Travel Guide

Empire State Building with NYC skyline in the background

The Empire State Building

Step into the heart of New York City at the Empire State Building, an architectural marvel and a symbol of dreams realized. This iconic skyscraper not only offers breathtaking views from its famous observatories but also serves as a cultural beacon with its ever-changing tower lights illuminating the city's skyline.

The Empire State Building in a nutshell…

The Empire State Building provides a profound experience blending history, culture, and breathtaking views from its decks.

Location: 20 W 34th St in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.

Transportation: Subway stops nearby include 34th St – Penn Station (1, 2, 3, A, C, E) and 34th St – Herald Square (N, Q, R, W, B, D, F, M). Buses that stop close by include routes M34, M34A, and Q32.

Tickets: It’s advisable to purchase tickets online  in advance, allowing you to skip the queues. Available ticket options include general admission, express passes, and combined day and night visits.

Visiting Times: Open from 8 AM to 2 AM. Visit early mornings or late evenings for fewer crowds.

The Empire State Building stands as a testament to architectural brilliance and the indomitable spirit of America. Rising 1,454 feet above Midtown Manhattan, this iconic skyscraper was the tallest in the world upon its completion in 1931 and held that title for nearly 40 years. Today, it remains an essential part of New York City’s skyline, drawing over four million visitors each year who come to marvel at its Art Deco design and panoramic views from the famous 86th and 102nd-floor observatories.

The Empire State Building is more than just a skyscraper; it’s a cultural landmark that has been featured in countless films and television shows, making it one of the most famous and photographed buildings in the world. Its Tower Lights, capable of displaying 16 million colors, light up the night sky to celebrate various occasions, casting a glow that resonates with New Yorkers and visitors alike.

View from the Empire State Building
From the Empire State Building’s observation deck, a sweeping panorama unfolds, showcasing the vibrant tapestry of New York City's neighborhoods, the serene expanse of the Hudson River, and the distant silhouette of the Statue of Liberty.

Inside, the building offers a blend of commerce and observation attractions, featuring exhibits that showcase its history and impact on popular culture. Whether visiting to take in the stunning views, learn about its construction during the Great Depression, or simply to experience its grandeur, the Empire State Building offers something for everyone, making it a must-visit destination in the city that never sleeps.

Brief History

The Empire State Building’s story began in the late 1920s, during a period of intense competition to construct the world’s tallest building. Designed by William F. Lamb of Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, the building rose from the site of the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, with construction completing in just 1 year and 45 days—a record at the time. Its completion during the Great Depression symbolized hope and resilience, qualities that would come to define New York City itself.

View from the ESB in 1932
Pubic domain
New York City in 1932, as seen from the Empire State Building: a monochrome tapestry of the early skyline, with the Chrysler Building standing prominently among its contemporaries, while the East River bustles with activity in the background.

Despite initial challenges, including vacancies during the economic downturn, which led to nicknames like the “Empty State Building,” it soon became a profitable venture and a beloved icon. Its towering presence and elegant Art Deco design not only influenced future skyscrapers but also captured the imagination of filmmakers, artists, and millions worldwide, cementing its place as a true cultural icon.

Practical Information

Visiting the Empire State Building is an unforgettable experience that requires some planning to make the most of your trip. Here’s everything you need to know to visit this iconic landmark.

Location

Situated at 20 W 34th St., the Empire State Building is centrally located in Midtown Manhattan, making it an ideal starting point for any NYC adventure.

Nearby attractions include Times Square, Central Park, and Madison Square Garden, all within walking distance.

How to Get There

Navigating to the Empire State Building is easy with New York City’s extensive public transportation system.

For more information, you might want to check out our articles about New York City transportation or figuring out the best MetroCard for your needs.

Subway

The most convenient way to reach the Empire State Building is by subway. Nearby stations include:

  • 34th St – Penn Station (1, 2, 3, A, C, E)
  • 34th St – Herald Square (N, Q, R, W, B, D, F, M)
  • Grand Central Terminal (4, 5, 6, 7)

Each station is just a short walk from the building, making the subway a great option to avoid traffic and get you close to the action.

