The Empire State Building (ESB) is an 88-years-old skyscraper in 5th Avenue, Midtown Manhattan, New York City.
Tourists love to go up the observatories on the 86th and 102nd floor of ESB and look at the New York skyline.
Named after NYC’s nickname, The Empire State, it is an American cultural icon featuring in more than 250 TV shows and movies.
Table of contents
- What to expect at Empire State
- How to reach Empire State Building
- Empire State’s entrance
- Empire State Building timings
- How long does Empire State Building take
- What to see at the Empire State building?
- Empire State Building tickets price
- Empire State Building tickets discount
- Free entry to Empire State
- Empire State Building tickets
- Standard or Express tickets?
- 86 floor observatory vs 102 floor observatory
- Tickets FAQs
- Empire State Building audio guide
- Empire State Building at night
What to expect at Empire State
Nine out of ten visitors opt for the Standard ticket, which costs $45.73 for an adult.
Visitors who don’t want to wait in the queue and prefer to skip all the lines opt for the Express Entry ticket, which costs $85 per person.
The AM/PM combo pass allows you to visit the attraction once during the day and once after 9 pm and costs $66.40 for adults.
All these tickets get you to the 86th-floor observation deck.
Once at the attraction, you can upgrade to the Top Deck (102nd floor) by paying $20 extra per visitor.
How to reach Empire State Building
Empire State Building is in the heart of Manhattan, New York, a mix of residential and commercial areas.
Its exact location is 350, 5th Avenue, between 33rd and 34th Street.
The ESB is so large that it has its own zip code – 10118.
If you aren’t already in Manhattan, the best way to reach the Empire State Building is the NYC subway.
Take the 1, 2, or 3 train and get down at 34th Street Penn Station.
Once you are out of the Subway, you must walk two blocks East to reach the Empire State. The half-kilometer (one-third of a mile) walk takes approximately 7 minutes.
Your second option is to get onto B, D, F, M, N, Q, or R trains and get down at 34th Street Herald Square Station.
The moment you exit the Subway station, you will spot the Empire State Building to your East. It is a two-minute walk.
If you are already in Manhattan, we suggest you fire your Google Map and walk the distance. Directions
Times Square is on the 42nd street and the Empire State Building on 34th street, making it seven blocks downtown. From Times Square, a 15-minute walk down Broadway can get you to Empire State.
Empire State’s entrance
Till late 2018, both the visitors to the observatories and the building’s tenants would use the entrance on 350 Fifth Avenue, which was an inconvenience for all.
Now tourists going up the observatories must enter Empire State Building through the 20 West 34th Street entrance.
The new entrance provides visitors to the Empire State Building’s world-famous Observatories with a better and seamless entry.
Empire State Building timings
Empire State Building opens at 8 am and closes at 2 am, all through the year.
The elevator’s last trip up to the observatory is at 1:15 am.
Both the 86th and the 102nd-floor observatories are open for tourists 365 days of the year, irrespective of the weather.
On a few special days, the Empire State follows different timings –
December 24: 8 am to 10 pm
December 26 – 30: 7 am to 1 am
New Year: 7 am to 10 pm
Best time to visit Empire State
The best time to visit Empire State Building is between 8 am to 10 am, after which the lines start getting longer. If you can’t make it in the morning, the next best time is from 3 pm to 5 pm.
Note: Nowadays, because of the pandemic, Empire State Building opens at 1 pm.
How long does Empire State Building take
To explore the Empire State Building’s Main Deck on the 86th floor, visitors usually take 60 minutes.
If you upgrade your tickets (at the cost of $20 per person) and visit the Top Deck on the 102nd floor as well, you need an additional 30 minutes.
However, if you haven’t bought your tickets online, factor 45 to 60 minutes more in the ticketing line.
To avoid waiting in the ticketing line, buy Empire State’s Standard tickets.
To skip all the lines, buy Express tickets.
What to see at the Empire State building?
Most tourists don’t know that the Empire State isn’t just about the observatories.
Inside Empire State Building, there are two kinds of attractions – observatories and exhibits.
The Empire State is the 6th tallest building in the United States of America.
There are two observatories in Empire State Building – on the 86th and 102nd floors.
The Empire State building’s Observation decks allow a 360-degree view of the city.
Main Deck on 86th floor
This Deck is the highest open-air observatory in New York City.
All the ESB ticket holders get access to this Main deck observatory.
High-powered binoculars present in the observatory help you get a closer look at the city.
Because of the protective fencing, it isn’t easy to take selfies and photos from the 86th floor.
