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Empire State Building tickets – prices, discounts, free entry, hours

Edited by: Rekha Rajan
Fact checked by: Jamshed V Rajan


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 booking Empire State Building tickets.

Empire State Building


Hours: 9 am to 12 am

Last Entry: 11.15 pm

Time needed: 90 minutes

Best time: 9 am or sunset

Ticket cost: $47 to $87


Empire State Building is in the heart of Manhattan. Its exact location is 350, 5th Avenue, between 33rd and 34th Street. Get Directions

What to expect at Empire State Building

More than 90% of the visitors opt for the cheapest Empire State Building entry ticket called the Standard Ticket or General Admission ticket.

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 $87 per person aged six and above.

The AM/PM combo pass allows you two-time entry to the Empire State Building on the same day.

All these tickets get you to the 86th-floor observation deck, and if you love what you see, you can upgrade your ticket at the attraction and visit the 102nd floor as well.

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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 $48 for an adult.

If you want to skip all the lines, you must buy an Express Entry ticket, which costs $87 for all visitors aged six years and above.

Once 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 102 floor upgrade ticket
Empire State Building’s 102-floor upgrade ticket. Image: Roamthegnome.com

If you want to watch the sunrise from the 86th floor of ESB, buy Sunrise ticket for $136 per person.

The AM/PM combo pass allows you two-time entry to the Empire State Building on the same day and costs $70 for adults.

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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 $48, kids get a $6.5 discount while the senior citizens get a $2 discount.

On the Day and Night ticket, which costs $70, 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 New York CityPASS includes tickets to the Empire State Building and the American Museum of Natural History along three choices of famous local landmarks like 9/11 Memorial Museum, Top of the Rock, etc. You get 40% off the total entry price compared to the combined admission of individual tickets.

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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

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

The Explorer Pass lets you skip the queue at the Empire State’s ticketing counter and go straight to the 86th-floor observatory for free.

Besides ESB, the discount card also helps you explore attractions such as the Statue of Liberty, 9/11 Museum and Memorial, MoMA, Top of the Rock Observatory, The Edge and many, many more for free.

The discount pass helps you save up to 45% of your ticket cost.

Visitors can also buy New York Sightseeing Day Pass to get free entry to the Empire State Building.

Visit more than 100 Big Apple attractions with the money-saving New York Sightseeing Day Pass and save up to 50%.

You can customize your sightseeing itinerary and choose from a 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-, 6-, 7-, or 10-day pass to suit your schedule.

Enjoy free entry to One World Observatory, Top of the Rock, Statue of Liberty – plus many more – and enjoy unlimited access to CitySightseeing hop-on hop-off buses for the duration of your pass.

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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.

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.

From the Ticket Office on the 2nd floor or from the kiosk at the 86th-floor deck, you can upgrade the Standard ticket and visit the 102nd-floor observatory as well.

Ticket Price

Adult ticket (13 to 61 years): $48
Seniors ticket (62+ years): $46
Child ticket (6 to 12 years): $41

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.

Express tickets of Empire State Building
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.

This upgrade is possible at the Ticket Office on the 2nd floor or from a kiosk at the 86th-floor observatory.

Ticket Price

The Empire State Building Express ticket costs $87 for all visitors irrespective of their age.

Children under six years of age walk into the attraction for free.

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 the observatory is provided 30 minutes before sunrise.

Ticket Price

This ticket costs $136 for all tourists irrespective of their age.

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 at 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 from 6 pm to 9 pm, Tuesday to Friday, and from 6 pm to 10 pm, Saturday to Monday.

The last elevator up to the observatory departs 45 minutes before the closing time for the day.

Ticket Price

Adult ticket (13+ years): $70
Child ticket (6 to 12 years): $59

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

Empire State Premium Experience
Book this Empire State Building’s premium experience and see how celebrities are welcomed into the building. During this all-access tour, you will live the red-carpet lifestyle.

