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Empire State Building – tickets, prices, timings, what to expect, FAQs

The Empire State Building (ESB) is an 88-year-old skyscraper on 5th Avenue, Midtown Manhattan, New York City.

Tourists love to go up the observatories on the 86th and 102nd floors of ESB and look at the New York skyline.

Named after NYC’s nickname, The Empire State, it is an American cultural icon featured in more than 250 TV shows and movies.

This article covers everything you must know before booking tickets for the Empire State Building.

What to expect

Looking up at New York’s skyscrapers is a great experience, but it doesn’t compare to looking down on the city from atop its most famous skyscraper – the Empire State Building.

Be greeted by a friendly team of burgundy-uniformed personnel who will guide you through the Empire State Building’s inspiring murals and artwork.

The most famous spot on the skyscraper is the 86th floor, where many movies, such as ‘Independence Day’ and ‘Sleepless in Seattle,’ have filmed memorable scenes.

From the 86th floor, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of up to six states from the surrounding open-air promenade and climate-controlled viewing galleries.

Have the opportunity to snap aerial shots of Central Park, Times Square, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the One World Trade Center.

Recreate the famous King Kong scene by beating your chest like the giant ape did as he climbed the building.

By using the official Empire State Building app, visitors can enhance their experience and make the most of their visit to this National Historic Landmark.

The app offers access to multimedia apps, exhibitions, and signage, all available in nine different languages.

Plus, visitors can explore the revamped 80th floor, which features exciting and artistic exhibits.

With two attractions for the price of one, the Empire State Building is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the best views of New York City.


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Where to book tickets

Tickets for the Empire State Building are available to be purchased at the attraction or online in advance.

Online ticket prices tend to be cheaper than tickets at the attraction.

When you buy online, you can avoid the long queues at the attraction’s ticket counters.

Booking online also helps avoid last-minute disappointment and delays.

How do online tickets work

Go to the Empire State Building booking page, select your preferred date, time, and number of tickets, and buy the tickets right away.

After the purchase, you will receive the tickets via email.

You don’t need to carry printouts.

Show the smartphone tickets at the gate on the day of your visit and walk into the attraction.

Empire State Building tickets price

A standard adult ticket for visitors aged 13 to 61 years costs US$48 between to US$51, depending on the date of your visit.

Seniors aged 62 or above pay between US$46 and US$47 at the Empire State Building.

Tickets for children between six and 12 years of age range between US$42 to US$45 at the Empire State Building.

Kids under six years of age can enter for free.

Express Entry tickets for the Empire State Building cost US$91 for all visitors over six years of age.

Once at the Empire State Building, you can upgrade both the Standard and the Express Entry tickets by paying US$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 the sunrise ticket for US$147 per person.

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 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, and 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.

The ticket also provides access to the second-floor immersive exhibits and also includes a downloadable interactive audio guide app and free high-speed WiFi on-site.

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): US$48 to US$51
Child ticket (6 to 12 years): US$42 to US$45
Seniors ticket (62+ years): US$46 to US$49

Infant ticket (up to 5 years): Free

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

To put it briefly, visitors can experience a grand reception at the Empire State Building when booking this ticket.

We recommend the Express ticket for weekends and holidays when the Empire State gets lots of visitors.

Visitors can access the exhibits at the attraction without queuing and can explore the immersive second-floor exhibits.

The ticket includes a downloadable interactive audio guide app and free high-speed WiFi on-site.

You start with the observatory on the 86th floor and can upgrade to the one on the 102nd floor for just US$20.

Ticket Price

General Admission (6+ years): US$91
Infant ticket (up to 5 years): 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.

The ticket also provides access to the second-floor immersive exhibits and also includes a downloadable interactive audio guide app and free high-speed WiFi on-site.

Ticket Price

General Admission: US$147

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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Combo Tickets

To make the most of your visit to New York, it’s best to plan ahead and book a combo ticket.

Take advantage of exclusive deals and explore the city’s top attractions near the Empire State Building, some of which are within a mile.

You can buy ESB tickets in combination with tickets for the SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, the Statue of Liberty, MoMA, 9/11 Memorial & Museum, One World Observatory, or the New York Tourist Card.

Combo tickets are ideal for large families, groups, or those on a budget holiday and can help you visit all major attractions by booking just once!

Avail discounts of up to 28% when booking these combo tickets.

