The Empire State Building is one of New York City’s most famous landmarks. The building is world famous for it’s 86th and 102nd floors, where there are observation decks that offer 360 degree views of New York. Not to mention the light shows!
The roof of the Empire State Building is 381m high and if you include the antenna, the top is a whopping 443m high! You can get to the main observation deck (which is the highest open air observation deck in New York) and the observatory any day of the year. Like all viewing areas, the best time to see the view is sunrise and sunset. However be aware this is a very popular visitor attraction, so during peak season (and especially peak times, like sunset), you can be queuing for an hour or more.
As a result of being located on 34th Street and 5th Avenue, the Empire State Building is in a brilliant central location. The building is within walking distance to other attractions such as Central Park or Broadway. So it’s easy to fit a trip to the top into a New York trip, and no New York trip is complete without seeing the city from above.
A Concise History Of The Empire State Building
The Empire State Building has come a long way from when construction began. Here is a quick overview of some of the main points in its’ history:
1930 – Construction began on the 17th of March. The frame was raised at a speed of four and a half stories per week.
1931 – The Empire State Building was officially opened. President Hoover turned it’s lights on by pressing a button in Washington D.C on the 1st May.
1945 – On a foggy Saturday morning a B-25 Bomber crashed into the 79th floor. Luckily the construction of the building limited the spread of the fire, this meant that the building was open as usual on the Monday.
1950 – The antenna tower was added.
1955 – The American Society of Civil Engineers choose the building as one of the seven greatest engineering achievements in America’s history.
1956 – Four large beacon lights were added at the foot of the tower. These beacons were put in place to symbolise welcome and freedom to visitors.
1964 – The beacons were replaced by floodlights in honour of New York World’s’ Fair.
1976 – The 50th million visitor was welcomed.
1981 – New York Landmarks Preservation Commission declared the building a landmark on the 18th of May.
1982 – The building was registered on the State and National Register of Historic Places on the 20th December.
1986 – The building was recognised as a National Historic Landmark by the National Parks Services U.S. and so a plaque was awarded.
2007 – The building was listed as Number 1 on the list of America’s Favourite Architecture.
2009 – On the 29th of September the new ceiling in the lobby was unveiled. This renovation took longer to complete than the construction of the building did.
2011 – The 2011 Green Leadership award was awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Empire State Building Experience
There’s a lot to see in the Empire State Building. In fact, there’s much more to see than just the views from the top. You can choose to either go to just the main deck, on the 86th floor, or pay a little extra to get all the way to the 102nd floor.
The Lobby is one of the few interiors in New York to be nominated as a historic landmark and is where your journey begins. The original 1930s design was restored in 2009, this renovation took 18 months. The Art-Deco ceilings murals represent the mechanical age, in which planets and stars are assembled as a line of gears. Above the front desk in Fifth Avenue is what is probably one of the most famous images of the building. This is the image of Empire State Building with beams of light radiating from its mast.
Located on the second floor, this is where you can buy tickets, or print out tickets bought online. Furthermore, it is a space to orientate yourself. Here is also where you make your way through security and pick up the multimedia handheld device to help you on your journey.
Directly after the visitors centre you enter the Sustainability Exhibit on the second floor. This exhibit is all about the buildings award-winning sustainability retrofit. Here you will learn about the amazing technology that will result in reducing the building’s energy usage by over 38%. After this you will take the first elevator to the 80th floor.
Dare To Dream Exhibit
Located on the 80th floor this exhibition tells you about the construction of the Empire State building, also known as “The Story of the American Dream”. Here you will learn of the buildings history, engineering and construction. The time has come to take the elevator to the 86th floor after you’ve finished exploring this exhibit.
Main Deck (86th Floor)
And now for the main event; the highest open-air observatory in New York! Wrapping around the buildings’ spire, the deck offers 360-degree views. From here you can see other attractions like Times Square and the Statue of Liberty. You can also use the high powered binoculars for an even closer look. Finally, be sure to use your multimedia handheld device here for information on each view.
The Top Deck (102nd Floor)
Get sixteen floors higher than the main deck for even more amazing views, on a clear day you can see up to 80 miles away. As an added bonus, to get to the top deck you must use the manually operated Otis elevator, which counts the altitude rather than floors. You can use this time to ask the operator lots of questions.
After you have soaked in the views, it’s time to make your way back down. So it’s back to the elevators…
Empire State Building Tickets
You can buy tickets for the Empire State Building experience from the visitor centre on the second floor, or alternatively buy in advance online. If you don’t go direct, please ensure you use an official source, or you may not get what you expected. Personally, I would recommend buying tickets directly from the Empire State Building website or in person, that way you won’t be disappointed.
You can either buy a ticket to the main deck (86th floor), or a ticket that includes the main deck and the top deck (102nd floor). You also have the option of buying a VIP pass, which means you get to skip the queues. For that extra treat you can buy a Premium VIP Pass, which also includes a 90 minute guided tour with an Empire State Building Observatory Ambassador, and you’ll receive a commemorative souvenir programme. All tickets include entry to both exhibitions and an audio guide.
If you’re in New York for a while, with a lot to see it might be worth buying the New York City Pass. This pass gives you access to the city’s top six attractions for one bargain price. Another option is the New York City It All Tour, which includes access to the Empire State Building Main Deck, City Sights Hop On/Hop Off Bus Tour, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise.
Visiting The Empire State Building
The Empire State building is centrally located on 34th Street and 5th Avenue. Because of it’s location and height it’s easy to find. if you’re exploring the city centre, you can easily walk towards it.
If you’re coming from slightly further, catch the subway to Penn Station/34th Street. From here it’s just two blocks walking east to the building. Easy!
Alternatively, catch a subway to 34th Street/Harold Square. As you exit this station you can’t miss the Empire State Building rising up before you. Head towards the building down which ever street you come out at and turn left on 5th Avenue.
The Empire State Building gives you more than just a great view of New York City. The views are incredible whether you go to the 86th or all the way to the 102nd floor. There’s lots to learn about it’s history and construction of the building, as well as the sustainability retrofit. The lobby itself is a Historic Landmark, and the only way is up from there.