Top Deck on 102nd floor
The 102nd-floor observatory is much smaller and completely enclosed.
It has huge glass windows through which you can see the most beautiful panoramic view of New York City.
On a clear day, you can see as far as the five states – New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.
From this Empire State Building observatory, you can see approximately 130 km (80 miles approx).
The ESB lobby is one of the few interior areas of the city, labeled a historic landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
This lobby’s backdrop is an image of the Empire State Building itself, with beams of light radiating from the building.
Besides the observatories, the Empire State Building has numerous exhibits spread over the second and the 80th floor of the building.
We list them here:
- Site in 1920s
- Construction exhibit
- Opening Day
- Modern Marvel
- Otis Elevators
- Urban Campus
- Most Famous Building exhibit
- King Kong’s Escape
- Celebrities Galore
- Artistry in Light
- Stephen Wiltshire’s Drawing
Follow the link to know what’s inside the Empire State Building.
Empire State Building tickets price
There are four kinds of Empire State Building tickets, each offering a unique experience.
To visit the Main deck on the building’s 86th floor, you need to buy the Standard ticket, which costs $45.73 for an adult.
If you want to skip all the lines, you must buy an Express Entry ticket, which costs $85 for all visitors.
Once you are at Empire State Building, you can upgrade both the Standard and the Express Entry tickets by paying $20 more and go up to the Top Deck (102nd floor) as well.
If you want to watch the sunrise from the 86th floor of ESB, buy Sunrise ticket for $125 per person.
The AM/PM combo pass allows you to visit the attraction once during the day and once after 9 pm and costs $66.40 for adults.
Tip: More than 90% of the visitors opt for the cheapest Empire State Building entry ticket called the Standard Ticket (also known as General Admission ticket).
Empire State Building tickets discount
Some of the Empire State Building tickets offer discounts for kids up to 12 years and seniors 62 years and above.
On the Standard Entry ticket, priced at $45.73, kids get a $6.5 discount while the senior citizens get a $2 discount.
On the Day and Night ticket, which costs $66.40, kids’ tickets are discounted by $10.
There are no discounts on Express Entry tickets – everybody above the age of 6 has the same ticket price.
Similarly, there are no discounts on the Sunrise ticket.
The Big Apple Pass includes tickets to a 60-minute Statue of Liberty cruise, the Empire State Building, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. You also get a 10% discount code, which you can use (five times!) to get discounts on future purchases.
Free entry to Empire State
Children aged five and under can enter the Empire State Building for free.
Military personnel in uniform can also walk in for free.
All other visitors need a ticket to explore this New York City landmark.
If you are on a budget holiday and don’t want to go up to the observatory, you can visit the Empire State’s lobby for free.
Empire State for free with Discount cards
Both the Passes let you skip the queue at the Empire State’s ticketing counter and go straight to the 86th-floor observatory for free.
Besides ESB, these discount cards also help you explore attractions such as the Statue of Liberty, 9/11 Museum and Memorial, MoMA, etc., for free.
These discount passes help you save up to 45% of your ticket cost.
Empire State Building tickets
When you visit the Empire State Building, there are three lines you stand in and wait for your turn.
Line 1: The queue at the ticketing counter
Line 2: The queue at the security check
Line 3: The line in front of the elevators
The ‘Standard ticket’ helps you skip the first line, and the ‘Express ticket’ helps you skip the three lines.
Important: Kids five years and below don’t need to buy tickets.
Standard ticket to 86th floor
When you buy the Standard ticket online, you can skip the first line.
You won’t have to stand in the ticketing counter line because you will already have the entry tickets with you.
This ticket allows entry to the 86th-floor observatory – the highest open-air observatory in New York City.
Adult ticket (13 to 61 years): $45.73
Seniors ticket (62+ years): $43.55
Child ticket (6 to 12 years): $39.20
Note: You can’t buy tickets to the Top Deck on the 102nd floor online. You must purchase the Main deck (86th floor) ticket and upgrade it at the venue by paying an additional $20.
This upgrade is possible at the Ticket Office on the 2nd floor or from a kiosk at the 86th-floor observatory.
Express ticket to 86th floor
With an Express ticket, you can skip the lines at the ticketing counter, jump to the front of the security check line, and get to the front of the elevator queue.
In short, this is a lavish red carpet welcome.
We recommend the Express ticket for weekends and holidays when the Empire State gets lots of visitors.
You start with the observatory on the 86th floor and can upgrade to the one on the 102nd floor for just $20.
