Insiders Guide to the Empire State Experience

February 9, 2022

Get ready to discover everything you need to know about an Empire State Building tour, from reserving tickets to when to visit.

For almost a century, the Art Deco architecture and soaring heights of the Empire State Building have captivated the minds and hearts of millions. Follow along with our Guide as we provide the inside scoop on everything there is to know about the Empire State Experience.

Once considered the tallest building in the world at 102 stories. This skyscraper is a true tribute to the power of American industry.

From grappling with the mighty King Kong to providing a romantic backdrop for thousands of scenic proposals. The Empire State Building has truly earned its place in both pop culture and history.

New York City

Five boroughs, museums, and countless monuments make New York City an urban destination like no other.

Whether you choose to pursue Picasso’s work at MoMA then pay your respects to Lady Liberty. Or, maybe just relax with a giant pretzel in Central Park. There are thousands of ways to spend a New York City getaway.

Embrace the spirit of the city that never sleeps when you choose to extend your New York City Vacation.

Sleep like a baby in a luxurious and amenity-filled Tribeca Hotel. Or, stay close to the Broadway action when you reserve one of our many Times Square Hotels

Whatever option for New York City Hotels you select, you can book with confidence knowing you are guaranteed our lowest rates.

Related Post: NYC Packing List: Everything You Need to Bring to the Big Apple

Buying Tickets

Before you get set to recreate your very own Sleepless in Seattle moment, you’ll need to purchase your tickets for the Empire State Building Experience

Boasting two observation decks, countless exhibits, and a 10,000 square foot immersive digital museum. We suggest budgeting one to two hours for your entire Empire state visit.

Please note that general admission tickets only allow admittance to the 86th-floor Observatory, and you will need to upgrade your empire state tickets to view the all-new 102nd-floor observatory.

Pro Tip: Visited by approximately four million tourists a year, the Empire State Building is one popular tower! 

In order to avoid unseemly crowds, our favorite time to visit this momentous monument of steel, marble, and glass is early morning.

For couples seeking a more private moment of amour, their best bet is to head to the observation deck after 10 pm. 

Close up of the gold Art Deco wall with a clock on in the 5th Avenue Lobby of the Empire State Building in NYC, New York, USA

photo credit: Empire State Building via Facebook

Transportation

Towering over the public on 34th Street and Fifth Avenue, the Empire State Building is just a short walk from many popular hotels and easily accessible by public transit.

The closest subway stops and directions are as follows:

  • The 123 or ACE lines - exit the subway at the 34nd Street – Penn Station stop and walk five minutes to the building’s entrance
  • The NQR or BDFM lines -exit the subway at the 34th Street – Herald Square Station stop and walk five minutes to the building’s entrance.
  • The 456 or 7 lines - exit the subway at the Grand Central Terminal stop and walk 10 minutes to the building’s entrance

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About the Experience

Journey into the stratosphere, and prepare yourself for unparalleled views of the city skyline, Central Park, and more when you visit the Empire State Building Observatory.

An architectural landmark that has been lovingly restored to its former glory, the renowned tower now boasts even more history, exhibits, and elevated moments.

The Empire State Building consists of two observatories, the 86th, and the 102nd:

  • The 86th Observatory - (also known as the main deck) is an open-air viewing platform that wraps around the building’s spire and provides 360-degree views of New York, Brooklyn, and Queens. Situated 1,050 feet above the ground, on a clear day, you can spot New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Delaware.
  • The 102nd Observatory - recently redone, this second enclosed viewing platform is 16 stories above the 86th floor and offers gasp-inducing panoramic views of the Big Apple. Large floor-to-ceiling windows and a glass elevator ensure you can revel in the scenery unencumbered by chilly weather or rain. On a clear day, you can see up to 80 miles in the distance!

Fun Fact: Did you know the Empire State Building has a 103rd floor reserved for VIPs, celebrities, and the like?

Close up of a person with a hat on looking out the large framed windows of the 102nd Observatory in the Empire State Building at sunset in NCY, New York, USA

photo credit: Empire State Building via Facebook

What’s New

After 90 years, even the best of us need a little nip and tuck! Thankfully, the Empire State Building is looking as fresh as ever, with its well-earned facelift. 

In addition to the brand new 102nd-floor observatory, the beloved skyscraper has revealed a bevy of interactive exhibits, artifacts, and more located on the 2nd and 80th floors.

