Things to do in New York

Your Comprehensive Guide to Visiting the Iconic Empire State Building

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A visit to NYC is incomplete without gorging in the unobstructed panoramic views of the city from the iconic Empire State Building. The sprawling views of Manhattan and the ocean are a feast for the eye and the open-air 86th-floor observatory is the perfect place for you to enjoy it. Soaring 1,454 feet (including antenna) above midtown Manhattan, the Empire State Building is the world's most famous skyscraper. Being one of the top tourist attractions in the country, it is no wonder that America voted for it as America's favorite building (as per a poll conducted by the American Institute of Architects). On a clear day, you can see up to five states from the Observation Decks - New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

Empire State Building in a Nutshell

Handy information

⏰ Suggested Duration:2-3 hours
☀️ Best Time to Visit:Early morning or late evening
🎟️ Empire State Building Ticket: $44
🚇 Closest Metro: 34th Street-Herald Square

Empire State Building opening hours

Monday - Thursday: 10 AM to 10 PM
Friday - Sunday: 9 AM to 11 PM

What to see:

Art Deco lobby
Observation deck
Gift shop


350 5th Ave, New York, NY 10118, USA
Get there

Why visit the Empire State Building?

empire state building

1.If you visit New York City and don't visit the iconic Empire State Builing, AND admire the views - did you really go to New York? From over 1000 feet above ground you can spot landmarks like the Chrysler Building, the Statue of Liberty, and Central Park painted across the Hudson River.

2. Apart from it being a bucket list item on everyone's 'Things to do in New York' list, there's lots to do and see here and around. Explore immersive exhibits to learn about the building's history and construction, grab a meal at any of the restaurants in the tower, or stroll through the gift shop to take home some exclusive merch!

3. A visit to the building is a must-do while in New York City. An observation deck, views, and the sunset. What else do you need?

Recommended Empire State Building tickets

The Empire State Building: Know what defines your experience

1The Art Deco lobby

This part of the ESB was restored in 2009 with Art Deco elements flaunting ceiling murals in 24-karat gold and aluminum leaf which pay homage to the mechanical age, planets and stars. . You will find one of the most famous images in New York City, a depiction of the ESB with beams of light radiating from the mast hung on this Fifth Avenue lobby.This lobby is one of the few interiors in New York to be gifted the stature of a historic landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

empire state building - things to do

2The Dare to Dream exhibit

This particular exhibit captures the planning and construction phase of the Empire State Building. It chronicles the ESB's history, engineering, construction and pays a tribute to the commendable work of the architects and laborers who helped erect the ESB. While walking around this exhibit, you’ll find original documents including period photographs, architectural drawings, construction jot downs, and other bookkeeping documents.

empire state building - things to do

3The Sustainability exhibit

This exhibit showcases the state of the art technology started by the the Empire State Building in 2009 which aims to reduce total energy usage by more than 38 percent energy costs by $4.4 million annually, and carbon emissions by 105,000 metric tons over the next 15 years. While walking around this exhibit, one can understand the processes and working of the technology in a fun and interactive manner, thus appealing to those of all ages.

empire state building - things to do

4The views from the 86th floor!

This is the highest open-air observatory in all of New York and offers 360 degree unobstructed views of the Manhattan skyline. It has also served as the setting for tens of thousand movies and television scenes making this one of the most popular parts of the Empire State Building. This Main Deck goes all around the ESB's spire and offers splendid views of the Central Park, Hudson River, the Brooklyn Bridge, Times Square, Statue of Liberty, and plenty more.

empire state building - things to do

5Better views from the 102nd Floor

16 floors above the Main Deck lies the Top Deck which offers an even better, but enclosed unlike the open air main deck. From here, one can get an aerial view of the Central Park, the laced grid of New York streets and on a clear day you can see beyond the skyscrapers up to 80 miles away. Reaching the Top Deck is equally exciting as one has to ride up on a manually operated Otis elevator which allows you to witness the altitude rise as you ascend.

empire state building - things to do

Empire State Building: History

During the 1920's New York's economy was booming like never before and builders had just 1 aim - erect the world's largest skyscraper in their city. Their aim was to beat the 40 Wall Street’s Bank of Manhattan building and the Chrysler Building and upon completion, the Empire State Building surpassed its competitors, raising the New York skyline to the highest of heights.

The Empire State Building was designed by William Frederick Lamb who worked at the architectural firm Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon.The design is said to be fairly simple yet exuding grandeur, defined by the budget, time limit and New York City's 1916 zoning law. This minimalist limestone facade building has a classical composition of a five story base, a large tower with setbacks and a monumental spire. It has a total of 102 floors and rises to a height of 1,250 feet and remained the highest structure in the world for 40 years, until 1954. The construction took 2 years, from 1929 and 1931 costing a total of $40,948,900 and once completed, it was was dubbed 'the 8th world wonder'.

