t need to take the stairs as there are 73 Otis elevators available.

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On the 80th and 2nd floors, there are exclusive exhibits and souvenir shops to finish the Empire State experience.

In a nutshell, the only accessible areas for tourists are the lobby, 2nd floor, 80th floor, 86th floor, and 102nd floor. The rest of the floors from 0 to 85 are offices utilized by big and small companies.

There are about 1,000 businesses that are tenants of the buildings such as Air China, Expedia Group, Filipino Reporter, Human Rights Foundation, LinkedIn, and Shutterstock, among others.

Who Rents the Top Floor of the Empire State Building

We all know that the Empire State Building is up to 102 floors. However, you may be surprised to know that there is a 103rd floor above.

The 103rd floor is a restricted area where mostly VIPs or celebrities are allowed to enter. You will be able to see the celebrities who have visited this floor through their pictures from the Celebrity Walk.

It can only be accessed from the 102nd floor via stairs behind a door. When you go up the stairs, you will find some broadcasting and building equipment, as well as another staircase going up to the capsule just below the antenna.

Some of the most well-known celebrities who visited the 103rd floor are Mariah Carey, Taylor Swift, and Celine Dion.

Empire State Building Colors

One of the most interesting and unique features of the Empire State Building is its changing tower light colors, a tradition that has been around since 1976.

The tower lights change colors depending on the season, campaign, religious events, holiday, and partner organizations or people.

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For instance, some of its light shows in the past were partnered with OneRepublic, Phantom of the Opera 30th Anniversary Music-to-Light Show, Protecting Change, Hindu Goddess, and Meet the Mets.

Thanks to its high-tech LED lighting system, the tower lights can change up to over 16 million color displays. If you are coming to New York at a specific month, I suggest checking out their Tower Lights Calendar to see which day you should watch the lights show at night. The lights are usually put in action from sunset, around 8 pm until 2 am.

Empire State Building Prices

The Empire State Observatory prices vary according to floor and age category. Here are the available tickets:

  • Main Deck: 86th Floor Observatory– To see the main deck of the 86th-floor observatory, prices start at $44 for adults, $38 for children, and $42 for seniors. You need to make a reservation and follow your selected date and time.
  • Top Deck: 102nd and 86th Floor Observatories– The most popular ticket is the Top Deck: 102nd and 86th-floor observatories. Prices start at $77 for adults, $71 for children, and $75 for seniors. The ticket allows you to visit both observatories and experience one-of-a-kind views on different levels. You can view up to 80 miles and get a distant view of the six states on a clear day.
  • Express Pass – If you want to skip the long lines, you can opt for the Express Pass which costs $113 for all visitors. The Express Pass is valid for both 86th and 102nd floors.
  • CityPASS– Should you decide to go in the morning, afternoon, or evening, it is possible with the CityPASS. The CityPASS allows you to go to the 86th floor either morning or afternoon, as well as a nighttime bonus admission three hours before the closing time. Moreover, it also includes four New York attractions that you can visit with just one ticket. This all-inclusive package costs $129 for adults and $104 for children.
  • All Access Tour– For an exclusive and luxurious tour, choose the All Access Tour for all ages for $500 a ticket. The package includes a private guided tour with a glass of champagne on the side. Experience the building as celebrities do with their celebrity green room, fast track lines, and snacks and beverages.
  • Premium Experience– The Premium Experience ticket is $175 for all visitors. It includes a 90-minute guided tour of the Art Deco lobby, the Celebrity Walk, priority access, fast track lines, and a souvenir picture at the end of the tour. The ticket is up to the 86th floor only and can be used for a group of seven.
  • New York Pass – If you want to discover New York’s secrets at the most affordable price, you should get the New York Pass. It is an all-in-one pass that includes the Empire State Building and free entry to more than 100 attractions in New York. Prices start at $134 for adults and $99 for children.
  • Happily Ever Empire – For those looking for a romantic spot to propose, check out their Happily Ever Empire ticket for $1,000 per couple. The ticket includes a private guided tour, priority access, a bottle of champagne, a private spot on the 86th floor, and stunning panoramic views.
  • Gift– All of these tickets are available to buy as a gift as well for that special someone.

