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.

In this article, we explain everything you must know before visiting the Empire State Building.

1. How to reach
2. Entrance for tourists
3. Opening hours
4. Tour duration
5. What to see?
6. Empire State tickets price
7. Ticket discounts
8. Empire State tickets
9. Free admission
10. Standard or Express tickets
11. 86 floor vs 102 floor
12. FAQs on Tickets
13. Audio Guide
14. Combo tours
15. ESB at night

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 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 the 34th street, which makes it seven blocks downtown. From Times Square, a 15-minute walk down the Broadway can get you to Empire State.

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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.

The 350 Fifth Avenue entrance leads to the Art Deco lobby. Image:

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. 

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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.

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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.

Shanmugapriya / TheBetterVacation

To avoid waiting in the ticketing line, buy Empire State’s Standard tickets.

To skip all the lines, buy Express tickets.

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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.

Empire State Building’s observation decks

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: 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 isn’t easy 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, 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.

The Exhibits

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.

Recommended Reading
Empire State Building or Top of the Rock
Empire State Building or One World Observatory

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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.

Empire State Building’s 102 floor upgrade ticket. Image:

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).

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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.

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Empire State Building free entry

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

Visitors can enter the building for free if they have bought New York City Pass or the New York Explorer Pass.

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.

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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.

1. Standard ticket to Main Deck on 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.

Ticket Price

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.

2. Express ticket to Main Deck on 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.

Image: Hailshin

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.

Ticket Price

This ticket costs $85 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 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.

Ticket Price

This ticket costs $125 for every tourist irrespective of their age group.

4. 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 at the same time, 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.

Ticket Price

Adult ticket (13+ years): $66.40
Child ticket (6 to 12 years): $56.62

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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:

Standard tickets

  • 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

Express tickets

  • 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

Our recommendation

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

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86 floor observatory vs 102 floor observatory

All tickets allow access to the Main Deck on the 86th floor. Once you are at Empire State Building, you can also upgrade to the Top Deck on the 102nd floor – so you get to see New York Skyline from two heights.

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).

Our recommendation

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 compared to the indoors 102nd-floor observatory.

If you are visiting in the summer months, save your $20 per person and see either Top of the Rock or One World Observatory.

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Tickets FAQs

Visitors to the Empire State Building have many doubts about the different kinds of tickets and Passes that are available.

We try to answer them here –

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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

Download the Empire State Building guide for Android and iPhone.

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Empire State Building combo tours

There are a couple of reasons why Empire State combo tours are quite popular among tourists in New York.

1. A tour of the Empire State Building gets over in approximately two hours, 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 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 the Intrepid Museum, take a water taxi tour of the Hudson River, and finally see the 9/11 Memorial.

Ticket price

Adult ticket (3+ years): $175

2. Empire State Building + Statue of Liberty cruise

Once you have experienced the ESB observatory in this combo ticket, 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.

Ticket price

Adult ticket (3+ years): $68

Must see: Stunning photographs of wildlife projected on Empire State Building

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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?

The New York Skyline at night is magical.

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, 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

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
# New York Helicopter tour

Observatories in USA

# One World Observatory
# Top of the Rock
# Chicago Skydeck
# 360 Chicago

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Jamshed V Rajan

He is a two-faced traveler, who enjoys both the hustle-bustle of an urban holiday and the serenity of a break from the rest of the World.

During some of his vacations, he is a resort hopper, and on others, he barely spends time in his hotel.

He loves to try mouth-watering local cuisines, especially non-vegetarian dishes.

Favourite Cities: Amsterdam, Las Vegas, Dublin, Prague, Vienna

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