This 1930's Art Deco building is one of NYC's favorite attractions, although, one warning....if it's cloudy or hazy don't waste the time or money, wait for a sunny day. On a clear day you can see for distances of 80 miles and into four other states: NJ, PA, CN and MA. This building was featured in one of my favorite movies, An Affair to Remember.
If you like standing in line and paying an extraordinary amount just to see the city from up above... then Empire State Building, the 381 meters high - (overall height with the 68m long antenna is 448 m) - Art Deco skyscraper is great. Its name comes from the nickname for the state of New York. Since its opening in 1931, it has been visited by 120 million people from Queen Elizabeth of the UK to Fidel Castro and even the soccer star Pele.
Time your visit for early or late in the day -- morning is the least crowded time -- when the sun is low on the horizon and the shadows are deep across the city.
When entering the building you must go through the security check. This consists of a walk-through scanner and baggage check system. You should have a picture ID too.
The major attraction is the 2nd-floor virtual tour simulator, the skyride techno journey.
It is a fun-filled presentation of movie, motion, and sights.
This visual and motion simulation experience allows you to “fly over” 30 sights, New York is famous for, lifting off from the top of the Empire State Building, soar through the Manhattan Skyline, glide past the Statue of Liberty, play in traffic at Times Square, "zoom" through Wall Street and ride the stomach-crunching Coney Island Cyclone. The half hour complete experience includes 2 pre-shows called “I am New York”, on the history of the Building and “Top 10 Things to do in New York”. No photography allowed.
The 86th-floor observatory, 320 meters, is open to the air, but has also an air-conditioned, glass-enclosed area. The 102nd-floor observatory is closed when crowds are too large.
On a clear day you can see approximately 130 km far in five US Federal States (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts). The top of the building is lit up every night in different colors.
The conquest of the stairs of Empire State Building is organized in every years. 1576 stairs of 86 floors wait for the candidates, who undertake to climb up under the possible shortest time onto the peak. The present record is 9 minutes and 33 seconds set up by an Australian professional cyclist in 2003.
Admission: Adult (18-61) $20, Senior (62+) and Youth (12-17) $18, Child (6-11) $ 14 but younger than 6 free, 102nd Floor Observatory is an additional $15.
Express Pass $45 (you will automatically be moved to the front of each and every line.
Lobby: free to the general public.
Observatory hours: Daily 8am - 2am next day. Last elevators go to the top at 11:15pm
During our 3.5 days in NYC we had the chance to visit both viewing platforms, the observation deck of Empire State Building as well as "Top of the Rock" on top of Rockefeller Center. Hence I decided to compare them in this tip, in order to help you decide which one to go to:
Both buildings are very impressive from the outside, with ESB being the higher and more famous one. The inside of ESB is very cool, lots of marble and art nouveau stuff but still I liked the stylish interiour of Rockefeller Center much better. Part of the reason for this might have been the building site inside ESB's "change elevator" floors.
ESB 1 - TOTR 1
The views are fantastic from both buildings but again I prefer Top of the Rock. The reason for this is that I rather live in the ugly building to see the nice ones from my windows than the other way around. I mean, it's great to be on ESB, thinking of King Kong and all the pictures and films we all know but it's even better to stand on Rockefeller Center and have beautiful Empire State Building in all your pictures!
Another advantage of Rockefeller Center is that it's nowhere near as crowded as ESB and that there are no metal bars blocking your views. On the lower floor of TOTR there is only glass between you and the drop. On the upper floor there is nothing (And the stone walls even act as natural tripods perfectly). However, from ESB you get the better view of Lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and Flatiron Building. Still it's ESB 1 - TOTR 2.
We visited ESB in the morning (around 10-11am) and went up Rockefeller Center at nightfall (4.30pm). It took us less than an hour to get up to ESB which was quicker than expected. Still the changing of elevators and queueing got onto our nerves quite quickly (Buy tickets online in advance to skip the ticket queue at least!). For Top of the Rock you buy your tickets outside at the booth near the iceskating rink, walk into the building, walk up a flight of stairs and just take the elevator up. No queues at security. No queues for elevators. No queues to come down again. Wonderful! Maybe ESB will be better when the reconstruction is finished and the elevators will go all the way up but for now it's definitely ESB 1 - TOTR 3.