Bus

Several bus routes stop near the Empire State Building. Key routes include:

  • W 34 St & 5 Avenue: Routes QM10, QM12, QM15
  • 5 Av / W 34 Street: Routes BxM7, BxM18
  • 5 Av/W 35 Street: Routes X27, X28

Buses offer a scenic route to the building and are an excellent choice for those looking to see more of the city.

Sightseeing Bus

Hop-on hop-off sightseeing buses are perfect for tourists looking to explore the Empire State Building and other major attractions.

These buses provide flexibility and include guided commentary, enhancing your sightseeing experience. They stop directly at the building, making them a convenient option for those who prefer not to navigate public transportation.

View more sightseeing bus options

Driving

While driving to the Empire State Building is possible, it’s generally not recommended due to heavy traffic and expensive parking rates.

If you choose to drive, consider booking your parking space in advance to secure a spot and avoid high costs.

Tickets

Purchasing tickets in advance is highly recommended to ensure entry and avoid long waits. Various ticket options offer different levels of access and convenience:

  • Main Deck Tickets: Access to the 86th Floor Observatory.
  • Top Deck Tickets: Includes both the 86th and 102nd Floor Observatories.
  • Skip-the-line Tickets: Skip-the-line access directly to one or both decks.

Tickets can be purchased online , providing a QR code for direct entry at your scheduled time slot. This system helps manage visitor flow and enhances your experience by reducing wait times.

How to Buy Tickets

The best way to purchase tickets is online. By buying online , you can select your preferred date and time for visiting, ensuring you can plan your day around your visit to the Empire State Building. Online tickets also allow you to skip the ticket booth queue, streamlining your entry to the building.

If you’re planning a visit during busy times or have limited time in New York, consider purchasing an Express Ticket. This option provides a faster access route through security and entry lines, allowing you more time to enjoy the views and exhibits without the wait.

View more options

Visiting for Free

While main access to the Empire State Building requires a ticket, the building’s ground floor and certain public areas are open to all. You can enjoy the architecture and ambiance of the Empire State Building without a ticket, making it a versatile destination for all visitors.

Entrance with Tourist Passes

Using a tourist pass like the New York CityPASS, the New York Pass, or Explorer Pass can provide access to the Empire State Building and other top NYC attractions. These passes are especially useful for visitors looking to explore multiple landmarks during their stay. They offer flexibility and savings, making them an excellent choice for maximizing your travel budget.

New York CityPASS®

Visit the Empire State and other attractions at your own pace over nine days, simplifying travel and saving money with the New York CityPASS®

The New York Pass

Access over 100 attractions, including the Empire State Building. It’s perfect for those who want to see as much as possible, offering up to 50% savings on entry fees.

The New York Explorer Pass

Reserve your Go City New York Explorer Pass in advance to save time and money on top NYC attractions. Valid for up to 60 days, this pass offers flexible options, allowing you to select between two and ten attractions based on your travel needs.

Ideal for families, the pass includes access to popular sites like the Empire State Building, One World Observatory, the 9/11 Museum, the Statue of Liberty, a hop-on hop-off bus tour, and many more.

Opening Times

The Empire State Building welcomes visitors daily from 8:00 AM to 2:00 AM, with the last elevator ascent at 1:15 AM.

This schedule accommodates almost any itinerary, from early morning visits to late-night experiences.

Best Times to Visit

Choosing the right time to visit can enhance your experience. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Early Morning: Less crowded, offering peaceful views of the city awakening.
  • Late Night: Experience the city lights with fewer tourists and a unique nighttime atmosphere.
  • Afternoon: Avoids the early crowds and still offers beautiful daylight views.
  • Sunset: One of the most popular times, providing stunning views as the city transitions from day to night.

Visiting during off-peak hours can help avoid crowds and provide a more relaxed viewing experience. However, the Empire State Building’s allure is timeless, and each visit offers a unique perspective of New York City, making any time a good time to explore this historic landmark.

What to See and Do at the Empire State Building

The Empire State Building offers more than just views; it’s a hub of activity with attractions and exhibits that cater to all interests. From historical exhibits to interactive experiences, there’s something for everyone at this iconic skyscraper.

