Home » New York » Empire State Building or One World Observatory

Empire State Building or One World Observatory – which is better?


New York has many world-class observation decks, making it difficult for a visitor to choose – from where should they see the city’s skyline?

Four of our favorite observatories are – The Empire State Building, Top of the Rock, One World Observatory, and The Edge at Hudson Yards.

Of these, the Empire State Building is 90 years old, and The Edge welcomed its first tourist only in 2019. 

Visitors stuck between the classic and the modern end up choosing between the Empire State Building or One World Observatory. 

In this article, we compare the Empire State Building to the One World Observatory so that you can make an informed decision.

Visit both the observatories

Both the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center are historically significant buildings.

The Empire State Building has been around for almost a century and today represents everything that is New York. 

Meanwhile, the World Trade Center building, which houses the One World Observatory, is the city’s attempt to keep memories of the September 11 attack alive. 

When you visit One World Observatory, you can also explore the 9/11 Memorial and 9/11 Museum. 

>> 9/11 Memorial + One World Observatory
>> 9/11 Memorial + 9/11 Museum + One World Observatory

Both the decks offer stunning New York City skyline views, and the experiences are very different. 

That is why, if time and money permit, we suggest you visit both observatories.

The NYC Sightseeing Pass is the only pass that includes free admission to One World Observatory.

All you have to do is walk up to One World Observatory, present your NYC Sightseeing Pass, and walk in for free.

Unfortunately, the New York City Explorer Pass doesn’t include access to One World Observatory.

However, you can visit both the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock with this one pass. 

Related Reading
Empire State Building or Top of the Rock
One World Observatory or Top of the Rock
The Edge or One World Observatory

Back to Top

Location of the buildings

Despite the reasonably different views from their observation decks, the two buildings are not very far from each other. 

Location of Empire State and One World Observatory

Both buildings are in Manhattan, and One World Trade Center is approximately 4 miles (6.5 km) from the Empire State Building. 

Empire State Building’s location

The Empire State Building is in the heart of Manhattan, New York, right next to Penn Station, Grand Central Terminal, and NYC Macy’s.

Its exact location is 350 5th Avenue, between 33rd and 34th Street.

The ESB is so large that it has its zip code – 10118.

Earlier, the Empire State Building’s tourist entrance was on Fifth Avenue between 33rd Street and 34th Street, but now it’s on 20 West 34th Street.

One World Trade Center’s location 

One World Trade Center, also known as One World, Freedom Tower, and One WTC, is near the southernmost point of Manhattan, close to the Financial District and the water.

It is at 285 Fulton Street, and the main entrance to the building is on West Street

Back to Top

Entry tickets at the observatories

Besides the observatories, both the New York attractions also offer interesting exhibits and experiences as part of general admission.

At both One World and Empire State Building, their most basic entry is known as the ‘Standard ticket.’

What is included in the ticket

Empire State Building’s standard ticket gets you-

  • Access to the Main Observation Deck, a 360-degree, open-air on the 86th floor of the building
  • Access to 12 other exhibits about the Empire State Building
  • A self-guided multimedia tour that helps visitors identify landmarks in the New York skyline

Access to the 102nd-floor observatory is not part of the General admission, but you can upgrade at the venue for $20 per person. 

One World’s standard ticket gives you access to all three floors of One World Observatory – Levels 100, 101, and 102.

If you want the Explorer iPad experience, you must opt for the Priority ticket instead of the Standard.

Cost of the entry tickets

Entry tickets to the Empire State Building and the One World Observatory are the same prices. 

At ESB, an adult ticket for visitors aged 13 to 61 years costs US$48 between to US$51, depending on the date of your visit.

However, at One World, an adult ticket for visitors aged 13 to 64 years will cost US$43.

Seniors aged over 62 years pay between US$46 and US$47 at the Empire State Building, whereas visitors over 65 years of age pay US$46 at One World Observatory.

Tickets for children between six and 12 years of age cost US$45 at the Empire State Building, while tickets at One World are available for US$41.

Kids under six years of age can enter for free at both attractions.