You know me. I love my tourist shops. The shop in ESB, upstairs, was fantastic. Lots of Kitsch and colours. The one of TOTR, however, was rather boring and grey. Definitely a point for ESB: ESB 2 - TOTR 3
So, Top of the Rock won by one point - less clear than what I had expected when I started writing this because I really enjoyed Top of the Rock so much more than ESB. If you get the chance, go up both buildings. They are both worth it. Plus it's great to see the view during the day and at night. If I only had the time to visit one next time I am in NYC I would skip ESB and head straight to Rockefeller Center.
One of the many big buildings in NYC. It is also one of the famous buildings of the New York skyline.
You can go up to the 86th and 102nd floor. From here you have FANTASTIC vies over the city.
To the WEST you will see:
black spike of One Penn Plaza
Madison Square Garden sports entertainment complex
Jacob Javits Convention Centre
Location of the World War II aircraft carrier Intrepid
Newark International Airport
To the SOUTH you will see:
Many historical buildings
Wall Street structures
Statue of Liberty / Ellis Island
To the NORTH you will see:
St Patrick's Cathedral
Elite shopping districts
On a clear day you will see the states Connecticut and Massachusetts
To the EAST you will see:
United Nations Headquarter
Triboro, Whitestone and Throgs Neck Bridges
LaGuardia and JFK Airport
The building was built in just 410 days (10 million bricks, 6400 windows and 328,000sq ft marble).
It is located were the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel used to be.
It has 102 stories and it is 1472 feet (442 meters) high. The opening was in 1931.
The initial estimated total cost were $50 million, including land. But the actual final cost were $41 million. Renovation over the past ten years are $100 million ($59 million more than the original building cost).
It is open for the audience daily from 9.30am-midnight. The price for the Observatory and the Skyride is $43 (June 2008). When you purchase this ticket, you will get a leaflet to get a free t-shirt (which you can pick up at the souvenir gift shop).
This is a given if you've never been to NYC. Built during the Great Depression for years it stood as the tallest building in the world until the WTC North Tower surpassed it when it was completed in 1972. Its great to read and hear about the history of the Empire State Building but going up to the top and getting a 360 degree view of NYC is worthwhile and memorable. The observatory up top is open 7 days a week from 8am-2am with the final elevators going up at 1:15am. There are actually two observatories, one on the 86th floor and the other at the very top on the 102nd floor.
I was fortunate enough to visit NYC before the atrocity of the Twin Towers and clearly remember, as my picture shows, the way they jointly eclipsed all other buildings as they reached towards the heavens. My condolences to everyone who lost a loved one on that day.
First, an admission – we didn’t actually go up the Empire State Building on this visit to New York! On our first trip in 1982 we went up everything we could – this, the Rockefeller Center and the World Trade Center. This time, with only a week at our disposal, we decided to be more selective and chose the Top of the Rock for two reasons: firstly, the queues aren’t the problem they are here, and secondly, you get a great view of the Empire State Building from it, whereas of course you can’t get that when you’re on top of it! Despite not going up the building however, we inevitably saw a lot of it, and as it’s one of the city’s main tourist attractions I think it deserves a mention here.
The Observatory is on the 86th floor, 1,050 feet (320 meters) above street level. Over 3.5 million people ascend each year, which explains the aforementioned queues. You can speed things up a little by booking in advance, but you’ll still have to queue for the lifts, so come prepared to wait. There is an additional Observatory on the 102nd floor, for which tickets can’t be bought in advance, so that’s another wait if you want to go higher. Note that this is currently closed for renovations so check the website before you go. And if all this waiting sounds too much, you can buy an Express Pass, which entitles you to go to the front of every line, but this will cost you - $47 at the time of writing rather than the regular adult charge of $20.
If like us you decide not to go up the Empire State Building, do go take a look at it nevertheless. It was built in1930, during the Great Depression, as a deliberate (and successful) attempt to build the tallest building in the city and in the world, an honour it retained until 1972, when the World Trade Center took that honour. Following the destruction of the latter, the Empire State Building again took over as the tallest in New York, but other have meanwhile surpassed it elsewhere in the world. Just the same, while craning your neck to look up at it, you won’t be thinking it’s on the small side!
