New York

Empire State Building – tickets, prices, hours, best time to visit

Empire State Building, New York

The Empire State Building is an 88 years old skyscraper in the 5th Avenue, Midtown Manhattan, New York City.

It is highly popular among tourists. So much so, it has been named ‘America’s Favorite Architecture’.

Your holiday in New York City will be incomplete unless you take some time out to visit this marvelous building.

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

The topics covered are –

1. Empire State Building’s location
2. Empire State Building hours
3. Observation decks
4. Best time to visit Empire State
5. Types of tickets
6. ESB tickets price
7. Ticket discounts for kids, seniors
8. Free Admission into Empire State
9. Are Empire State Building tickets timed?
10. Buy Empire State tickets
11. Empire State Building at night
12. AM/PM Experience

What is the Empire State Building?

The Empire State Building is a 102 storied Art Deco skyscraper.

The ESB’s name is derived from New York City’s nickname, The Empire State.

It was constructed in 1931 which makes it 88 years old.

It held the title of the tallest building for nearly 40 years.

One of its purposes was to act as a mooring mast for airships.

But, the high winds near the building’s rooftop made it impossible for the pilots to navigate the airships.

The Empire State Building is a highly rated tourist attraction and also doubles up as an office building.

The ESB is an American cultural icon and has been featured in more than 250 TV shows and movies till date.

Where is Empire State Building located?

Empire State Building is located at the heart of Manhattan, New York, which is a mix of both, residential and commercial area.

The ESB is so large that, it has been designated its own zip code which is, 10118.

The closest New York City Subway stations from ESB are, the 34th Street-Herald Square at Sixth Avenue and Broadway and 33rd Street at Park Avenue.

How far is Empire State building from Times Square?

Times Square is a prime entertainment center, commercial intersection, and neighborhood in the Midtown Manhattan, New York City.

Times Square is located at 42nd street and the Empire State Building on the 34th street, which makes it 7 blocks downtown.

To reach ESB from the Times Square, it takes a 15-minute walk down the Broadway.

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Empire State Building timings

Empire State Building is open for tourists 365 days of the year, irrespective of the weather.

It opens at 8 am in the morning and closes at 2 am in the night. The last trip up is at 1:15 a.m. after which the elevator is shut down.

As for the duration of a visit to the Empire State Building, it depends on your agenda.

If you visit only the Empire State Building’s main deck (86th floor) your tour will last one hour. If you are planning to visit both the main deck and the top deck (102th floor), the duration of your tour will be approximately 90 minutes.

Empire State building observation decks

The ESB is the 6th tallest building of the United States of America.

When you are on its observation decks, you will feel as if you are standing on the top of the whole city.

The Empire State building’s Observation decks allow a 360-degree view of the city.

There are two observatories in Empire State Building – on the 86th and 102nd floors.

1. Main Deck: 86th Floor observation deck

This is the highest Open-Air Observatory in the entire New York City.

You can also enjoy the benefits of the high-powered binoculars present and get a closer look at the city.

The best sunrise in New York is enjoyed from the 86th floor of this ginormous building.

From the 86th floor, it is difficult to take selfies and photos since the protective fencing which comes in between.

The fence around this observatory terrace was put up in 1947 to prevent accidents.

Most of the days there is a live saxophonist present on this deck at night who (hold your breath), takes requests.

2. 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 finest 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 the Empire State Building observatory, you can see approximately 130 Kms (80 miles approx).

You will also be able to spot many famous skyscrapers (including the wall street).

The 102nd floor observatory was closed to the public from the late 1990s to 2005.

The tickets for this observation deck are more expensive than that of, the one on the 86th floor.

Recommended Reading: Empire State Building facts


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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 sunrise from Empire State building

The best time to visit 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 a.m., before it opens for the public. The ticket costs $100 per person.

The access to the observatory, on top of the Empire State Building, is provided only 30 minutes before the sunrise.

If you want to see the city that never sleeps, as it wakes up you can buy the 5 am ticket for Empire State Building.

Best time to visit Empire State during the day

The best time to visit Empire State during the day is between 8 am to 10 am as the crowd is less and the queues are short.

In fact, this is the time frame the Empire State Building itself suggests to its visitors.

Note: It is always better to consider the weather before visiting.

Best time to visit the Empire State Building at night

The wondrous night view of the NYC, from the ESB observatory on 102nd floor will leave you astounded.

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 will take you less than 20 minutes to get to the top.

Since very few people are hanging around at the observatory around this time, you can have your private moments too.

Best time to take photos from Empire State building

The Observation decks at ESB provides a 360-degree view of the city. Won’t you just love to capture it within your camera?

If photography is your objective, make sure to check the weather. Cloudy days result in bad photographs.

To capture the spectacular view of the Manhattan Skyline from the Empire State Building, there is a well-known ‘secret.’

And the secret is to 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.

Do check the waiting line in advance, and to be on the safer side we recommend you buy an express ticket online, which allows you to skip all the lines and be there just in time for the sunset. Buy Express ticket to Empire State Building

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.

Bonus: If you are a photographer you may also want to snap the Empire State Building from outside. Here is what you must do for a beautiful photograph which captures the building’s height – Get right under the structure, align your camera in portrait mode, point it almost straight up and make sure that the building is framed from the bottom of your camera’s viewfinder to the top.

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Types of Empire State Building tickets

There are two types of tickets you can buy for visiting the Main and the Top deck of Empire State Building.

1. The Standard ticket

This ticket allows you a normal entry. That is, you must stand in the queue and wait for your turn to get in.

These tickets are cheaper.

2. The Express ticket

If you are short on time or don’t like waiting in lines but are NOT on a budget, the Express Ticket is just right for you.