These educational experiences are open to all ticket holders and can be accompanied by a complimentary self-guided audio tour. 

Can’t Miss Exhibits include

  • The Site in the 1920s - explore the building through the eyes of the surveyors and discover what life was like on the streets of NYC in the roaring 1920s. 
  • Construction - snap as many selfies as you desire with the four life-like bronze sculptures of building workers from this time period. Marvel at the trio of copper building models showing the Building at various points during construction.
  • Opening Day - extra, extra, read all about it! It’s 1931, and the Empire State building is finally open!
  • Modern Marvel - a greener future for tomorrow! This exhibit outlines the specific sustainable measures taken to ensure the Empire State building’s role as a leader in energy efficiency.
  • Otis Elevators - go for a ride in a replica of the Building’s original mast car, complete with initial hardware. Or feel the pure power of’ present-day elevator technology with a simulation of an elevator shaft.
  • Urban Campus - who works, lives, and pays rent in the world’s most photographed building?

daytime view of new york city from top of the rock at rockefeller centerRelated Post: Ultimate Guide to the Empire State Experience: Coupons, Discounts, and Deals

  • World’s Most Famous Building - from our favorite romantic comedies to Kit Kat commercials the Empire State building is no stranger to the silver screen. Witness a pop-culture montage of over 600 clips from commercials, films, TV shows, comics, and games in this unique exhibit.
  • Kong - the beast from the jungle, is loose again! Touch Kong’s hands and feel them vibrate as he attempts to climb the tower.
  • Celebrity - celebrities, they are just like us-  in that they flock to the 86th-floor observation deck! Star lovers will flip over the plethora of signed memorabilia and photos from everyone’s favorite A-listers, sports talent, and pop icons.
  • NYC Above & Beyond - create your own dream NYC travel itinerary in partnership with NYC & Company.
  • Artistry and Light - dive inside the intriguing world of the building’s custom light and music shows with world-renowned lighting designer Marc Brickman.
  • Stephen Wiltshire’s Drawing - gaze in wonder at the incredible, recreated from memory, drawing of New York City’s aerial view by famed artist Stephen Wiltshire.
  • Scenes of NYC - utilize the iconic ​​​​​building’s classic viewfinders, and have a gander at the panoramic views of nine different famous New York locations from the 80th floor.

Food & Beverages

A day spent absorbing the Empire State Experience is a marathon, not a sprint. Although we (thankfully) aren’t climbing 100 stories. We might still need to pause our Big Apple exploration for a quick snack, drink, or meal.

Check out any of the multiple options for fine dining or casual restaurants at the Empire State Building:

Fine Dining Options

  • State Grill & Bar -  indulge in NY favorites such as buffalo bites, or a locally raised beef burger in an ambiance of modern-day elegance
  • Tacombi - dial in the warm, beachy flavors of the Yucatan when you chow down on the authentic tacos, and ice-cold margaritas served here
Close up of two entrees with glasses of red and white wine next to them State Grill & Bar in NYC, New York, USA

photo credit: State Grill & Bar via Facebook

Fast Casual Options

  • Starbucks
  • Juice Press
  • Chipotle
  • Chop’t
  • Sushi-teria

Related Post: NYC After Dark: The Top Things to Do in NYC at Night

Essential Items

High above the city, it’s almost as if all our cares and worries evaporate into thin air! As heavenly as the views from the Empire State Building are, they can’t solve or predict every travel snafu. 

In order to have the best experience possible at the Empire State Building we highly suggest coming prepared.

Our non-negotiable essential items include:

  • Portable phone charger
  • Small backpack or knapsack (there are no locker facilities at the building)
  • Fully charged phone and/or camera
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Stroller (if you require)
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Poncho or raincoat (weather dependent)

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Catch the sweeping views offered by the 102nd Observatory deck. Meanwhile, soaking in the dazzling art deco artistry of the Fifth Avenue lobby. The Empire State building is a glorious testament to NYC history and design.

Learn about the construction of this magnificent skyscraper, soak in the crystal clear views of the city’s skyline. Or, feel the immense power of a modern-day elevator shaft. Embrace the unique Manhattan magic of the Empire State Experience when you plan your visit today!


isis with mural in background

Written By Isis Maya

A New York native, Isis-Maya spent most of her professional life working in TV production until a vacation whisked her away to Central America and her love o ...

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