Ticket Cost
Empire State Building + SUMMIT One Vanderbilt US$84
Empire State Building + 9/11 Memorial & Museum US$77
Empire State Building + MoMA US$78
Empire State Building + Statue of Liberty US$74
Empire State Building + One World Observatory US$87
New York Tourist Card US$83

Recommended Reading: Empire State Building facts


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How to reach

The Empire State Building is situated on the west side of Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, between 33rd and 34th Streets.

Address: 20 W 34th St., New York, NY 10001, USA. Get Directions

You can reach the Empire State Building by public transport or car.

By Bus

The W 34 St & 5 Av is located right across the street from the Empire State Building and can be reached by several buses including QM10, QM12, SIM23, and SIM24.

By Subway

Get down at the 33 St station to reach the attraction.

Take subway line 4 or 6.

By Car

If you are driving by car, turn on Google Maps and get started!

Choose between parking options around the attraction.

Times Square is on 42nd Street, and the Empire State Building is on 34th Street, making it seven blocks downtown. From Times Square, a 15-minute walk down Broadway can get you to the Empire State.

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

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 the 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 more seamless entry.


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Timings

The opening and closing hours at the Empire State Building keep changing depending on the month and season.

Empire State Building opens at times ranging from 8 am to 10 am, depending on the season.

Meanwhile, the closing hours range between 10 pm and 1 am.

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.

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 US$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.

Empire-state-building-tour-duration
Shanmugapriya / TheBetterVacation

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

To skip all the lines, buy Express tickets.

Best time to visit

We suggest booking your tour on a weekday when the attraction is less busy for a more enjoyable visit.

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

Weekends and public holidays are the most crowded at the attraction.


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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 the General Admission ticket
  • The adult ticket can cost US$48 to US$51 per person
  • Seniors citizens pay between US$46 to US$49 per person
  • Children between 6 to 12 years can get tickets for US$42 to US$45
  • 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


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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.

Read on to learn how visiting the Empire State Building at night is an experience of a lifetime.

– 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 80 miles (130 km). All starlit.

– You can also spot the Statue of Liberty holding her torch, gleaming above the New York harbor.

– The 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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What to see at the Empire State building?

Most tourists don’t know that the Empire State isn’t just about the observatories.

Inside the 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 the 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

86 floor observatory ESB
Image: Esbnyc.com

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

102 Floor observatory, Empire State Building
Image: Esbnyc.com

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

Empire State Building lobby
Image: Esbnyc.com

The ESB lobby is one of the few interior areas of the city that have been labeled as historic landmarks 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 floors. 

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 the Empire State Building, you can also upgrade to the Top Deck on the 102nd floor – so you get to see the New York Skyline from two heights.

When you buy the Empire State Building tickets – Standard, Express, or Sunrise- 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 outdoor 86th-floor observatory will be colder than the indoor 102nd-floor observatory.

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


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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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FAQs about the Empire State Building

Here are some questions visitors usually ask before booking tickets for the Empire State Building.

Should I purchase the Empire State Building tickets online?

It is best to buy the tickets online to ensure availability and have a hassle-free experience.

What is the Empire State Building’s observatory?

It is an open-air observation deck on the 86th floor that offers a panoramic view of New York City.

Is the Empire State Building open year-round?

Yes, visitors can visit ESB throughout the year.

Does the Empire State Building have a gift shop?

Yes, visitors can stop by the gift shop on the 80th floor.

How long does it take to reach the top of the Empire State Building by elevator?

It takes about a minute to reach the 86th-floor observation deck by elevator.

Is there a time limit for how long I can stay on the observation deck?

No, there is no time limit for how long you can stay on the ESB observation deck. However, most visitors spend around one hour taking in the views.

Can I bring food and drinks to the observation deck?

No, outside food and drinks are not allowed on the ESB observation deck. However, there is a café on the 80th floor where you can purchase snacks and drinks.

Is there a dress code for visiting the Empire State Building observation deck?

There is no specific dress code for visiting the observation deck, but it is recommended to dress comfortably and wear appropriate footwear.

Are there any restrictions for visiting the Empire State Building observation deck?

Yes, there are restrictions for visiting the observation deck. For example, large bags and backpacks are not allowed, and there are certain items that are prohibited, such as tripods and selfie sticks.

Can I visit the Empire State Building during bad weather?

The observation deck is open all year round, but it may close for safety reasons during severe weather conditions, such as thunderstorms or heavy snowfall. It is recommended to check the weather forecast before visiting.

Sources

# 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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This article was researched & written by

Edited by Rekha Rajan & fact checked by Jamshed V Rajan

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