Empire State Building Events

Every year, the Empire State Building hosts its annual Empire State Building Run-Up (ESBRU) where athletes race to the top of the tower through the 1,576-step staircase. In fact, the fastest runner can reach the top in just 10 minutes!

The race is a charity event of the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) to help and encourage people with disabilities for a better quality of life.

For those who want to get married in the tower, their annual Valentine’s Day Weddings contest can give you the chance to get married on Valentine’s Day on February 14th.

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You can join the contest and get more information through their Facebook page. Moreover, you can also check out their Facebook events to see some special upcoming events, as well as past events that have already taken place.

For instance, celebrations in the past were The Notorious B.I.G.’s 50th Birthday, Brooklyn Winery Pop-Up, Hometown Flower Co., and Sunset from the Empire State Building.

Don’t forget about their most-awaited Tower Lights monthly events, so be sure to stay updated and see the lights in action.

Empire State Building Hours

When you buy a ticket, make sure to follow the designated time and date you have chosen as you may not be allowed to use it on other days. The building is open to the public every day for 365 days.

Not all days have the same operating hours, so be sure to check out their updated timetable schedule.

  • Monday 11 am – 12 am
  • Tuesday 11 am – 12 am
  • Wednesday 11 am – 12 am
  • Thursday 11 am – 12 am
  • Friday 9 am – 12 am
  • Saturday 9 am – 12 am
  • Sunday 9 am – 12 am

The last elevator is usually at 11:15 pm but can be earlier or later depending on the holiday or event.

Best Time to Visit Empire State Building

To experience the Empire State Building without the hassle and huge crowds, it is best to come as soon as the doors open at 8 am. I recommend coming from 8 am to 11 am to avoid the crowds.

If you are going to the Empire State Building at night, you should come just before midnight to have the observatory all to yourself.

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I do not recommend coming in the afternoon from 11 am to 3 pm as these are usually the peak hours.

If you want to come to the building during the most crowded hours, then purchasing a VIP Express Pass or Premium Experience tickets is the way to go. With these passes, you do not have to worry about waiting in line.

How to Go to the Empire State Building

The best transportation to reach the Empire State Building is via subway or bus. If you are going by subway, the nearest stations are 34th Street Penn Station, 34th Street Herald Square Station, and Grand Central Terminal.

The 1, 2, and 3 trains lead to the 34th Street Penn Station, whereas the B, D, F, M, N, Q, or R trains lead to the 34th Street Herald Square Station.

If by bus, the closest bus locations are in W 34 St and 5 Avenue, 5 Av/W 34 Street, and 5 Av/W 35 Street. The BxM7 and BxM18 buses go to the 5 Av/W 34 Street, whereas the X27, X28, X37, and X38 go to the 5 Av/W 35 Street.

Aside from public buses and trains, you can also opt to take a taxi, Uber, drive, or sightseeing bus like Big Bus New York.

Tips Before Visiting the Empire State Building

You should plan ahead of time to get the best experience. It is highly recommended to check the weather before coming or booking a ticket as the city skyline is best viewed in clear skies.

Moreover, make sure to come during the quiet hours and not during the peak hours.

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Since the tower is pretty high and can get windy or chilly, it is best to bring a jacket for light weather or a thick coat during the winter season.

Plus, do take note that the available restrooms are on the 2nd floor only, so be sure to use them before coming up to the 86th or 102nd floors. For persons with disabilities or PWDs, the designated entrance is on 34th Street for easy access.

Things to Do near the Empire State Building

There are several attractions nearby that are worth visiting after coming to the Empire State Building. Here are some attractions to visit:

Central Park

Between the Upper West and Upper East Side, Manhattan, New York

Phone: 212-310-6600

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You can visit Central Park, the most famous park in NYC with an area of 3.41 sq km. Approximately 42 million visitors come every year to enjoy the green oasis and have a relaxing time with friends and family.

The park is worth visiting as it is the fifth-largest park in New York and the most popular park in the country.

The Statue of Liberty

Liberty Island, New York, NY 10004

Phone: 212-363-3200

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Just about five miles away from the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty is another nearby attraction that offers stunning views of the Manhattan skyline.

This colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island was a gift of friendship for the country and a symbol of hope and freedom.

It is a designated National Monument and is one of the most visited landmarks in the country with about 3.2 million visitors annually.