The Empire State Building was one of the last skyscrapers completed in New York before the Great Depression hit. The Great Depression consequently caused a collapse in the demand for office space which lead to the ESB being nicknamed the 'Empty State Building'. It took until the 1950s for the market to full recover and for the Empire State Building to became the most profitable building in New York City.

Empire State Building: Construction & architecture

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Designed by architect William F. Lamb of the architectural firm Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, the Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world until 1970.

The construction of the Empire State Building was a remarkable feat, taking just over a year to complete during the Great Depression. It was built using a steel frame, a common construction method for skyscrapers of the era. The exterior features a distinctive Art Deco design, characterized by setbacks and a spire at the top. The building's facade is clad in Indiana limestone and granite, giving it its iconic appearance.The interior of the Empire State Building is designed with a focus on functionality and efficiency. It originally housed office spaces, and its 102 floors were designed to accommodate a wide range of businesses.

The section of the building that is open to visitors, houses a number of entertaining and inforamtive exhibits and also boasts breathtaking observation decks on the 86th and 102nd floors, offering panoramic views of New York City. One of its most outstanding features is its massive Art Deco lobby, with its gold plated ceiling and stunning mural.

How to save time and skip the lines at the Empire State Building?

Empire State Building skip the line tickets

Being one of the most visited buildings in New York City, The Empire State Building draws a large crowd through the year. This results in a wait time of about 45 minutes to 1 hour on an average. Weekends are known to be the busiest period, with waiting times that go up more than an hour, especially weekends during summer.

The best way to escape the tourist hordes is to reach the building early in the morning right after it opens at 10 AM, preferably on a weekday; though early on the weekends are relatively less crowded as well. If you wish to visit the Empire State at night, then visiting after 9 PM should also see you in within a few minutes.

Another option is to purchase the Express Pass in advance and reach there during your desired slot which allows you to glide cross the ticket line and head right to the observation deck. If you cannot schedule your visit before 12 PM or post 9 PM, this pass is your best bet.

Best time to visit the Empire State Building

While there is no perfect time to visit the landmark - it's an established fact that the views are best during sunset. Ideally, it’s also the perfect time to bump into a plethora of people. If you're someone who loves beating the crowd, sometime early early morning, or early afternoon should be the best time to visit.

Empire State Building hours

Monday to Thursday: 10 AM to 10 PM
Friday to Sunday: 10 AM to 11 PM

Getting there

By bus

  • The closest bus stop is on Fifth Avenue, West 35th Street.
  • Board bus BM2, BXM1, BXM4, M2, M34-SBS, Q32, QM10, QM18, QM20, or X37 to get there.
By subway

  • The closest subway stop is at Penn Station, which is a quick 5-minute walk to the building.
  • Lines 1, 2, 3, A, C, and E will get you there.
By car

  • If you're driving down, you can find street parking on the nearby streets. The closest parking lot is V Lot.

Things to keep in mind while visiting the Empire State Building with different groups:

If you're visiting with family

Make your way to the Empire State early in the day to beat the crowd and enjoy more room up top. Anytime between 10 AM and 12 PM is said to be more peaceful than the rest of the day. If you're traveling with kids or senior citizens, standing in all 3 lines can get hectic, hence these hours are recommended.

If you're visiting with your partner

If you're looking for some intimate time over the Manhattan skyline, visiting the Empire State Building post 9 PM is conducive. By this time the crowds would have dwindled and the setting becomes cosier. The views of Manhattan at night, shining like a jewel will rest assured spark romance in the air.

If you're looking to up your Instagram game

Without doubt, sunset is when shutterbugs should be on the 86th floor. The amber hues that sweep the sky as the sun sets behind the New York skyline is dream come true for photographers. Tripods are not allowed atop, so photographers are required to make necessary arrangements to get their best clicks.

If you want to beat the crowds

The best time to visit the Empire State Building if you wish to beat the crowd is early in the day from 10 AM to 12 PM and anytime after 9 PM.

Insider tips for visiting the Empire State Building

1. If possible, visit the Empire State Building on a weekday. It’s far less crowded than the weekends!

2. Have a city map handy and carry it with you to better realize the city from up above.

3. Avoid carrying bulky bags since it might be difficult lugging around with the bags while standing in the queue.

4. Check the weather forecast for the desired day before booking your tickets. The view is best on a clear dry day. If it's rainy, foggy or cloudy, the views are compromised and you won't be able to experience the Empire State Building in its true glory.