Empire State Building 80th Floor Observatory

Your journey through the Empire State Building begins on the 80th floor. Here, visitors are introduced to the building’s history through immersive exhibits and interactive displays. The floor’s recent redesign has transformed it into a captivating introduction to the upper levels, providing context and engaging visitors with its rich history.

Exhibit 80th floor of the Empire State Building
Exhibition on the 80th floor of the Empire State Building, displaying the monumental construction journey of this iconic skyscraper through vintage photographs and architectural sketches.

Exhibits on this floor include augmented reality experiences that bring New York City’s landmarks to life. Visitors can virtually explore attractions like the High Line and Grand Central Terminal, offering a unique way to understand the city’s layout and major sites. This floor also offers planning tools, allowing visitors to create custom itineraries for exploring New York City's five boroughs—an invaluable tool for maximizing your time in the city.

Additionally, the 80th floor houses a large gift shop where visitors can purchase souvenirs ranging from books and artwork to unique memorabilia, making it a perfect spot to find gifts and keepsakes from your visit.

86th Floor Observatory

The main deck on the 86th floor is where most visitors are drawn, thanks to its open-air observatory that offers 360-degree views of New York City. From this vantage point, visitors can see up to six states on a clear day, providing a breathtaking perspective of the city’s vastness and beauty.

This floor is equipped with binoculars and informative displays that identify various landmarks and explain their significance, enhancing the educational aspect of your visit. The 86th floor is also famous for its appearances in films and pop culture, adding an element of excitement for fans and movie buffs.

Top Deck: 102nd Floor Observatory

For those seeking an even higher vantage point, the Top Deck on the 102nd floor offers an enclosed observatory with floor-to-ceiling windows that provide spectacular views of Manhattan and beyond. This premium experience allows visitors to see up to 80 miles away, encompassing far-reaching views of the surrounding states and landmarks.

Binoculars at the Empire State Building
At the observation deck of the Empire State Building you can use the many available binoculars to zoom in on the breathtaking details of the city.

The 102nd floor is less crowded, offering a more intimate and exclusive experience. This deck is particularly popular among photography enthusiasts and those looking to capture special moments, such as marriage proposals or celebratory events, against the backdrop of New York City’s skyline.

Unique VIP Sunrise Experience

For a truly unique experience, the Empire State Building offers a VIP Sunrise Experience. This opportunity allows a limited number of visitors to access the 86th-floor observatory at sunrise, providing a serene and stunning start to the day. This experience is available on select days and is limited to 100 guests, ensuring an exclusive and memorable visit.

The Sunrise Experience includes early access to the building before it opens to the general public, allowing guests to experience the quiet of dawn and the first light over the city without the usual crowds. This is an ideal option for those seeking a peaceful and picturesque experience at one of New York’s most famous landmarks.

Empire State Building App

To enhance your visit, consider downloading the free Empire State Building app. Available on both iOS and Android platforms, the app provides a wealth of information about the building’s history, architecture, and the various exhibits and attractions it houses. The app includes audio and visual guides that help you navigate the building and learn about its significant role in New York City’s cultural landscape.

The app is a valuable resource for both first-time visitors and those familiar with the building, offering insights and details that enrich your experience. Be sure to download the app ahead of your visit and bring your headphones to fully enjoy the audio features.

Dining Options

The Empire State Building offers several dining options to cater to all tastes and preferences. Whether you’re looking for a quick bite or a sit-down meal, the building’s dining establishments provide a range of choices.

  • STATE Grill & Bar: Located on the ground floor, STATE Grill & Bar offers a full-service dining experience with a menu that features American cuisine. The restaurant’s art deco design complements the building’s architectural style, providing a sophisticated atmosphere for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
  • Tacombi: Also on the ground floor, Tacombi serves up authentic Mexican cuisine, including some of the best fish tacos in New York. The restaurant’s vibrant and casual setting makes it a popular choice for visitors looking to enjoy a flavorful meal.
  • Quick Service Options: For those in a hurry, the ground floor also houses several quick-service restaurants, including Chipotle, Chop’t, and JP. These options are perfect for grabbing a fast and satisfying meal during your visit.

