The Empire State Building: Is it worth going up to the 102nd floor?

2. May 2019
2246 ratings

Everyone who visits NYC has one thing in common: they want to see the Empire State Building. But, visiting the iconic skyscraper is not as straightforward as it should be. However, there are far more other options than you may have thought.

We wanted to find out for you whether spending an additional $20 and waiting in yet another line to get to the 102nd floor was really worth it. Let’s compare the Empire State Building 86th floor vs the 102nd floor:

Purchase Empire State Building tickets

Can you go on the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building?

The Empire State Building is one of the most visited sights in New York City. It’s an unforgettable experience when the doors of the elevator open up on the 86th floor and you can admire the maze of skyscrapers from above.

We had only ever been on the 86th floor, however, until recently. We decided we had to test the next observation platform for ourselves – after all, it is 16 floors higher! The view was already amazing from the 86th so it was bound to be even better from further above. Check out our video of the 86th floor below to get an idea of what awaits!

play video

What is on the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building?

The 102nd floor soars a total of 1224 feet over Manhattan. The tiny elevator did nothing to reduce my anxiety on the way up. Only a few people can fit into the old and cramped elevator that, after waiting in yet another line, takes you to the 102nd floor.

When you finally reach the top, you, unfortunately, find yourself (as opposed to the fresh air of the 86th floor), in a much smaller room enclosed by glass. This is due to the building narrowing to a sharp tip.

Given my nerves, I did not mind the glass enclosure too much — but was it worth paying an extra $20? Not really… Not as many people can fit on the 102nd floor and it is certainly not as crowded as it is 16 floors below, but the views are very similar. I soon made my way back to the 86th floor, where I spent a lot more time enjoying the views as well as the fresh air.

Due to the glass, if you want to take lots of pictures, the 86th floor is more for you. The reflections, as well as the color of the glass to protect from the sun, can give a strange look to the photos you are taking. Check out our pictures below to get an idea of the view and what it looks like when you take pictures through the large windows.

Pictures from the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building

So is going to the 102nd floor worth it? Not really. The views from 16 floors above are largely the same. Taking photos is also much more of a challenge due to the thick glass you are stuck behind. Additionally, in order to get to the 102nd floor, you have to wait in another slow-moving line as the elevator taking you up to the top is small and can only hold a few people. You can make better use of this time by taking stunning pictures from the 86th floor. Personally, we would not recommend the upgrade!

Where to buy tickets for the Empire State Building?

We recommend one of the three tickets below for visiting the Empire State Building. All of the three tickets below are instantly available after download and you do not need to print them. This is a huge plus if you are already in NYC and do not have access to a printer. Our favorite ticket is the Express Access ticket, as it comes with an audio guide and allows you to skip all the lines, saving you a lot of time (keep in mind you will still have to go through security).

Skip the line:

Access to the 102nd floor:

Upgrade available (+$20)

Show tickets on your smartphone:

Audio guide:
Visit twice in 1 day:






Visit on Sundays! This is your best chance at avoiding long lines!

Empire State Building Visitors

My Budget Tip: The tickets for the Empire State Building are included in the New York Passes!

Up to 80 attractions and tours are included in the price of a New York Sightseeing Pass. You can save up to 70% on attraction ticket prices with a pass! Learn more about the passes here:

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