The world's tallest building from 1931 to 1977, the Empire State Building is topped with a stepped Art Deco pinnacle that's floodlit at night and boasts holiday and commemorative colors throughout the year. After admiring the mosaics in the Art Deco lobby, take an elevator ride to the 86th or 102nd floor and get ready to drink in astounding 360-degree views from this iconic skyscraper observatory.
Set in Midtown Manhattan, the 102-story skyscraper is a must for any first-time visitor to New York City. While it’s easy to catch a glimpse of the tower around the city, this attraction is best enjoyed from one of its two observation decks, where the panoramic views over the Big Apple are legendary. Tickets to one or both of the observation decks can be purchased solo, although the Empire State Building is also visited on many city sightseeing tours, which often also include stops at Times Square and the Statue of Liberty. If you plan to visit on your own during peak times, it’s a good idea to buy an Express Pass to skip the line all the way to the 86th floor.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Choose a general admission ticket for standard entrance or a VIP Express Pass to skip the lines.
- The Empire State Building is fully ADA compliant and stroller accessible. Handicapped restrooms are located on the 86th floor.
- Glass bottles, cans, and tripods are prohibited.
- Lines for the elevator can get long, particularly during peak hours. Be sure to use the restrooms on the second floor before getting in line.
- STATE Grill and Bar is the building’s street-level, signature restaurant. You’ll also find five other dining options, plus Starbucks.
How to Get to the Empire State Building
The entrance to the Empire State Building is located on Fifth Avenue between 33rd and 34th streets. It’s easy to arrive on foot from many other popular Midtown attractions, or by taking the subway to Penn Station/34th Street or 34th Street/Herald Square. The building is also a stop on hop-on, hop-off sightseeing bus tours.
When to Get There
Since the Empire State Building is one of New York’s most popular attractions, it’s best visited in the morning just after opening or late at night (the decks are open until 2am) when the lines are shortest. Expect longer lines for tickets, security, and the elevators on weekends, holidays, and just before sunset.
Which Floor Should I Visit?
The “Dare to Dream” exhibit, chronicling the story of the building’s construction and legacy, is located on the 80th floor before the elevator to the 86th-floor observatory. The 86th-floor observatory, known as the Main Deck, is the highest open-air observatory in New York. Its wraparound deck is outfitted with high-power binoculars, making it possible to see Central Park, the Hudson River, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty from above. From the indoor Top Deck on the 102nd floor, visitors enjoy even more views (like Central Park in its entirety) and the chance to ride a manually operated Otis elevator.