If you’re looking to extend your dining experience beyond the Empire State Building, consider exploring nearby Koreatown. Just a few minutes’ walk from the building, Koreatown offers a variety of dining options, including Korean BBQ and other Asian cuisines, providing a culinary adventure that complements your visit to one of New York’s most iconic landmarks.

Additionally, for a memorable end to your day, visit Cloud Social in Koreatown. Located directly beneath the Empire State Building, this rooftop bar offers stunning views of the skyscraper, allowing you to relax and reflect on your visit with a drink in hand.

Tips to Visit the Empire State Building

  • Opt for the Express Pass to bypass all lines (except for security) straight to the 86th floor. This pass guarantees a wait no longer than seven minutes, perfect for holidays and long weekends
  • While you can purchase tickets last minute at new kiosks, buying them online in advance is far more convenient
  • Expect a security checkpoint similar to those at airports. Carry minimal items, and avoid anything that could be considered a weapon or made of glass
  • To keep kids engaged, utilize the Empire State Building’s activity suggestions, appropriate for children starting in 3rd grade
  • Anticipate longer wait times during the summer. Dress appropriately for windy conditions on the observation deck, with sunscreen and a jacket in summer, and warm clothing in winter
  • The Empire State Building is open every day from 8 AM to 2 AM. For an extra fee, the Sunrise Experience allows access even earlier on select days
  • Be aware that there are no lockers for storing personal items, and large bags are discouraged
  • Experience the building twice in one day with discounted day and night tickets—visit before 7:59 PM and return after 8 PM
  • Best times for a quieter visit are early mornings or late evenings. For families, mid-morning is optimal for avoiding crowds
  • For couples seeking a more intimate experience, post-9 PM visits are ideal
  • Sunset times are perfect for photographers, though tripods are not allowed
  • Weekdays are generally less crowded than weekends
  • Carry a city map to better appreciate the view from above
  • Check the weather before your visit; clear, dry days offer the best views
  • The entrance for visitors with disabilities is located on 34th Street between Bank of America and Starbucks, open Monday through Friday until 6:00 PM

Accessibility Details

The Empire State Building prides itself on being fully accessible, ensuring that all visitors, regardless of physical ability, can enjoy their visit without hindrance:

  • The building is equipped with ramps, accessible restrooms, and features such as lowered walls with binoculars for wheelchair users
  • Both motorized and non-motorized wheelchairs are permitted
  • Service dogs are welcome on the premises
  • The 86th floor includes accessible restrooms and has features to assist visitors with disabilities in enjoying the same experiences as other guests
  • For any specific inquiries or needs, visitors are encouraged to contact the Empire State Building’s team through their website

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, foldable strollers are permitted, but they must be carried on the observation decks.

Restrooms are available on the 86th floor, including wheelchair accessible options.

No, there is no luggage storage or coat check available. Visitors must keep their belongings with them.

Yes, photography for personal use is allowed, but professional equipment like tripods is prohibited.

Plan for at least 90 minutes on the main deck, and about 2 hours if visiting both the 86th and 102nd floors.

Early morning (8-10 AM) or late evening (after 11 PM) are the least crowded times.

While the observation decks require a ticket, the ground floor’s shops and dining options are open to the public.

Yes, there are several dining options, including STATE Grill & Bar and Tacombi, offering a range of meals from breakfast to dinner.

Dress according to the weather, as the observation deck can be chilly, especially in the evening.

The ADA-compliant entrance is on 34th Street between Bank of America and Starbucks, open Monday through Friday until 6 PM.

Yes, check the official website for the lighting schedule to catch the Empire State Building’s famous light shows.

Visiting early in the day (10 AM to 12 PM) or after 9 PM typically offers a more relaxed experience.

Open daily from 8 AM to 2 AM, including special early access on select dates through the Sunrise Experience.

Tickets range from general admission to VIP experiences, including day and night passes and express options.