This ticket costs $85 for every tourist irrespective of their age group.
Children under six years of age walk into the attraction for free.
With the Empire State Building’s Sunrise ticket, you can watch the sunrise in New York from the best place possible – the 86th-floor observatory.
The time for this tour varies, depending on the sunrise time. Only 100 tickets get sold every day.
Access to this observatory is provided 30 minutes before sunrise.
This ticket costs $125 for every tourist irrespective of their age group.
AM/PM experience tickets
This ticket is a unique combo pass designed for tourists who prefer the Empire State’s complete experience.
Empire State is breathtaking both during the day and at night, but the experience is totally different.
If you want to experience both the views, go for the AM/PM ticket.
When to visit during the day?
If you buy this AM-PM ticket, we suggest you have the morning experience between 8 am to 10 am.
During this period, the crowd hasn’t started coming in yet.
When to enjoy the night view?
The AM/PM experience ticket allows you to use your night visit pass after 9.30 pm.
The last elevator up to the observatory departs at 1:15 am, so you can visit anytime between 9.30 pm to 1.15 am.
Adult ticket (13+ years): $66.40
Child ticket (6 to 12 years): $56.62
Empire State Premium Experience
If you love being a VIP, check out this 90-minute guided VIP tour with an Empire State Building Observatory Ambassador in a small group (maximum of 7 visitors per tour).
Standard or Express tickets?
Many visitors are confused about which tickets to buy while visiting Empire State Building – Standard tickets or Express tickets.
Here is our Standard ticket vs. Express ticket comparison to help you decide:
- Also known as General Admission ticket
- The adult ticket costs $45.73 per person
- Seniors get a discount of $2 on the adult ticket price
- Kids between 6 to 12 years get a $6.5 discount
- Kids 5 years and below enter for free
- If you buy Standard Tickets online, you wait in two lines – for security and the elevator. Else, you also wait in line to purchase tickets
- During peak seasons and hours, purchasing a Standard ticket helps you save more than 60 minutes in the lines
- Also known as Skip all the Lines ticket
- The cost of the Express ticket is $85 irrespective of the age of the visitor
- Kids below six years get in for free
- If you buy Express Tickets online, you don’t wait in any queue
- During peak times, this ticket can save you more than an hour of waiting time
The Express tickets are expensive, so we suggest them only under the following conditions:
- You are visiting during the peak season
- You can’t plan your visit during the off hours – 8 am to 11 pm or after sunset to 1 am
- You don’t have much time and want to finish your tour of the Empire State Building in an hour
- You are traveling with kids and fear they may get irritated while waiting
- Money isn’t an issue for you, but you want a hassle-free experience at Empire State
Got reasons to buy Express Tickets? Book Now
Recommended Reading: Empire State Building facts
86 floor observatory vs 102 floor observatory
When you buy the Empire State Building tickets – Standard, Express, Sunrise, or AM/PM – you can only book the Main Deck (86th floor) experience.
But once you are at the venue, you can decide to visit the observatory on the 102nd floor and upgrade.
The Top Deck upgrades are available at the Observatory ticket office (2nd floor) or the 86th-floor kiosk for $20 extra per person.
Most tourists wonder if the upgrade to the 102-floor observatory is worth it.
The 86th floor is 320 meters (1050 feet) above the ground, while the 102nd floor is 381 meters (1250 feet) high.
That’s a difference of 61 meters (200 feet).
At that height, we don’t think a mere 61 meters (200 feet) makes a huge difference in how you see the New York skyline.
Visitors who have been to the Top Deck also feel the views weren’t much different.
However, we recommend the upgrade during winter when the outdoors 86th-floor observatory will be colder than the indoors 102nd-floor observatory.
Visitors to the Empire State Building have many doubts about the different kinds of tickets and Passes available.
We try to answer them here –
- Can we visit the Empire State Building’s lobby without buying the ticket? We don’t want to go up to the Observatory.
Yes, you can roam around in the lobby without a ticket.
But, you will be missing out on one of the World’s finest observatories and other exhibits.
- Can I buy Empire State Building tickets online?
Yes, you can buy the Empire State Building’s observatory tickets on the Internet.
When you buy them in advance, you save up to 60 minutes of waiting time.
- Are Empire State Building tickets timed?
No, there is no time mentioned on Empire State Building tickets.
They are valid anytime from 8 am to 1.15 am the next day.
The last elevators go up at 1:15 am, and you can stay on till 2 am.
- For how long are Empire State Building tickets valid?
Empire State Building tickets purchased online can be used any time within one year from the purchase date.
