Things to do in New York

What to expect on the 86th and 102nd floor of the Empire State Building

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Even though it's been outstripped in height, the Empire State Building's charm is timeless. It's like a dear old friend to New Yorkers, standing tall through the city's countless transformations. When it comes to soaking in the Big Apple from above, you've got two stellar vantage points at this iconic skyscraper: the 86th floor and the 102nd floor.

Now, if you ask a fellow New Yorker which floor is a must-visit, they'll likely tell you that it’s all the same. However, as a tourist, you ought to know the difference. Keep reading as we dive into the unique experience each floor offers.

What’s special about the Empire State Building?

The Empire State Building, an impressive feat of engineering, was built in just 20 months during the Great Depression. It reigned as the tallest building until 1970. When you visit, you'll learn about its construction and the hard work that went behind it. As an Art Deco masterpiece with its spire and perfect geometry, it has appeared in over 250 films and TV shows. Sleepless in Seattle, Ready Player One, Elf and Gossip Girl to name a few. Notably, the building has been more than just King Kong's climbing frame — daredevil skydivers have also jumped from its peak, resulting in their arrests.

Empire State Building 86th floor vs 102 floor

86th Floor


102nd Floor

Main deck


Top deck

1050 ft (320 m)


1,250 feet (381m)

360-degree open air 


360-degree enclosed by floor-to-ceiling glass

On clearest days views go as far as 80 miles and 6 neighboring states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Delaware.

How far can you see?

Far enough to see the curvature of the Earth

Minimum 2 lifts

Lifts till top

Minimum 3 lifts

Previously coin-operated telescopes, are now free



A front-row seat to the heartbeats of the Big Apple

What’s the feeling on top like?

Top of the world! 

20 - 30 minute

Waiting time to get to the top

30 - 40 minute 

Metal bars obstructing the full view. 


Window glare

Recommended tickets to Empire State Building

Something you need to know about the two floors

You’ll be amazed to know that the 86th floor of the Empire State Building is known for heartfelt marriage proposals and romantic moments. There’s a saxophonist who plays here from Thursday to Saturday, post-10 pm, setting the mood under the twinkling stars. So, if you’re planning to propose, this experience can be the cherry on top of a magical evening. Make sure you plan your evening in advance!

Above the 102nd floor lies a hidden level originally intended as a docking station for airships. However, this concept was scrapped because of strong winds and safety issues. Now featuring an open-air balcony, this exclusive area is reserved for VIPs and celebrities, with Taylor Swift being among the few.

Empire State Building 86th vs 102nd floor