Updated on 1 Nov, 2019
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 till date.
In this article, we explain everything you must know before visiting the Empire State Building.
1. ESB tickets price
2. Ticket discounts
3. Buy ESB tickets
5. Free admission
6. Standard or Express tickets
7. 86 floor vs 102 floor
8. How to reach?
9. Opening hours
10. Best time to visit
11. What to see?
12. Tour duration
13. ESB at night
14. Audio Guide
15. Combo tours
16. FAQs on Tickets
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 86th floor of the building, you need to buy the Standard ticket, which costs USD 37 for an adult.
If you want to skip all the lines, you must buy an Express Entry ticket, which costs USD 65 for all visitors.
Once you are at Empire State Building, you can upgrade both the Standard and the Express Entry tickets by paying USD 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, you can buy Sunrise ticket for USD 100 per person.
The price for the AM/PM combo pass is USD 53 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
Not all Empire State Building tickets offer discounts for kids and senior citizens.
On the Standard Entry ticket (priced at USD 37), kids get a 6 USD discount while the senior citizens get a 2 USD discount.
On the ‘Day and Night’ ticket (costing 53 USD), kid’s tickets are discounted by 8.50 USD.
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.’
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 all the three lines.
Important: Kids below six years don’t need to buy tickets.
1. Standard ticket to Main Deck (86th floor)
When you buy the ‘Standard ticket’ online, using the links provided in this article, 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 – highest open-air observatory in New York City.
Adult ticket (13 to 61 years): USD 37
Seniors ticket (62+ years): USD 35
Child ticket (6 to 12 years): USD 31
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 USD 20.
This upgrade is possible at the Ticket Office on the 2nd floor of Empire State Building or from a kiosk at the 86th-floor observatory.
2. Express ticket to Main Deck (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 also 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 ESB 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 USD.
This ticket costs USD 65 for every tourist irrespective of their age group.
Children under six years of age walk into the attraction for free.
3. Sunrise Tickets
With the Empire State Building’s Sunrise ticket, you can watch the sunrise on New York from the best place possible – the 86th-floor observatory.
This tour starts at 5 am, and only 100 tickets get sold every day.
Access to this observatory is provided only 30 minutes before the sunrise.
This ticket costs USD 100 for every tourist irrespective of their age group.
Kids under 6 get in free and don’t need a ticket.
4. AM/PM Experience Tickets
This ticket is a unique combo pass designed for the people who prefer a complete experience of the ESB.
Both the experiences of visiting the ESB at night and daytime are breathtaking but at the same time, extremely different.
If you want to experience, both 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, visitors have just started walking in.
When to enjoy the night view?
The AM/PM experience ticket allows you to use your night visit pass only 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): USD 53.25
Child ticket (6 to 12 years): USD 44.75
Empire State Building free entry
Military personnel in uniform can walk in for free.
Children aged five and under can also enter the Empire State Building for free.
All other visitors need a ticket to explore this NYC landmark.
ESB 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 Statue of Liberty, 9/11 Museum and Memorial, MoMA, etc. for free.
Since you pay once and visit all the attractions for free, these discount passes help you save up to 45% of your ticket cost.
Standard or Express tickets
Many visitors are confused about which tickets to buy – the Standard tickets or the 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 37 USD per person
- Seniors get a discount of 2 USD on the adult ticket price
- Kids between 6 to 12 years get a 6 USD 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 the line to purchase tickets
- During peak seasons and hours, you may have to wait more than 60 minutes in the lines
- Also known as Skip the Line ticket
- The cost of the Express ticket is 65 USD 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 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 an hassle-free experience at ESB
Got reasons to buy Express Tickets? Book Now
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 USD 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 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, they recommend it during winter when the outdoors 86th-floor observatory will be colder as compared to the indoors 102nd-floor observatory.
If you are visiting during winter, go for the Top Deck upgrade.
How to reach Empire State Building
Empire State Building is in the heart of Manhattan, New York, which is a mix of both 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.
Getting to the Empire State Building
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 Penn Station/34th Street.
Once you are out of the Subway, you must walk two blocks East to reach the ESB.
Your second option is to get onto B, D, F, M, N, Q, or R trains and get down at 34th Street/ Herald Square.
The moment you exit the Subway station, you will spot the Empire State Building to your East.
Empire State Building’s entrance is on Fifth Avenue between 33rd Street and 34th Street.
If you are already in Manhattan, we suggest you fire your Google Map and walk the distance. Directions
Times Square to Empire State Building
Times Square is on the 42nd street and the Empire State Building on the 34th street, which makes it seven blocks downtown.
From Times Square, a 15-minute walk down the Broadway can get you to ESB.
Empire State Building timings
Empire State Building opens at 8 am and closes at 2 am in the night.
The elevator’s last trip up is at 1:15 am, after which it is shut down for the day.
The observatory is open for tourists 365 days of the year, irrespective of the weather.
On a few special days the opening and closing hours of ESB change –
Christmas Eve (December 24): 8 am to 10 pm
December 26 – 30: 7 am to 1 am
New Year’s: 7 am to 10 pm
Best time to visit Empire State building
The best time to visit Empire State depends on what you expect from your visit.
Best time to see the sunrise
The best time to visit the Empire State Building if you want to see the sunrise over New York is 5 am.
The ESB gates open for a limited set of 100 people at 5 am before it opens for the public. The Sunrise ticket costs USD 100 per person.
Visitors are allowed to enter the observatory, on top of the Empire State Building, 30 minutes before the sunrise.
