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Empire State Building In New York – A Complete Guide

The iconic Empire State Building is a 102 storey skyscraper located in Midtown Manhattan, New York. Here’s a guide to visiting.

How To Get To The Empire State Building

Located on 34th Street and Fifth Avenue, the Empire State Building is at the heart of Manhattan. 

Observatory visitors should enter through the visitors center at 20 West 34th Street.

Other entrances on Fifth Avenue, 34th and 33rd Streets are reserved for tenants and their visitors.

Bus

Multiple bus routes service the Empire State Building depending on your starting point.

Nearby bus stops, all within 5 minutes walk of the Empire State Building include:

West 34th Street and 5th Avenue – buses QM10, QM12, QM15, QM16 and QM17.

5th Avenue and West 34th Street – buses BxM7 and BxM18.

5th Avenue and West 35th Street – buses X27, X28, X37 and X38.

Subway

From 123 or ACE lines, exit the train at 34th Street – Penn Station. It’s a five minute walk from here.

From the NQRW or BDFM lines, exit the train at 34th Street – Herald Square Station. It’s a five minute walk from here.

From the 456 or 7 lines, exit the train at Grand Central Terminal. It’s a 10-minute walk from here.

Car

Parking near the Empire State Building will cost from $5 – $20 per day.

The closest garage is located on 33rd Street between Fifth Avenue and Broadway, just across the street from the building.

We recommend booking a parking space in advance to be sure of a spot.

For those short on time, or that prefer everything to be organised for them, there are some awesome tours on Get Your Guide available to book in advance.

Empire State Building Entrance Fee

As with everything in New York, we recommend booking your Empire State Building General & Skip-the-Line Tickets in advance.

Main Deck

Includes access to the observation deck on the 86th floor as well as all the exhibits on the 2nd and 80th floors.

Adult: $44.00

Child: $38.00

Senior: $42.00

Top Deck

Includes the above plus access to the 102nd observation deck.

Adult: $77.00

Child: $71.00

Senior: $75.00

For all tourists visiting New York we recommend purchasing either the New York: Go City Explorer Pass with 95+ Tours & Attractions or the New York CityPASS®: Save 40% at 5 Top Attractions.

These are a great way of saving money when visiting multiple tourist attractions during your stay in New York.

Both include:

  • Top Of The Rock
  • Empire State Building
  • Statue of Liberty
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • 9/11 Memorial and Museum
  • And many more!
Empire State Building New York
Looking up at the Empire State Building from street level.
Empire State Building Entrance New York
Lauren at the observatory entrance.

Empire State Building Opening Times

The Empire State Building is open 365 days a year.

Access to the observation deck is open daily: 10am – 10pm.

Opening times vary from season to season and we would recommend checking the website when arranging your visit.

Empire State Building Entrance New York
There are plenty of pieces of memorabilia scattered around the building.

Best Time To Visit The Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is one of the most popular attractions in New York city and queues to get in are quite common. Therefore we would recommend buying your tickets in advance.

If you want to avoid the busiest times, we recommend you visit either early in the morning, 8am – 10am, or late at night, after 11pm.

We visited at 9am as part of a private tour for my Birthday following SUMMIT One Vanderbilt the evening before.

Allow about 2 hours for your visit, especially if visiting all the observation decks.

Just before sunset is usually a busy, but great time to visit. Get breathtaking views of New York in daylight and then lit up at night as well as getting some stunning sunset shots.

There is also a sunrise option that is limited to 40 visitors. This amazing experience puts you on the 86th floor observation deck to watch the sunrise break over beautiful New York City.

Sunrise and sunset visits will cost you extra but are well worth it if you can stretch your budget that bit more.

A great option if you want to get great photos at one of the most Instagrammable places in New York.

What To Pack

Photography Camera

Tripod

Day Bag

Power Bank

Reusable Water Bottle

Sunscreen

Lightweight Rain Jacket

Empire State Building New York
Lauren capturing memories at the top.

Empire State Building History

During the late 1920s New York’s economy was booming and builders were in a race to erect the world’s largest skyscraper.

 In August 1929 General Motors executive John Raskob and former New York Governor Al Smith announced plans for the Empire State Building.

Architect William Lamb was the designer of the Empire State Building and his wife is interestingly quoted as saying the following:

“He was at the drawing board one day and set a large pencil on end. The clean, soaring lines inspired him and he modelled the building after it.”

After demolishing the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, originally located on the plot, the design, planning and building of the Empire State Building took amazingly, just 20 months from start to finish.

When completed in 1931 the Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world towering 1,250 ft over the streets of Midtown Manhattan.

It remained the world’s tallest building for nearly 40 years until the first World Trade Center tower was built in 1970.

On July 28th 1945, while flying a B-25 bomber toward La Guardia Airport, Army Lt. Col. William Smith became disoriented in heavy fog.

Tragically he flew into the 78th and 79th floors of the Empire State Building sadly killing himself, 2 crewmen and 11 people inside the building.

More than 90 films have featured the Empire State Building but the most famous has to be 1933’s ‘King Kong’. The film ends with the giant gorilla scaling the skyscraper whilst being attacked by biplanes. 

Empire State Building Exhibition New York
This exhibition shows the Empire State Building before born from the ground up.
Empire State Building Exhibition New York
An example of the workers that helped make this masterpiece.

What To Expect At The Empire State Building

Exhibitions

Take a step into one of the most famous buildings in the world and “America’s Favorite Architecture”.