Make sure you check out the building at night time too, as the floodlighting is very effective. The colours change from time to time, depending on the time of year, current events and holidays etc. For instance, on the 5th November 2008 the building was lit up simply in blue, to celebrate Barack Obama’s victory in the previous day’s US Presidential election.
I know that this isn't necessarily a universally held opinion but, for me, visiting the Empire State Building is one of those 10 things to do before you die activities. The view from the top is superior to Top Of The Rock as, being in midtown, you get a much clearer view in every direction. It is quite possible to see Shea Stadium to the east, Giants Stadium to the west, Coney Island to the south and, on a clear day you can even see the Tappan Zee bridge over the Hudson and that's in Tarrytown some 23 miles away! You also get a great view of the Chrysler Building which is obscured from view by the ugly MetLife Building if you're standing on Top Of The Rock.
Besides the view, there's the history and the wonderful films that have used the ESB. From "An Affair to Remember" to "Sleepless in Seattle". Stand at the top and I defy you not to be moved!
Now, don't get me wrong, TOTR should also not be missed. It has a wonderful view of Central Park and, of course, the ESB and the whole experience of getting to the top is so much more civilised although I noticed a decidedly more civil attitude displayed by the staff at ESB than I have noticed before. Perhaps they're getting the message that there's competition out there!
So, how do you achieve the impossible - get to the top of each without paying too much and not queueing for hours? Here's how we did it. Plan to visit the ESB first thing in the morning. We arrived at 07:45 and were third in line. They don't open the escalator up to the ticket office until 08:00 but we were at the top by quarter past (this was in May this year). If you buy online, you have to collect your ticket at the sales office and you need to be able to show your credit card that you used or else, like the person who was at the front of the queue when we arrived, you'll have to go back to your hotel and collect it! We bought our tickets there and then. There's no need to go for the CityPass or the express option and you definitely DON'T want to pay extra for the 102nd floor even if it is open. It's small, you have to look through fairly small windows and the view is actually no better than from the observation deck.
As for TOTR, plan to go about 30 minutes before sunset - that way you can watch as the city changes from day to night and thousands of lights in almost every building come on and transform Manhattan into a wonderland of twinkling lanterns! There is no problem with queueing and, if you go here: http://www.theatermania.com/extras/TopOfTheRock/ you'll get a voucher saving you $3 off each pass.
I've just come across a voucher scheme on offer from Expedia for the ESB that you might like to check out: http://www.expedia.co.uk/pub/agent.dll?qscr=tsdt&stat=5&flgc=0&loid=178293&ofid=4032&wtid=28 It looks good but I haven't read all the small print!
One final point (if I need to convince you!). One of my favourite guide books (Not For Tourists) has this to say, "Some New Yorkers think it's hip to have never been to the Empire State Building. These people are idiots" I absolutely agree.
One of the things we just HAD to do in New York was go up to the top of the Empire State Building.
We queued from quite early on, about an hour before it opened, but we were already round the block. The queue moved steadily though, and about an hour later, we had tickets in hand. Security was understandably tight, but it moved along quickly.
We later realised we had misunderstood the ticket lady, as these tickets would only take us to the second highest point, not the actual top.
It’s quite a windy way to get to the elevator that takes you up to the (near) top. They were doing renovations at the time, so I am not sure if this is always the case. But we finally got to the second highest point. We spent about 20 minutes here, it was very crowded and viewpoints were scarce.
We then decided to go to the very top, so had to get further tickets. I had cash but they insisted on a credit card payment. Not happy to do this, we had no choice, so they swiped my credit card. (This proved a bad move though as a couple hours later we realised my card was cloned!!!).
Anyway, we were blissfully unaware of this and went to the top… it was freezing cold, but the view over the city was absolutely spectacular!!!
We spent about 45 minutes up at the very top, taking photos and enjoying the views, then started the trek down.. more winding and queues, although these went quickly. Needless to say, the queue outside was now incredibly long, we couldn’t actually see where it ended.