>> Empire State Building’s standard tickets
>> One World Observatory’s standard tickets
>> One World Observatory’s priority tickets

Visual Story: 15 must-know tips before visiting One World Observatory

Visual Story: 15 must-know tips before visiting Empire State Building

Back to top

Views from the observatories

Two factors affect the city views from Empire State and One World observatories – the height difference of about 60 meters (200 feet) and their location. 

The buildings are so close to each other that visitors can see one from the other. 

View from Empire State

The Main Deck of the Empire State offers excellent views of Central Park, the Hudson and the East Rivers, the Chrysler Building, Times Square, Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, etc. 

View from One World

The view of the NYC skyline from One World Observatory is fascinating.

Since the World Trade Center is in the southern part of Manhattan near the water, visitors can see a lot of the Financial District.

The other landmarks visible from the One World Observatory are the Hudson and the East Rivers, the Statue of Liberty, the Chrysler Building, the Grand Central Terminal, the Flat Iron Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, and parts of New Jersey.

Back to Top

Elevators at the attractions

Tourists who visit One World Trade Center are thrilled by its high-speed elevator that uses time-lapse technology to showcase New York City’s transformation over the last 500 years.

The five high-speed elevators travel at 23 mph (37 kph) and reach the 100th floor in 47 seconds. 

They are the fastest elevators in the World. 

At the Empire State Building, you change elevators a few times depending on your destination.

The first elevator takes visitors from the ground floor to the 80th floor, which houses a few exhibits, after which you take another elevator to the 86th-floor observatory.

If you upgrade to the 102nd-floor observation deck, you take a third lift from the 86th-floor to the 102-floor observatory.

Back to Top

Tools to explore New York

One World Observatory has some exciting tools to explore New York. 

Tourists who visit with families and kids love spending time on One World’s Sky Portal.

Sky Portal at One World Observatory
A young tourist looks down from the Sky Portal at One World. Image: Skyscraperpage.com

It is a 4.2 meters (14 feet) wide circular glass disc on which visitors can stand and see unobstructed views of the streets 100 floors below.

If money isn’t a concern, you can also try One World’s Explorer iPad, which is included with the Priority ticket

The Explorer iPad has two channels – Skyview Channel and Restaurant Channel.

The Skyview Channel takes you on a virtual tour of New York’s most iconic sites while the Restaurant Channel shares information on little-known restaurants and their famous dishes. 

The Empire State Building has an augmented reality experience called ‘The Scenes of New York’ on the 80th floor.

The Scenes of New York at Empire State
The Scenes of New York exhibit on the 80th floor of Empire State. Image: Untappedcities.com

Visitors look inside the classic binocular viewfinders to see, move, and hear sounds of New York City’s most notable locations, such as the Grand Central Terminal, the Statue of Liberty, the High Line, Coney Island, etc.

Recommended Reading: What to see in Empire State Building

Back to Top

Height of the buildings

Empire State Building has two observation decks – the 86th-floor deck is at a height of 320 meters (1050 feet), and the 102nd-floor deck is at around 381 meters (1,250 feet).

One World Observatory has three levels, 100, 101, and 102, and the highest of them is at a height of 386.5 meters (1,268 feet).

That makes One World Trade Center the tallest building in the United States and the sixth-tallest in the World.

Back to Top

History of the attractions

While One World Trade Center was built in 2014 and the One World Observatory started welcoming tourists only in 2015, the Empire State Building has been an observation deck since 1931.

Even though the Empire State Building stopped being the tallest in 1973, it is still the World’s most famous building. 

Over the years, thanks to numerous mentions in movies, books, TV shows, video games, etc., the Empire State has become a pop icon. 

A lot of this history about the Empire State is depicted through the numerous exhibits.

Recommended Reading: Trivia about Empire State Building 

Back to Top

Flexibility of the visit

Both One World Observatory and the Empire State Building issue timed tickets.

Visitors can select the preferred date and time of their visit.

Back to Top

What do you want in your photographs?

Some tourists feel the Empire State is an integral part of the New York skyline and prefer to have it in their NYC skyline photographs. 

