The Empire State Building – Guide for Visiting & Know Before You Go

March 14, 2018 9:52 am

As one of the premier attractions in Midtown Manhattan, the Empire State Building offers spectacular 360-degree views of New York City.

As incredible as these views are, they’re not the only thing you will enjoy when you visit this popular New York City attraction – that’s why we’ve put together an Empire State Building Guide for this attraction to help you make the most out of your visit.

In addition to the breathtaking views the Empire State Building offers, the newly restored lobby of the Empire State Building and its two main exhibits are worth spending some time checking out as well.

Trying to Find Empire State Building Tickets?

With The New York Pass, admission to the Empire State Building is included, along with admission to more than 90 attractions in the city at a steep discount compared to paying at the gate of each attraction.

Experience the best of NYC at the pace you choose and visit as many sites as you want each day for one low price with this flexible pass.

Simply put, you decide what to see and when you want to see it! Learn more about our available passes and attractions.

Tips for Visiting the Empire State Building

When to Visit:

The Empire State Building is open every single day of the year, 18 hours a day from 8:00 am to 2:00 a.m. so you’ll have plenty of time to take in all that the attraction has to offer.

The type of experience that you have at the Empire State Building can vary depending on whether you’re visiting as a family, couple, or solo.

Family:

Traveling with young kids? Plan to visit the Empire State Building between 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. when the building tends to be the least crowded and lines are shorter.

If you’re traveling with a stroller, you’ll need to fold the stroller up before getting into the elevator, so plan accordingly. The restrooms are on the second floor, and it’s a good idea to use them before getting in line to ride the elevator.

Couples:

Couples looking for a romantic time can find it at the Empire State Building as well. The best times to get the coziest view are between midnight and 1:00 a.m. and just after the building opens at 8:00 a.m.

Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night from Memorial Day to Labor Day, a saxophonist plays romantic music to help make the experience more memorable for you and your date. Some couples even arrange to get engaged or married at the Empire State Building.

Solo/Other Travelers:

If you’re not traveling with kids or looking for a romantic time, you have total flexibility when it comes to choosing an ideal time to visit the ESB.

If your main goal is to spend time taking in the exhibits, head to the ESB earlier in the day to avoid the largest crowds. If you’re looking for the best time to take photos, we suggest aiming to be at the top an hour before sunset (be sure to allow for wait times in line) known as ‘the golden hour.’ And if you’re looking for a fun, NYC experience way to kick off your night, take the elevator up to the observation decks after 10 p.m. for nighttime views of the ‘city that never sleeps.’

Each member of your party will need to pass through security to enter the Empire State Building. There are no lockers or coat checks, so you must carry whatever you bring in with you throughout your visit.

Tip: restrooms are on the second-floor visitor’s center – it’s a good idea to use them before getting in line to ride the elevator.

Overview of Empire State Building Attractions and Exhibits

Lobby

Your experience begins the minute you walk in the door of the Empire State Building. From the Art Deco-inspired ceiling murals to the aluminum leaf, the sites of the lobby are unique and historic.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the lobby as a historic landmark in 2009 after a crew spent 18 months restoring it to its original 1930s appearance.

2nd Floor Visitors’ Center

This space was designed as the first official ‘welcome’ for visitors to the Empire State Building. This is where you’ll show your tickets to enter the exhibits and you can use the restrooms before heading up the elevators.

Sustainability Exhibit

The Empire State Building underwent a massive sustainability project in 2009 that would ultimately reduce its energy costs by 4.4 million dollars per year, reduce over 105,000 tons of carbon emissions, and reduce the building’s usage of energy by 38 percent–a modern day engineering feat!

The Sustainability Exhibit on the second floor educates visitors about the building’s retrofit project. It describes every process used in the energy overhaul with displays of actual building materials, sculptures, and digitally interactive displays.

Dare to Dream Exhibit

Located on the 80th floor, the Dare to Dream Exhibit chronicles the history, construction, and engineering process. It includes original photographs and documents from the 1930s as well as construction notes, architectural sketches, and personal mementos from some of the 3,400 people who worked tirelessly to make the Empire State Building a reality.

86th Floor Main Deck

The famous main deck of the Empire State Building has made it into dozens of movies and television shows. It provides you with an open-air 360-degree view of the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, East River, Hudson River, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, and much more.

Tip: download the Empire State Building’s supplementary app on your phone to help identify each building you see in your view so you can learn more about the landmarks and sights. Bring coins if you want to use the coin-operated high-powered binoculars.

102nd Floor Top Deck

From this high up, you can see the grid of street patterns and clear view of Central Park. If the day isn’t overcast, you can view other skyscrapers at a distance up to 80 miles away. You will take a manually-operated Otis elevator to the top floor, and our elevator operators will be happy to answer any questions you have.

