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 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 – the building is open to visitors everyday from 8am to 2am. 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.
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, being nominated as a landmark and historic place. It has also seen some drama and been used in a number of films. Here is a quick overview of some of the main points in its’ history:
1930 – Construction began on the 17th of March, with architects Shreve, Lamb and Harmon associates. The frame rises at a speed of four and a half stories per week.
1931 – The Empire State Building is officially opened and has its’ lights turned on on the 1st May by President Hoover pressing a button in Washington D.C.
1933 – On the 2nd March the film King Kong is released, featuring the Empire State Building.
1945 – Drama! On a foggy Saturday morning a B-25 Bomber crashes into the 79th floor. Luckily the construction of the building limits the spread of the fire and the Empire State Building is open as usual on the Monday, despite the 20 foot gash!
1950 – The antenna tower is added, that is over 200 feet tall.
1955 – The American Society of Civil Engineers pick the building as one of the seven greatest engineering achievements in America’s history.
1956 – Four large beacon lights are added at the foot of the tower to symbolise welcome and freedom to visitors. These lights become known as the ‘Freedom Lights’.
1964 – The beacons are replaced by floodlights in honour of New York World’s’ Fair.
1976 – The 50th million visitor is welcomed.
1981 – New York Landmarks Preservation Commission declares the building a landmark on the 18th of May.
1982 – The building is registered on the State and National Register of Historic Places on the 20th December.
1986 – The building is recognised as a National Historic Landmark by the National Parks Services U.S. and a plaque is awarded.
1994 – The first Valentines Weddings take place on the 14th February. These Weddings are annually televised and over 250 couples have tied the knot during the event.
2007 – The building is listed as Number 1 on the list of America’s Favourite Architecture.
2009 – The new ceiling in the lobby is unveiled on the 29th of September. This renovation took longer to complete than the construction of the building!
2011 – The 2011 Green Leadership award is awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Empire State Building Experience
There’s a lot to see in the Empire State Building, not just the views from the top. You can choose to either go to just the main deck, or pay a little extra to get all the way to the 102nd floor.
The experience starts in the Lobby, which is one of the few interiors in New York to be nominated as a historic landmark. In 2009 18 months were spent restoring the original 1930s design. The Art-Deco ceilings murals represent the mechanical age, as planets and stars are assembled as a line of gears. Above the front desk in Fifth Avenue is the famous image of the Empire State Building with beams of light radiating from its mast.
This is where you can buy tickets, or print out tickets bought online. Located on the second floor, it is a space to orientate yourself as 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 reduce 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, which is “The Story of the American Dream”. Here you will learn of the buildings history, engineering and construction. After you’ve seen this exhibit it’s time for the elevator to the 86th floor.
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 use the high powered binoculars for a closer look. 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 operater lots of questions!
And now it’s time to make your way back down…
Empire State Building Tickets
You can buy tickets for the Empire State Building experience from the visitor centre on the second floor, or buy in advance online. If you don’t go direct, please ensure you use an official source, as you don’t want to 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, which 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.
The Empire State Building gives you more than just a great view of New York City, whether you go to the 86th or the 102nd floor. There’s lots to learn about it’s history and construction and the sustainability retrofit. The lobby itself is a Historic Landmark, and the only way is up from there!
Want to visit? Search for nearby accommodation on Tripadvisor.