Such tourists end up visiting either One World Observatory or Top of the Rock.

Did you know that once they projected 13 stunning wildlife photographs on the Empire State Building?

Back to Top

Barriers affecting visitor experience

The Empire State Building has a wire mesh installed on the short wall of the outdoor observatory on the 86th floor. 

Some tourists find it a hindrance, while others place their lenses in the small breaks between the wiring to snap decent photographs. 

One World Trade Center’s observatory is fully enclosed with floor-to-ceiling glass windows.

Back to Top

Views of Central Park

Even though the Empire State Building is shorter, it offers far better views of Central Park because it is closer to New York’s green patch. 

The 90-year-old building is only 25 blocks from New York’s green patch. 

From One World Observatory, you cannot see Central Park clearly because many buildings block the view.

Back to Top

Crowd to expect

The Empire State Building gets 4 million visitors annually, while the One World Observatory gets only 3 million. 

That means the taller of the two observatories is bound to be slightly less crowded.

However, if you visit during the summer, both the NYC attractions are going to be crowded.

The best time to visit the Empire State Building to avoid the crowd is as soon as it opens at 10 am. One World Observatory, too, is relatively less crowded as soon as it opens.

Crowd at Empire State Building
Crowd at the 86th floor outdoor deck of Empire State Building. Image: Suzyguese.com

If you want to avoid waiting in long lines, plan your visits on weekdays and buy the tickets online in advance. 

>> Empire State Building’s standard ticket
>> One World Observatory’s standard ticket
>> One World Observatory’s priority ticket

Back to Top

Our recommendation

Both New York observatories have their own advantages and disadvantages. 

The best observatory for you will depend on what you expect from your visit to the top. 

If experience and the New York skyline are critical, we recommend you visit One World Observatory. 

That’s the only way you can see New York’s skyline with the Empire State Building, the structure that has given the skyline its character for more than 90 years. 

>> One World Observatory’s standard ticket
>> One World Observatory’s priority ticket

If you prefer the classic historical experience, you must opt for the Empire State Building. 

Besides the observatories on the 86th and 102nd floors, the tourist attraction also offers many historical exhibits about the building. 

>> Empire State Building’s standard ticket

If you plan to visit during the sunset hours, we recommend One World Observatory because it won’t be as crowded as the Empire State. 

To see the New York skyline all lit up, visit the Empire State Building.

The Empire State Building is better for night visits because, on some nights, it stays open till 1 am.

The observation decks at One World Trade Center close at 8 pm.

If you plan to add the 9/11 Museum and 9/11 Memorial to your itinerary, it is better to choose the One World Observatory because they are all close by, and you can explore them in a day. 

Here is a popular tour that includes all three – 9/11 Memorial + 9/11 Museum + One World Observatory.

Whichever observatory you choose, please remember to: 

  • Buy your tickets online in advance. It helps you save money and avoid long queues at the venue.
  • Check the weather and ensure the day is clear before booking your tickets.
  • It is always colder at the observatory than it feels at the ground. Always carry an extra layer along.


# Globetrottergirls.com
# Empire-state-building.co
# Ttripadvisor.com
# Freetoursbyfoot.com

The travel specialists at TheBetterVacation.com use only high-quality sources while researching & writing their articles. We make every attempt to keep our content current, reliable and trustworthy.

# Empire State Building
# One World Observatory
# Top of the Rock
# Statue of Liberty
# Metropolitan Museum of Art
# 9/11 Memorial and Museum
# Museum of Modern Art
# Intrepid Museum
# Guggenheim Museum
# Bronx Zoo
# Central Park Zoo
# Queens Zoo
# Prospect Park Zoo
# New York Botanical Garden
# American Museum of Natural History
# Edge Hudson Yards
# Vessel Hudson Yards
# Museum of Ice Cream
# BlueMan Group NYC
# Spirit of New York Dinner Cruise
# New York Helicopter tour

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Check out all the things to do in New York

This article was researched & written by

Edited by Rekha Rajan & fact checked by Jamshed V Rajan

Leave a Comment