One of the most popular and most impressive highlights of New York City is the Empire State Building. It is world renowned for being the centerpiece of many calendars and postcards worldwide as it towers above the rest of the concrete jungle around it. The architectural marvel is most certainly worth more than just one visit. We have compiled a list of the top 10 Empire State Building facts for you below to prepare you for your visit.
1. Best time to visit the Empire State Building?
The best time to visit the Empire State Building is definitely between 8:00 am – 10:00 am to arrive before the crowds do, or after 10:00 pm if you want to wait until most people have started to leave. Around these times is when you will find the shortest wait times to get tickets, and to get to the top. It is, therefore, the perfect start or end to a day of sightseeing! The observation platform is open daily until 2:00 am so that you can enjoy the spectacular skyline and views at night as well if you wish to. Make sure that if you are visiting late or during the winter months that bring a jacket – it can get quite chilly and windy so far up!
Special events: During the summer months you will find live music being played between 9:30 pm and midnight on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
2. Hours of operation for the observation platform and elevators
The observation platform is open daily from 8:00 am to 2:00 am. The last elevator to the top will leave at 1:15 am for those of you who want to see the city at night time.
Hours of operation on holidays slightly:
- New Year’s Day: 8:00 am to 2:00 am
- Thanksgiving: 8:00 am to 2:00 am
- Thanksgiving weekend: 8:00 am to 2:00 am
- Christmas Eve (December 24): 8:00 am to 10:00 pm
- Christmas (December 25): 8:00 am to 2:00 am
- December 26 – 30: 7:00 am to 1:00 am
- New Year’s: 7:00 am to 10:00 pm.
3. There’s more than one observation platform?
The Empire State Building has two observation platforms, one on the 86th floor and one on the 102nd floor. The observation deck on the 86th floor, at a height of 1050ft, allows you to step outside into the fresh air and see the city from above with only a small fence between you and the skyline of NYC. The platform on the 102nd floor is a small room enclosed in glass 16 floors above the larger, open-air, observation deck. We checked it out last time we went – was it worth it?
You can decide whether you want to go to the 102nd or 86th floor when you are downstairs purchasing your tickets for the Empire State Building. Keep in mind, however, while the 102nd-floor observation deck is slightly higher, the platform on the 86th floor is outside (and not glass enclosed in glass), meaning you can take better photos from there. The observation platform on the 102nd floor, however, provides more complete views of some of New York’s bridges, central park, and other details. You also get to ride in a hand-operated elevator to get to the top which is a special experience as you can count each floor as it goes by.
If you are using the tickets to the Empire State Building included in one of the many New York discount passes, keep in mind these are only valid for the 86th floor.
4. Don’t feel like queuing up? Buy your tickets online!
If you want to get to the top of the Empire State Building, you have to make it through a total of 3 queues: the security check, the ticket line, and the elevator line. There is no way to avoid security control, but you can avoid the lines for tickets and the elevators with the appropriate online ticket. If you just have a regular ticket the queue can be anywhere from 20 minutes to 45 minutes long depending on the time of your visit. As of September 2018, there is a new entrance for the Empire State Building. The new Empire State Building entrance is located on 20 West 34th Street and shines in whole new design. The new entrance of the Empire State Building will speed up waiting times and surprises with a two-story architectural model of the Empire State Building.
Digital screens, self-service kiosks, and an impressive design come along with the whole new Empire State Building entrance.
Buying an Express Pass is a good idea for holidays and other long weekends. Only a limited number of Express Passes are sold meaning that the waiting time is never longer than 7 minutes. With the new entrance, VIP Express Ticket holders are getting a very special treatment including walking on the red carpet right into the Empire State Building.
5. How long will a visit to the Empire State Building take?
Even if you have bought tickets online (and don’t need to stand in line for those), you should allow around 2 hours for your visit. This is due to the fact that you will definitely spend a significant amount of time enjoying the view. It is also sometimes the case that you will already encounter long lines at the security check meaning you should allow some extra time for this (included in the 2 hours). If you have an express ticket however, this is the only queue you will have to wait in. The area to the queue is also made interesting by the many facts and figures that have been placed throughout. This way you can learn something about the building as you wait to get up to the observation deck!
6. Don’t forget to bring something to occupy the kids
Kids love the view from the Empire State Building onto the city and find the elevator ride very exciting. Waiting in line, of course, is not as much fun. Therefore remember to bring a coloring book or toy to entertain them while you are queueing to get to the top. Strollers are also not a problem and allowed in the lift making visiting the building with kids far easier.
7. Where to find cheap tickets
You can find ticket deals for the Empire State Building all year round on our tips and tricks for buying tickets page. Check out this page, where you can take advantage of several online discounts for tickets!
8. Security check – what do I need to look out for?
Every visitor to the Empire State Building must pass through the security check. Glass and bottles, masks, guns, spray cans, skateboards, and tennis balls are prohibited. Cameras are allowed, but no tripods. There is no coat check or luggage storage, make sure you only have with you what you can or want to take up to the observation deck.
9. Can I bring food and drinks or buy them there?
You can eat and drink at the Empire State Building. There are no restaurants on the observation platforms but the lobby offers small snacks. You can also find numerous cafés and bistros nearby (the Heartland Brewery or Starbucks, for example).
10. How do I get to the Empire State Building?
The Empire State Building is located on 20 West 34th Street. You can’t miss it – it stands tall above the maze of buildings in Manhattan and you will always catch a glimpse if you are close.
I'm a true New York fan! Not only have I visited the city over 20 times but also have I spent several months here at a time. On this blog, I want to share everything I have learned and discovered, so you can have the best time in the greatest city in the world!