With an Express ticket (which you can buy online as well), you can skip the lines at the ticketing counter and jump to the front of all lines to the 86th floor.

However, you must go through the security check line.

These tickets are a bit more expensive than the Standard Tickets.

Empire State Building tickets price

To visit the Main deck, the price of a standard ticket for an adult is, $37.

For the same visit, the Express Entry ticket starts at $65 for all visitors.

Once you are at Empire State Building, you can upgrade both the Standard and the Express Entry ticket by paying $20 more and go up to the Top Deck (102th floor) as well.

If you want to watch the sunrise from the 86th floor of ESB, the entry ticket costs $100 per person.

The price for the AM/PM combo pass for 86th floor is $53 for adults.

New York City Explorer Pass

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Empire State Building tickets discount

ESB tickets do have discounts for kids and senior citizens.

For instance, on the Standard Entry ticket kids get a $6 discount while the senior citizens get a $2 discount.

The Day & Night ticket also has variable pricing. Kids tickets are discounted by $8.5.

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 for free

You can enter the Empire State Building for free if you have New York City pass.

It lets you skip the main ticket line and provides you with the access to Empire State Building observatory for free.

Besides the ESB, the other landmarks you can enter for free with a New York City Pass are – American Museum of Natural History, and Metropolitan Museum – MET.

Also, the entry for kids under the age of 6 years is free.

>> Buy New York City Pass

Are Empire State Building tickets timed?

No, Empire State Building tickets are not timed.

The Observatory tickets purchased online can be used at any time within, one year from the date of purchase.

Whereas the tickets purchased at the ticket office must be used within 14 days from the date of purchase.

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Empire State Building tickets

There are five types of experiences at the Empire State Building, for which you can buy tickets. We list them all below –

1. Main Deck (86th floor) tickets

ESB has the highest Open Air Observatory in the entire New York City on its 86th floor. This ticket allows entry to the 86th floor observatory.

It has high-powered binoculars, which helps you get a closer look at the city.

At night, a live saxophonist is present on the 86th floor. Couples are even known to slow dance even as they enjoy the city views.

Kids younger than 6 years of age walk in free.

Ticket Price

Adult ticket (13-61 years): $37
Seniors ticket (62+ years): $35
Child ticket (6-12 years): $31

Buy TicketsTickets for Main Deck tour, 86th floor

Want to visit the Top Deck (102nd floor)?

You can’t buy tickets to the Top Deck on 102nd floor, online. You must buy the Main deck (86th floor) ticket online, and upgrade it at the venue by paying an additional $20.

This upgrade is possible at the Ticket Office in 2nd floor of Empire State Building or from the 86th floor observatory.

Once you decide to upgrade, the combined cost of visiting both these observatories ends up being –

Cost for Adults (13-61 years): $57
Cost for Seniors (62+ years): $55
Cost for a Child(6-12 years): $51

2. Sunrise Tickets 

You can witness the New York city waking up, as the golden rays of sun fall upon it, from the heart of the city itself.

This bewitching sight can be enjoyed from the 86th floor.

The gates open only for a limited 100 people every day. This tour starts at 5 am, before they open for the public.

Access to the observatory, on top of the Empire State Building, is provided only 30 minutes before the sunrise.

Ticket Price

This ticket costs $100 for every tourist irrespective of their age group. Kids under 6 get in free and don’t need a ticket.

Buy TicketsTickets for ‘Sunrise from Empire State Building’

3. Premium Tickets 

This tour provides you with a lavish red carpet welcome. You skip the lines and walk right in through the Express Lane.

You start with the observatory on 86th floor and can upgrade to the one on 102 floor, for just 20 USD.

Ticket Price

This ticket costs $65 for every tourist irrespective of their age group. Children under six walk in free.

Buy TicketsTickets for Premium Experience at ESB

4. AM/PM Experience Tickets

This is a special combo pass designed for the people who want to have 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.

The AM and PM experience was introduced so that you can enjoy both, the bright and sunny ‘Big Apple’ and the twinkling and shimmering lights of the NYC at night.

Ticket Price

Adult ticket (13+ years): $53.25
Child ticket (6-12 years): $44.75

Kids below 6 years don’t need to buy tickets.

Buy TicketsTickets for day & night entry to ESB

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Empire State Building at night

Should you visit the Empire State Building during the daytime or night time? Find out.

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.

Many tourists suggest that the experience of visiting ESB at night is more desirable.

Maybe because it is generally more crowded during the day, and the queues are longer. And night time is quieter.

What makes the ESB night visit more desirable?

There are many advantages of visiting this magnificent building at night.

– You will be able to spot many famous illuminated skyscrapers (including the 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 will be able to 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.

– The building has thousands of programmable LED lights which, 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 of the Williamsburg and Brooklyn bridge.

– You get to enjoy the city view and at the same time, you can star gaze 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 own personal space as the crowds are non-existent.

– It is perfect for a romantic getaway

– Most of the days there is a live saxophonist at night who takes requests.

– If you are a photography freak, you can quench your desire of capturing the perfect night sky and the city lights from such a great height.

Buy Empire State Building tickets and land up after 9 pm.

AM/PM experience at Empire State building

Most tourists visiting the Empire State Building during daytime expressed a desire to know how the New York skyline was at night.

Keeping its visitor’s request in mind, on 23 May 2017 the Empire State Building management announced what they call the AM/PM Experience at Empire State Building.

Earlier only one pass was given for a single visit. Now, if you purchase the AM/PM ticket, you get to see the city during the day and once again after 9.30 pm.

When to visit during the day?

To have a nice experience at ESB, you should visit the tourist attraction between 8 am to 10 am.

The crowd is less and the queues are short.

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.

So, what are you waiting for? Book your AM/PM Experience


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# Spirit of New York Dinner Cruise

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