5. Carry a coat or a jacket along with you since it can get quite chilly in the 86th-floor observatory.

6. The entrance for those with disabilities is on 34th Street, between Bank of America and Starbucks. Note that this entrance is open only from Monday through Friday until 6:00 PM

7. If you intend to watch the Tower Lights, check the official website for the timings so that you can catch the shimmering lights.

8. Make sure to use the restrooms on the second floor before getting in line for the elevators. There are no restrooms after this point till you make your way down.

5 Interesting facts about the Empire State Building

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1. The Empire State Building's iconic spire isn't just for show; it serves a vital function as a radiobroadcast antenna. During World War II, the U.S. government used the antenna to jam enemy radio signals, making it an unwitting hero on the home front.

2. The building's exterior lights are more versatile than you might think. They've been used to celebrate various events by displaying different colors, such as red, white, and blue for Independence Day, or pink and white for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It's like a giant chameleon in the New York City skyline.

3. The Empire State Building is frequently struck by lightning. In fact, it's hit around 20-25 times each year. Thanks to its robust lightning rod system, the strikes rarely cause any damage, but the spectacle of lightning dancing around this iconic skyscraper is awe-inspiring.

4. In 1945, a B-25 bomber crashed into the Empire State Building due to heavy fog. The impact caused significant damage, but remarkably, the building remained standing. It's a testament to the building's structural integrity and the bravery of those who helped rescue survivors.

5. The iconic film "King Kong" featured the Empire State Building as the giant ape's final climbing destination. To commemorate the movie's legacy, the Empire State Building often hosts special screenings of the film on its observation deck, giving visitors a chance to relive this classic cinematic moment.

Restaurants near the Empire State Building

With good views, good food is primary. Here are the restaurants where you can find the best meals to unwind with after an adventurous and tourist-y day at the iconic landmark:

Central Park New York
State Grill and Bar

Your go-to place for when you're in the mood for great service and better food, State Grill and Bar is a *must-visit* - even if we do say so ourselves. Known for it's great location, service, food, AND views, what else do you really need?

Central Park New York
Ayza Wine & Chocalate Bar

The perfect place to relax and catch-up with friends over a couple glasses (err, bottles) of wine - the Ayza Wine and Chocolate Bar is a must go-to! While the decor is a little unusual, the experience is nothing short of amazing.

Central Park New York

If you come to New York City, and don't spend most (read: all) of your days binging on cheeseburgers, did you reallyyyyyyy go to New York City? Forget experiences and attractions, your first stop in the city should be Smashburger for a smashing burger, of course.

Central Park New York
Barn Joo 35

An all-famous gastropub, Barn Joo 35 is a top-rated restaurant for all things Asian in the city. One visit to this restaurant, and you'll soon find yourself having all your meals here!

Central Park New York
Royal 35 Steakhouse

When in doubt, steak is the answer. No matter what the question is! Famous for food beyond the steak though, Royal 35 Steakhouse is extremely well known for it's French Onion Soup. If for nothing else...end up at the Steakhouse for a taste of their soup.

Thing to do near the Empire State Building

Here are some top attractions which are located near Empire State Building, that you should add to your itinerary.

Hotels near the Empire State Building

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Empire State Building Guide

Why is the Empire State Building famous?

Opened in 1931, the Empire State Building is the world's most famous office building, a historical landmark, and was named "America's Favorite Architecture" in a poll conducted by the American Institute of Architects. It's no surprise that visiting this amazing building is one of the top places to visit in New York.

How many people died constructing the Empire State Building?

The Empire State Building was eventually finished ahead of schedule and under budget, but it also came with a human cost: at least five workers were killed during the construction process.

What is the Empire State Building used for now?

During World War II, the Empire State Building became a major radio station for sending messages back home during war times. Today, the building is still used for broadcasting but only from small local stations. Its main purpose now is simply as a billboard advertising space.

Do people live in the Empire State Building?

No, the Empire State Building isn't a residential building. It's a commercial building and landmark where no one lives. There are thousands of offices in the 1,454 feet tall building with a fitness center and seven restaurants. There are also three observatories on the 80th, 86th, and 102nd floors.

Why is it called Empire State?

While the precise origin of the nickname “Empire State” is unknown, one of its oldest documented sources is a letter written by George Washington in 1785 in which he expresses admiration for New York's strength during the American Revolution and deems the state “the Seat of the Empire.

Is the Empire State Building an American symbol?

Since its construction, the Empire State Building has symbolized the technological prowess and economic strength of the United States.

Is the lunch on a skyscraper photo real?

Labor Day: “Lunch atop a Skyscraper,” was a staged photo of New York iron workers during the Depression - The Washington Post.