Best time to avoid the crowd
If you want to avoid the crowd and reduce your waiting time at ESB, the best time to visit is between 8 am, and 10 am.
During these morning hours, the crowd is less, and the queues are short.
Best time to visit at night
New York looks stunning from the Empire State Building at night. Especially from the ESB observatory on the 102nd floor.
The perfect time to enjoy the Empire State Building at night is after 9 pm.
The last elevator up to the observatory leaves at 1:15 am and reaching Empire State after 9 pm means you can enjoy both the world’s most famous building and a night out in the city.
Crowds are minimal after 9 pm, and it takes less than 20 minutes to get to the top.
If you are a couple looking for some romantic moments, we recommend night time.
Best time to take photos
Photographers love the Empire State Building because its observation decks provide a 360-degree view of the city.
If photography is your objective, make sure to check the weather.
Cloudy days result in bad photographs.
If you want to capture the Manhattan Skyline from ESB, there is a well-known ‘secret’ – visit the building just before the sunset.
You will be able to capture the views of the city in daylight, during sunset, and finally at night when the lights come up.
To be on the safer side, we recommend you buy Express Ticket online, which allows you to skip all the lines and be there in time for the sunset.
Note: Selfies with the city view in the background are a bit difficult to shoot from the 86th floor because of the protective fencing all around.
What to see at the Empire State building?
Most tourists don’t know that ESB isn’t just about the observatories.
Let us list out all the must-see at this New York tourist attraction.
1. Empire State Building’s observation decks
The ESB is the 6th tallest building of 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: 86th Floor observation deck
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 is difficult to take selfies and photos from the 86th floor.
Top Deck – 102nd floor observation deck
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 kms (80 miles approx).
2. The Lobby
The ESB lobby is one of the few interior areas of the city, which have been labeled a historic landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The backdrop of this lobby is an image of the Empire State Building itself, with beams of light radiating from the building.
During your visit, do spend time in the lobby.
3. Dare to Dream Exhibit
The ‘Dare to Dream’ Exhibition takes you through the story of how they built the Empire State Building.
This exhibit narrates ESB’s history through various photographs, original documents, and other displays.
It is a real tribute to everyone who helped build ESB.
4. Sustainability Exhibit
In 2009, the Empire State Building decided to use state of the art technology to reduce energy usage and carbon emissions.
In a fun way, the sustainability exhibition helps the visitors understand how the ESB went about this project.
Recommended Reading: Empire State Building facts
How long does Empire State Building take
The duration of the Empire State Building tour depends on your agenda.
You will need at least one hour if you plan to visit only the Empire State Building’s Main Deck (86th floor) observatory.
If you are planning to visit both the Main Deck and the Top Deck (102nd floor), you will need approximately 90 minutes.
These are suggested tour durations when you have bought your tickets online.
However, if you haven’t bought your tickets online – you need to factor in 45 to 60 minutes more in the ticketing line. To avoid waiting, buy tickets online
Tip: To skip all the lines, buy ‘Express’ tickets
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?
It is a difficult choice for sure.
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 this magnificent building at night.
– You will be able to spot many famous illuminated skyscrapers (including Wall Street)
– The Hudson River looks breathtaking, with the reflection of 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 kms (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
Empire State Building audio guide
If you are visiting 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 combo tours
There are a couple of reasons why ESB combo tours are quite popular among tourists in New York.
1. A tour of ESB gets over in 2 hours approximately, so visitors want to combine one more activity for the day.
2. Tourists want to save some money while booking Empire State Building tickets, which cost upwards of 30 USD per person.
And it is a well-known secret that combo tours help save 15 to 20% of the ticket cost.
Here are our favorite Empire State combo tours –
1. Best of New York tour
This combo is a VIP escorted tour of the best New York has to offer.
Besides the Empire State Building, you will also visit Intrepid Museum, take a water taxi tour of Hudson River, and finally visit the 9/11 Memorial.
Adult ticket (3+ years): 175 USD
2. Empire State Building + Statue of Liberty cruise
In this combo ticket, once you have experienced the ESB observatory, you enjoy a cruise down the Hudson.
During the 75-minute cruise, you will see many famous New York landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty.
Adult ticket (3+ years): 68 USD
Visitors to the Empire State Building have a lot of doubts about the different kinds of tickets and Passes that are available.
We try to answer them here –
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.
Yes, you can buy the Empire State Building’s observatory tickets online from here.
When you buy them in advance, you save yourself a lot of waiting time.
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.
Empire State Building tickets purchased online can be used any time within one year from the date of purchase.
The tickets purchased at the ticket office have a validity of 14 days from the date of purchase.
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.
For an adult, the Empire State Building’s Express ticket is USD 28 more than the Standard ticket, which is a lot of money.
That’s why we recommend Express tickets only if you are in extreme hurry, or if the high ticket price doesn’t affect you much.
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.
Yes, if you buy AM/PM experience ticket, you can visit ESB twice.
You can visit once in the morning and once again after 9 pm.
The Empire State building stays open till 2 am with the last elevator going up at 1:15 am.
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 as well, you must upgrade twice.
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.
Each AM and PM tickets should be upgraded individually for each person.
It will cost you $31 per ticket per person.
Yes, 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.
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.
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.
Popular attractions in New York
# Statue of Liberty
# Metropolitan Museum of Art
# 9/11 Memorial and Museum
# Museum of Modern Art
# Intrepid Museum
# Guggenheim Museum
# BlueMan Group NYC
# Spirit of New York Dinner Cruise