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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:

Standard tickets

  • Also known as General Admission ticket
  • The adult ticket costs $48 per person
  • Seniors get a discount of $2 on the adult ticket price and pay $46
  • Kids between 6 to 12 years get a $6.5 discount and pay $41
  • 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 $87 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 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 Building

Got reasons to buy Express Tickets? Book Now

Recommended Reading: Empire State Building facts

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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.

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 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 Lobby

The ESB lobby is one of the few interior areas of the city, labeled as 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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86 floor observatory vs 102 floor observatory

Empire State's Main Deck vs Top Deck
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 than 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 available.

We try to answer them here –

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Are Empire State Building tickets timed?

    Yes, the tickets to the Empire State Building are timed.

    You must choose your preferred date and time while booking your tickets to visit ESB and ensure you visit at your selected time.

    The Empire State Building opens everyday at 10 am and closes at 10 pm (this can change depending on the month or season).

    The last elevators go up 45 minutes before the closing time for the day.

  4. For how long are Empire State Building tickets valid?

    Empire State Building tickets purchased online are valid only for the visit date and time selected while making the booking.

  5. 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. 

  6. 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.

  7. 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. 

  8. 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 between 6 pm to 9 pm.

    The Empire State building stays open till 10 pm (this can change depending on the month or season) and the last elevator goes up 45 minutes before the closing time.

  9. 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 per person.

    If you wish to visit the 102-floor during your morning and evening visit, you must upgrade twice.

  10. 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.

  11. Does New York Pass help in skipping the lines at Empire State Building?

    With a New York CityPASS, you get fast-track entry to the 86th-floor observation deck.

    New York CityPASS holders don’t need to collect a ticket from the ticket office and instead can go straight to the security check. 

  12. 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.

  13. 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 as soon as it opens a 10 am, in the afternoon between 3 to 5 pm, 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.

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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

Download the Empire State Building guide for Android and iPhone.

Must see: Stunning wildlife photos projected on Empire State Building

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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.

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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.

Empire State Building entrance at Fifth Avenue
The 350 Fifth Avenue entrance leads to the Art Deco lobby. Image: Wikimedia.org

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

During the peak season, Empire State Building opens at 9 am and closes at midnight.

The opening and closing hours keep changing depending on the month and season.

The elevator’s last trip up to the observatory is 45 minutes before the day’s closing.

Both the 86th and the 102nd-floor observatories are open for tourists 365 days of the year, irrespective of the weather.

2 Jan to 22 Jan10 am to 9 pm
23 Jan to 17 Feb11 am to 9 pm
18 Feb to 20 Feb10 am to 10 pm
21 Feb to 10 Mar10 am to 9 pm
11 Mar to 9 May9 am to 11 pm
10 May to 20 Jul9 am to 12 am
21 Jul to 27 Aug9 am to 1 am
28 Aug to 4 Sep9 am to 12 am
9 Oct to 22 Nov (Mon to Thur)10 am to 10 pm
9 Oct to 22 Nov (Fri to Sun)9 am to 10 pm
23 Nov 26 Nov9 am to 11 pm
27 Nov to 21 Dec (Mon to Thur)10 am to 10 pm
27 Nov to 21 Dec (Fri to Sun)9 am to 1 am
22 Dec to 30 Dec9 am to 1 am
31 Dec9 am to 11 pm

Best time to visit Empire State

The best time to visit Empire State Building is soon as it opens 9 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.

The best time of the day to visit the Empire State Building for family groups is around 9 or 10 pm, while couples can find a more private atmosphere around 11 pm.

Mondays and Tuesdays are usually quiet, and the Empire State Building would be an excellent choice to visit on these days.

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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.

Duration of Empire State Building tour
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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Empire State Building at night

Most tourists don’t know that the Empire State Building is open until 1 am, on some nights.

The last elevator goes up at 12.15 am.

So when should one visit the Empire State Building? Day time or night?

Empire State Building day or night?

New York Skyline at 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, 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


# Esbnyc.com
# Citypass.com
# Tripadvisor.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.

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1 thought on “Empire State Building tickets – prices, discounts, free entry, hours”

  1. Thank you. It will be my first visit to New York City.
    Empire State building has been on my list for 20 years.

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