A guide to visiting the Empire State Building

An insider’s guide to the Empire State Building: from its iconic Art Deco magnificence to awe-inspiring views.

The Empire State Building's elegant Art Deco silhouette represents both architectural triumph and New York City's towering tribute to dreams that touch the sky. Built in the clutches of the Great Depression, it stands as a soaring symbol of resilience and wonder. From its storied past to the jaw-dropping vistas at its summit, this guide is your insider pass to uncovering the secrets of this urban colossus.

Best Empire State Building Experiences:

Empire State Building at a Glance:

Suggested Duration: 2-3 hours

Best time of day to visit: Early morning or late evening for fewer crowds

Must-Sees: Observation decks, Art Deco lobby, Otis elevators, Kong exhibit

Facts:

  • Stands 1,250 feet at the top floor; 1,454 feet including the spire and antenna.
  • 4th tallest building in NYC, 6th in the USA, 43rd globally.
  • Steps to the top: 1,872 steps to the 102nd-floor observatory.
  • Annual run-up: A famous tower race challenging participants to climb the steps on foot.
  • 73 Otis elevators ensure a swift ascent.
  • Built in 1930, completed in just 13 months.
  • Declared the world's most photographed building in 2011.
  • Over 4 million annual visitors globally.
  • The antenna averages 25 lightning strikes yearly.
  • The building even has its own ZIP code: 10118.
  • Clear-day vistas span six states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Delaware.

Opening Hours: 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM (hours extended over national holidays)

Address: 350 5th Ave, New York, NY 10118, USA

Why visit the Empire State Building?

Spectacular 360-degree cityscapes

The Empire State Building offers unparalleled panoramic views that encapsulate New York City's vast expanse. It's an unforgettable visual feast from the bustling streets below to the horizon, where the city meets the sky.

Art Deco marvel

Step into an era of architectural elegance. The Empire State Building exemplifies Art Deco design, showcasing intricate geometric patterns, vibrant materials, and an overall sense of grandeur from the 1930s.

A storied legacy

More than just a skyscraper, it's a symbol of resilience and ambition. Its history weaves through the Great Depression as a beacon of hope and progress during challenging times. This cultural icon has witnessed significant events and hosted countless celebrities, embedding itself deeply in the American narrative.

Immersive experiences

Beyond its views, the Empire State Building is an interactive adventure. Engaging exhibits offer a journey through time, from its construction to its place in pop culture. Delve into the building's story, understand its architectural significance, and get a glimpse of its influence on global media.

A hub of celebrations and events

The Empire State Building is not just a static monument; it's a living, breathing space that celebrates various occasions. From its famous lighting ceremonies that commemorate events and holidays to special exhibits and installations, there's always something new to experience.

What to see:

Observatories: Two observation decks offer breathtaking vistas of New York City and beyond.

  • Main deck (86th Floor): Open-air observatory providing 360° views of iconic landmarks.
  • Top deck (102nd and 86th Floors): Reimagined space for floor-to-ceiling views up to 80 miles on a clear day.

Exhibits: Engaging exhibits on the 2nd and 80th floors, accessible to all ticket holders.

  • The site in the 1920s: Immersive experience showcasing the original site with historical photography.
  • Construction exhibit: Interactive displays with life-like sculptures capturing the building's construction era.
  • Otis elevators: Historical and modern elevator technology exhibits, including a simulation of the building's elevator shaft.
  • World's most famous building: A 72-screen theater showcasing the building's pop culture significance.
  • Kong Exhibit: Interactive experience with King Kong's hands breaking through the walls.
  • Artistry in Light: Behind-the-scenes look at the building's light shows.
  • Stephen Wiltshire's drawing: A detailed landscape drawing of NYC, drawn from memory.

Best time to visit:

  • Sunrise for a tranquil experience
  • Sunset for a picturesque backdrop
  • Visit during off-peak seasons (January-March, September-November) for smaller crowds
  • Quieter periods are typically between 12 PM and 2 PM; early mornings or after 8 PM are also less crowded.
  • The venue has a special "Happily Ever Empire" VIP proposal package for couples looking to pop the question.

Tips for visiting:

  • Skip-the-line tickets can save you significant waiting time
  • Different entrances are used for different ticket types — be sure to check your ticket details
  • There is no time limit to your visit.
  • Photography is allowed, but tripods are prohibited
  • Airport-style security check is mandatory for all visitors

Getting there:

  • By subway: Lines 1, 2, 3 to 34th St - Penn Station
  • Taxi from central Manhattan: Approximately 10-15 minutes
  • Walking is feasible from many central locations in Manhattan

Accessibility:

  • Fully accessible for people with mobility impairments
  • Wheelchairs are available on a first-come, first-served basis

Best Empire State Building Experiences:

FAQs

What is the best time to visit the Empire State Building to avoid crowds?

The crack of dawn or when the stars come out! The place is less packed early in the morning or late at night.

Can I buy tickets on-site at the Empire State Building?

Sure can, but if you're not a fan of waiting in line (who is?), snagging them online beforehand is your best bet.

How long does a visit to the Empire State Building take?

Set aside a good 2-3 hours. That gives you plenty of time to soak up the sights without rushing.

Is photography allowed at the Empire State Building?

Absolutely — snap away for personal memories. But if you're rolling in with a tripod or looking like a pro photographer, there might be some limits.

Are there dining options available inside the Empire State Building?

The Empire State Building houses a delightful array of dining options. Start your day at the upscale Starbucks Reserve, a massive outpost of the coffee chain spread across three floors. For quintessential American cuisine, the State Grill and Bar offers everything from juicy burgers to classic NY strip steaks. Mexican food enthusiasts can enjoy a meal at Tacombi or grab a fast bite at Chipotle. Chopt presents a healthy alternative with its range of salads and wraps, while Sushi-Teria caters to sushi lovers.