The 102nd-floor observation deck is enclosed with glass.

Please note: access to the 102nd-floor observatory deck is not included with The New York Pass – upgrades are available at the Observatory ticket office (2nd floor) or at the 86th-floor kiosk.

A little background on the Empire State Building’s location:

Although construction of the Empire State Building began in 1930, the history of the land dates to 1799. This is the year that the city sold a land tract to a farmer named John Thompson on the land where the Empire State Building now sits.

Different mansions appeared on the property over the next 131 years before their owners decided to knock them down. Another notable landmark on the site was the Waldorf Astoria Hotel until 1928.

What to Bring (and Not to Bring) to the Empire State Building

You’ll definitely want to bring your camera to take once-in-a-lifetime photos of the amazing views and make sure you have a stash of quarters if you want to use the coin-operated binoculars on site.

The main observation deck on the 86th floor is also an open-air observation deck, so be sure to dress warmly due to the wind and if it’s sunny you may want a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen.

Plan to allow a minimum of two hours for your visit.

To ensure the safety of every visitor and the integrity of the building, the management of the Empire State Building prohibits people from bringing several things inside.

The following items are strictly prohibited:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Bottles, cans, or flasks
  • Glass items
  • Large packages such as suitcases and carry-on luggage
  • Markers or spray paint
  • Masks or costumes
  • Musical instruments
  • Professional cameras and equipment, including tripods and other camera stands
  • Sports equipment
  • Weapons, including guns, knives, scissors, mace, swords, or any dual-purpose item that could harm someone

Where to Eat Nearby

This attraction has several restaurants inside of it, including:

  • Chipotle Mexican Restaurant
  • Chop’t Fast Casual Restaurant
  • Heartland Brewery
  • Starbucks Coffee Shop
  • State Grill and Bar
  • Sushi-teria
  • Tacombi Restaurant

If you prefer to eat elsewhere before or after your visit, some unique choices are the Playwright Irish Pub and Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong. Both are under a quarter mile of 350 5th Avenue, the official address of the Empire State Building.

Some of the signature menu items at Playwright Irish Pub include bangers and mash, fish and chips, and shepherd’s pie.

At Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong, a local Korean restaurant, you can enjoy kimchi, a pork combo, short ribs, and several other Korean specialties.

Attractions Near the Empire State Building

Of course, New York City has several other famous attractions besides the Empire State Building. Depending on the time you have available for sightseeing, consider adding the following attractions to your New York City itinerary:

  • Brooklyn Bridge: The Brooklyn Bridge connects the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan and is one of the oldest roadway bridges in existence in this country. Construction began in 1869 and finished in 1883. Another historical fact about the Brooklyn Bridge is that it was the first steel-wire suspension bridge erected in the United States. In 1964, it received designation as a National Historic Landmark. Six years later, it also earned designation as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. The bridge has a wide walkway available to bicyclists and pedestrians, and more than 7,000 people make the trek across it each day. It also has a visitors’ park with several piers, a volleyball court, and a playground. Go on a guided walking tour of the Brooklyn Bridge to make the most of your visit (tickets to the walking tour and Brooklyn Bridge bike tour or rentals are included with The New York Pass)!
  • The 9/11 Memorial Museum is a separate building located at 180 Greenwich Street. It is open for free public tours every day between 7:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. The memorial pays tribute to the victims of the September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993 terrorist attacks in New York City. The museum documents these events with many exhibitions. 9/11 Memorial & Museum tickets are also included with The New York Pass.
  • Statue of Liberty National Monument: A gift from France in October 1886, the United States the Statue of Liberty became a national monument in 1924. Liberty Island, where the statue stands, is open every day except for December 25. You need to catch a ferry to see both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The latter is the place where most Americans can trace their ancestry as millions of people entered the United States through Ellis Island in the late 1800s and early 1900s. You should plan to catch your ferry by 1:00 p.m. to have enough time to spend at both attractions. Statue of Liberty ferry and Ellis Island Immigration Museum tickets are included with The New York Pass.

Save on Admission

If you’re looking for Empire State Building discount tickets, remember to can save up to 70% off combined admission to the Empire State Building Observation Deck and over 90 other popular NYC attractions, including Top of the Rock Observatory, Big Bus Hop-On Hop-Off Tours, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises, Central Park Sightseeing Bike Tours & Rentals, and many more!

Avoid fraudulent tickets:  Uniformed staff from the Empire State Building routinely stand in the streets in front of the building to answer tourist questions. However, they cannot sell you tickets – Empire State Building tickets are exclusively available online or inside at the ticket office, any street vendors you see selling tickets to the Empire State Building are fraudulent.

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