Yes, there are many activities designed for children, especially educational programs starting from 3rd grade.

Where to Stay Near the Empire State Building

Staying near the Empire State Building offers convenience and the thrill of being in the heart of New York City. The Langham New York, located just a short walk from the Empire State Building on 5th Avenue, provides luxurious accommodations with stunning views of the building and easy access to other major attractions. Its rooms and suites, some with private terraces, offer an exceptional stay with direct views of the iconic skyscraper.

Alternatively, NYMA – The New York Manhattan Hotel is situated right at the base of the Empire State Building in the vibrant Koreatown. This boutique hotel offers modern amenities and is steps away from some of the best dining and entertainment in the city. Its rooftop lounge, Cloud Social, provides a breathtaking view of the Empire State Building, making it a perfect spot for evening relaxation.

More Observation Decks in New York City

Visiting observation decks in New York City is an essential experience for capturing the expansive urban landscape from above. Decks like Summit One Vanderbilt, Top of the Rock, One World, and Edge offer unique perspectives of the city. Each deck provides a different angle of New York, allowing visitors to see the city’s iconic architecture and bustling streets from various viewpoints.

Summit One Vanderbilt, in particular, offers an immersive experience with floor-to-ceiling windows that give visitors a sensation of floating above the city. This observation deck not only provides stunning views but also features interactive installations that enhance the visitor experience, making it a must-visit for anyone looking to see New York from a new perspective.

View more observation decks

Other Nearby Attractions

The Empire State Building’s central location in Midtown Manhattan makes it a perfect starting point for exploring many of New York City’s other attractions.

Madison Square Garden

Known as “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” Madison Square Garden is synonymous with major sports and entertainment events. Located just a short walk from the Empire State Building, it hosts countless concerts, sports games, and special events throughout the year. Visiting MSG offers a chance to witness exciting basketball games, unforgettable concerts, and more, making it a must-see for sports and music fans.

Times Square

Known as the ‘Crossroads of the World,’ Times Square is famed for its overwhelming display of neon art and commerce. It’s a hub of entertainment and has a palpable energy that embodies the spirit of New York City. From the annual New Year’s Eve ball drop to the Broadway theaters surrounding it, Times Square offers endless entertainment and shopping opportunities.

View details

Bryant Park

A serene oasis amidst Midtown’s hustle, Bryant Park offers lush green space ideal for relaxation and leisure activities. During the winter, its free ice-skating rink and holiday shops make it a festive destination, while summer brings outdoor movies and yoga classes. The park’s proximity to the Empire State Building makes it a perfect spot for a midday break or a peaceful evening.

The Morgan Library & Museum

This exquisite museum and research library features the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan, showcasing rare books, manuscripts, and works of art. Located a short distance from the Empire State Building, the Morgan Library offers a glimpse into the opulent Gilded Age and is a treasure trove for history buffs and art lovers.

Flatiron Building

An architectural marvel, the Flatiron Building’s unique triangular shape makes it one of the most photographed buildings in New York. Situated near the Empire State Building, it’s a striking example of early 20th-century architecture and a cornerstone of New York City’s rich architectural history.

New York Public Library

The flagship building, the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, is known for its majestic Beaux-Arts architecture and vast reading rooms. Just steps from the Empire State Building, it offers free tours that explore its historic rooms and rotating exhibits, making it an enlightening visit for literature and history enthusiasts.

5th Avenue

As one of the world’s most famous shopping streets, 5th Avenue features luxury boutiques and flagship stores just a stone’s throw from the Empire State Building. A stroll down 5th Avenue offers not only world-class shopping but also a view of historic landmarks like St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller Center.

Other Recommended Experiences in New York City

View all tours & experiences

You Might Also Like...

Explore Our Comprehensive Travel Guide

On this page

  1. Introduction
  2. Brief History
  3. Practical Information
  4. What to See and Do at the Empire State Building
  5. Tips to Visit the Empire State Building
  6. Accessibility Details
  7. Frequently Asked Questions
  8. Where to Stay Near the Empire State Building
  9. More Observation Decks in New York City
  10. Other Nearby Attractions