Summit One Vanderbilt

45 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017

Phone: 877-682-1401

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Summit One Vanderbilt is a modern and hip skyscraper offering magnificent New York skyline views.

It is definitely going to be a thrilling experience since you can ride an all-glass elevator from top to bottom for $59 for adults and $53 for youth. You can also opt for the General Admission for $39 for adults and $33 for children.

Fifth Avenue

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Manhattan, New York City

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Fifth Avenue is a major road and hub for shops, restaurants, hotels, arts, and cultural centers. You can shop from designer brands like Gucci or common brands such as H&M, Zara, and Uniqlo.

For dining, choose from their choices of international cuisines such as Aquavit, Astor Court, and Beatnic.

Koreatown

32nd Street, New York City, NY

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Get the ultimate Asian experience at Koreatown with more than 150 businesses – from restaurants to shops. To get here, head over to 34th Street at Herald Square or 28th Street, just a five-minute walk.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Is the Empire State Building?

The Empire State Building is at 20 W 29th St., New York, NY 10001, which is located on 34th Street and Fifth Avenue.

Why Was the Empire State Building Built?

It was built to create a place for corporate business offices, as well as to have the tallest skyscraper in the world.

How Tall Is the Empire State Building?

The building’s height is 1,224 ft up to the top floor, 1,250 ft to the roof, and 1,454 ft at the tip.

What Is the Empire State Building Used For?

The building is a dedicated office space for businesses, a tourist attraction, and a place for special events.

Who Designed the Empire State Building?

Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon is the architectural firm that designed the building and was developed by Empire StateInc., John J.Raskob, and Al Smith. The structural engineer assigned to the building was Homer Gage Balcom and the main contractor was Starrett Corporation, a real estate developer and construction firm.

Who Owns Empire State Building?

Today, the Empire State Realty Trust owns the Empire State Building.

How Many People Died Building the Empire State Building?

It was reported that five people died out of 3,400 people who worked on building the Empire State Building. The cause of death was due to accidental falls, as well as trauma from construction equipment.

How Much Does the Empire State Building Weigh?

The weight of the building is about 365,000 tons or 331,122,430 kg. The weight is based on the building’s composition of 60,000 tons of steel columns and beams, 730 tons of aluminum and steel, 10,000,000 bricks, and 200,000 cubic feet of Indiana limestone and granite.

How Many Elevators in the Empire State Building?

Originally, the building had 64 Otis elevators: four express elevators and 60 local elevators. Today, the building has 73 Otis elevators in total because of the additional elevators for the 80th up to the top floors.

How Many Windows Are in the Empire State Building?

At present, the Empire State Building has 6,514 replaced windows. The building was given the authority to replace the windows by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

How Much Does the Empire State Building Cost?

It cost $40,948,900 to build it, which is about $572,000,000 in 2020 US dollars.

What Color Is the Empire State Building?

Since it is made of Indiana limestone, the building has a blonde shade exterior. However, thanks to its LED tower lights, it can change its color instantly depending on the event.

Why Is the Empire State Building Red?

There are several reasons why the Empire State Building shines red. For instance, the building turned red to pay tribute to COVID-19 frontliners or to support “Broadway is Back!”. You can check their Tower Lights monthly events to see the reason why the building lights up red.

Are Pets Allowed in the Building?

Unfortunately, our pets cannot enter as only service dogs are allowed to enter the Empire State Building.

Can I View the Empire State Building Live?

Yes, you can! Wherever you are in the world, you can get a glimpse of the famous tower and its dazzling lights through their ESB Live Cam. It shows a live update of the tower and a beautiful aerial view of the city skyline.

Soar High at the Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is at the heart of New York City, which means it is easy to get around nearby famous attractions.

Your New York experience won’t be complete without stopping by this magnificent building filled with rich history and symbolism. It is one of the most impressive buildings that still stands tall in the eyes of many.

Whether you are looking for a place to eat or a relaxing spot to have a meal, there are many close attractions that you can drop by before or after visiting the Empire State Building.

Get the perfect photo and plan ahead of time before coming here. Do you have any suggestions? Post a comment below in the comment section and let us know.

If I missed an important fact or tip, share with us your thoughts as well! Help a fellow traveler discover what else New York has to offer.

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