Available at the Empire State Building are shops and cafes/restaurants on the ground floor as well as the observation decks you can visit on the 80th, 86th and 102nd floors.

You will find lots of films, exhibits, displays and interactive experiences as you move around the building.

Included is information about the history of the building, a record of all the famous people who have visited, a King Kong experience and much much more.

Take a trip through time as you can watch some of the famous movies moments that were filmed at the Empire State Building played out on a huge screen.

It was also cool to get up close and personal with King Kong having taking photos with his hand the day prior at Madame Tussauds.

There is also a well stocked gift shop for you to purchase Empire State Building memorabilia including lots of King Kong merchandise of course!

King Kong Empire State Building New York
Without doubt the world’s most famous building.
King Kong Empire State Building New York
The King Kong exhibition is very impressive.
King Kong Empire State Building New York
Get up close with the famous gorilla.

80th & 86th Floor Observation Decks

The observation deck on the 80th floor is the newest observatory, opening in 2019. This is an indoor observatory therefore you will see the amazing views through glass.

The 86th floor deck is the original and most famous of the observatories.

Here you will find an outdoor viewing area which wraps around the whole building, giving 360 degree views.

It was a relatively calm morning when we visited, however it was still quite cold at the top so be prepared.

This main 86th floor deck is where you will find the famous telescopes, and get the iconic view over the city.

You’ll be able to see as far as One World Observatory and the Statue Of Liberty in the distance.

It’s a toss up between here and Top Of The Rock when determining our favourite viewpoints in New York.

We were lucky enough to have a private tour of the Empire State Building to celebrate my 31st Birthday. Meaning we got access to the 86th floor at 9am before the crowds came flooding in.

Empire State Building Main Deck 86th Floor New York
Arriving at the 86th floor.
Empire State Building Main Deck 86th Floor New York
The bannered corner where many a celebrity have posed for photos.
Empire State Building New York
The dream shot, looking out over NYC.
Empire State Building View New York
The view out over the New York skyline.
Empire State Building Main Deck View New York
One World Observatory and The Statue Of Liberty can be seen in the distance.
Empire State Building New York
Taking a moment alone at the top of the Empire State.
Empire State Building New York
Taking it all in.
Empire State Building View New York
Don’t look down!
Empire State Building New York
An incredible birthday memory!
Empire State Building Famous Binoculars New York
Maybe the most famous spot in New York.

102nd Floor Observation Deck

Found on the 102nd floor, the highest deck is located in the spire of the building and features floor to ceiling glass windows.

Unlike the 86th floor, this deck is enclosed and much much smaller.

All the decks offer superb views however this one is a little more private. With most tourists choosing not to pay the extra price for the 102nd floor, this spot will likely be less busy.

Before entering the elevators there are a circle of telescopes that show views of different destinations in New York such as Central Park and the High Line which was pretty cool.

From the observation deck you get an even higher view over the city and a unique 360 pan around with little effort needed.

When looking for things to do in New York, a trip to the iconic Empire State Building is a must!

Empire State Building Famous Binoculars New York
The telescopes showing different points in New York.
Empire State Building 102nd Observation Deck New York
Lauren arriving at the 102nd floor.
Empire State Building 102nd Observation Deck New York
The view over Manhattan.
Empire State Building 102nd Observation Deck New York
A glimpse of Central Park and the Hudson River.
Empire State Building 102nd Observation Deck New York
A core memory was made at the Empire State Building.

Where To Stay In New York

Luxury

The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park

This Manhattan hotel in Midtown overlooks Central Park and is within walking distance of Fifth Avenue and Rockefeller Center.

Free cable and a bathrobe are provided in every room at the New York Central Park Ritz-Carlton. All rooms are elegant, with wood furniture and light colors. Many rooms also include a city or park view.

La Prairie Spa at the Ritz-Carlton New York Central Park offers massage and facial services, as well as a sauna. Guests can also work out in the state-of-the-art fitness center.

The 57th street subway station is just 2 blocks away, providing easy access to the city. Radio City Music Hall and the Broadway Theatre District are also both within 1 mile of the hotel.

Mid-Budget

citizenM New York Times Square

Located right in the heart of Manhattan, this hotel is just 1 minute’s walk from Times Square. It’s also within 5 minutes’ walk of Central Park and Columbus Circle.

A flat-screen TV and a small refrigerator with free water are available in citizenM’s rooms. Bathrooms include Hansgrohe rain showers and oversized bathroom amenities. 

With the room iPad, all guests can control room lights, black-out blinds, curtains and temperature. As well as TV and radio channels. 

Free high-speed Wi-Fi and express check in are on offer at citizenM New York Times Square.

Three outdoor terraces are provided at the New York Times Square citizenM. They feature a state-of-the-art fitness centre with yoga facilities. 

After working out, guests can relax with drinks and sweeping views of the city on the exclusive rooftop bar.

Budget

Central Park West Hostel

Located in New York City’s Upper West Side, this hostel is a block from the 86th street underground station and 2 blocks from Central Park. It offers Wi-Fi and staff-organized events.

A shared kitchen, café area, and spacious lounge with a flat-screen TV are part of the facilities at the FIT Hotel. Lockers are also provided in the dormitory rooms and luggage storage is available.

The front desk of this New York City hostel is open 24 hours a day. It features daily housekeeping and free linens.

Times Square is only 10 minutes via underground journey.

For more places to stay in New York, you can check the latest prices on Booking.com.

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Empire State Building New York