The tickets purchased at the ticket office have a validity of 14 days from the date of purchase.
- Can I buy same-day Empire State Building tickets?
Yes, you can purchase same-day (or next day’s) Empire State Observatory tickets.
You can buy them from the ticket counters at the venue, or buy the tickets online and save yourself both time and energy (by skipping long queues).
During peak hours, this waiting time at the ticket counter lines can go up to 45 minutes.
- Should I buy the Standard tickets or the Express tickets at Empire State Building?
For an adult, the Empire State Building’s Express ticket is $40 more than the standard ticket, which is a lot of money.
That’s why we recommend Express tickets only if you are in an extreme hurry, or if the high ticket price doesn’t affect you much.
- What are the inclusions of the Empire State Building’s VIP Express ticket?
With the VIP Express Pass, you can skip the ticketing line and elevator line to go up to the Observatory and come down.
However, you must go through the line at the security check.
- Can we visit the Empire State Building twice on the same day?
Yes, if you buy AM/PM experience ticket, you can visit Empire State twice.
You can visit once in the morning and once again after 9.30 pm.
The Empire State building stays open till 2 am and the last elevator goes up at 1:15 am.
- How much is it to upgrade to the 102nd-floor observatory if we already have Empire State Building’s AM/PM tickets?
The standard AM/PM tickets give you access to the Empire State Building’s 86th-Floor Observatory.
To visit the 102nd-floor Observatory, you can upgrade your ticket at the venue by paying 20 dollars per person.
If you wish to visit the 102-floor during your morning and evening visit, you must upgrade twice.
- Can I purchase the Express Pass with the AM/PM ticket?
We don’t recommend you buy AM/PM tickets with an Express Pass.
However, once you reach the attraction and see a massive crowd, you can go to one of the kiosks to upgrade your tickets and get VIP Express Passes.
You must upgrade each AM and PM ticket individually for each person.
It will cost you $31 per ticket per person.
- Does New York Pass help in skipping the lines at Empire State Building?
With a New York Pass, you get fast-track entry to the 86th-floor observation deck.
New York Pass holders don’t need to collect a ticket from the ticket office and instead can go straight to the security check.
- How do I use Empire State Building tickets given to me as a gift? It has the name of my friend who gifted it to me.
You can easily use the ticket if your friend is with you during the visit.
Else, you must carry a note signed by your friend, authorizing that you can use the ticket.
You must also carry a photo ID of yours where your name must match the way it is mentioned on the note.
- We are on a very tight schedule. When should we visit the Empire State Building?
If you are on a tight schedule, the best time to visit the Empire State Building is during off-peak hours, i.e., between 8-10 am or after 11 pm.
For an off-peak hour visit, a Standard Empire State ticket is the best option.
To get the most out of your visit, you need at least 90 minutes.
Empire State Building audio guide
If you visit the ESB, you can download a free multimedia tour app, which acts as your audio guide.
The app can help you navigate through four specific areas:
1. The Sustainability Exhibit
2. “Dare to Dream” Exhibit (it is about the history of the building)
3. The 86th-floor Observatory
4. The 102nd-floor Observatory
Empire State Building at night
Most tourists don’t know that the Empire State Building is open until 2 am every night.
The last elevator goes up at 1:15 am.
So when should one visit the Empire State Building? Day time or night?
Empire State Building day or night?
If you have the time and the money, we suggest you visit the building twice – once in the morning and once at night. For this, you must buy AM/PM Pass.
If you don’t want to make two trips to ESB, check out the advantages of visiting Empire State Building at night.
– You can spot many famous illuminated skyscrapers (including Wall Street)
– The Hudson River looks breathtaking, reflecting the city lights and the lit-up ferries moving across it.
– From the top of the Empire State Building, you can see for almost as far as 130 km (80 miles). All starlit.
– You can also spot the Statue of Liberty holding her torch, gleaming above the New York harbor.
– Empire State Building has thousands of programmable LED lights that change colors on holidays and special observances. You can experience this upfront. For instance, on the Fourth of July, the tower is lit up with red, white, and blue lights.
– You can also see the shimmering lights of the Williamsburg and Brooklyn bridge.
– You get to enjoy the city view, and at the same time, you can stargaze as you get a close view of the night sky. It is like watching into two different galaxies, one above you and one that is below.
– You get your personal space as the crowds are non-existent.
– Most of the nights, a live saxophonist takes requests. So it can be a romantic getaway.
– If you love taking photographs, you can capture the perfect night sky and the city lights
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