Well worth doing - it gives you a fantastic rooftop view of this splendid city :)
Oh god, it was so difficult to go up there because of the long lines waiting to pass the security, then the lines for the tickets, then the lines for the first elevator to 80th floor and then another line for the next elevator!!! But it was something I wanted to do the first afternoon in NY and it’s really worth to wait, especially during sunset when you see the lights the skyscrapers lit and create an amazing overview of New York City. You can go around the viewing platform and see far to the Brooklyn bridge or to Hudson river but I enjoyed looking down at the streets. I also enjoyed the building when I was away from it, in many parts of Manhattan, on the boat or from the Brooklyn bridge. The floodlights change color some nights and my local friend is very lucky standing by his window every night and watch it…. After major events it takes specific colors like red, white and blue after 11/9.
Empire State Buidling was built in 1931 and it is the tallest building in NY (from 1972-2001 was the World Trade Center) and the construction was part of a competition for the world’s tallest building (Chrysler building was the other one)!. It has 102 floors and it has an art deco spire at the top. It’s 381m high and it’s the second tallest building in United States after Sears Tower in Chicago (442m). The building was designed by Gr. Johnson and more than 3500 workers work for 14 months and you can see many photos of them inside the building. The building was almost empty the first years because of the economical crisis that period.
There was supposed to be a landing platform at the top but then some not so stupid people decided that it is too dangerous. One strange accident happened at 1945 when a B-25 plane crashed into 79th floor and 14 people died! There is a fence on 86th floor so the people don’t try to jump but more than 30 people committed suicide from other floors of the building.
The entrance fee is $20 but I used my city pass and I didn’t have to pay anything (with the city pass you avoid the first long line also). We also got for free the audio guide because of the city pass. The city pass costs 74$ but gives you free entrance to 5 more attractions like Metropolitan museum, MOMA, Guggenheim museum, Museum of Natural History, Circle Line tour.
At the store of the building you will find some souvenirs, I liked the snowballs with King Kong attached on it :)
This iconic building is another very popular tourist attraction. It is worth going very early to avoid the masses of people. Things are very well organised, and it took us only 20 – 30 min to get to the observation deck after we arrived.
The views are off course absolutely fantastic. It is quite crowded at the top, and a little patients is needed, especially with groups of people entertained by their tour guides.
We bought tickets at the hotel before we left and arrived a few minutes after 8 in the morning.
Fee: 19 $US
It's been in over 90 major motion pictures (remember King Kong?). It held the title of world's tallest building for over 40 years and was built in less than 2 years between 1930 and 1931. You can buy tickets for the observation deck in the lobby. The second photo was taken from the top of the Rockefeller Center.
If you are happy to arrange your visit in advance then buy your ticket online and print it off before you go. I did and it saved me a 2 and a half hour wait to buy tickets on the day. We just breezed in, presented our tickets and joined the queues for the lifts - they were quite long as well. By contrast we didn't have to queue at all for the "Top of the Rock" at the Rockerfeller Centre - and to be honest we enjoyed the views from there more than the Empire State.
First, avoid the long lines and buy your tickets to the 86th floor observatory online! (You have to buy the tickets from the 86th floor to the 102nd floor at the ticket office on the 2nd floor.) Take the elevators up to the 102nd floor observatory for stunning 360 degree views of New York City. If possible go once in the daytime and once at night for a different perspective.
ESB is also included in New York's City Pass - http://www.citypass.com/city/ny/now.html
The Empire State Building is the tallest building in New York and has been since the destruction of the Twin Towers in 2001. Before the construction of the twin towers in 1972 the Empire State Building was already the tallest building in the city and indeed the world. The skyscraper has 102 storeys and is located at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street.
The building is stlyed in the art deco stlye and took just 410 days to complete, starting in 1930 and finished in 1931. The building competed with two other building project's, with all three vying to be the world's tallest skyscraper. The Empire State Building eventually won out over The Chrysler Building and 40 Wall Street.
The Empire State Building has been visited by over 100 million people during it's history. The 86th floor observation deck offers stunning views over the city. There is a second observation deck on the 102nd floor but it may be closed on busy days or when weather is unfavourable.
Be prepared to queue for hours if you intend to go to the observation deck.
We were lucky - we got to catch the last of the daylight from the deck and into twilight and darkness so we got daylight and night views over the city.
* DisclaimerEven with a pre-acquired & cost-saving CityPass there are sometimes disneyland/hell-type lines to get up to the higher 102nd floor observation deck.
I still think if the weather is good, the view from the Empire State Building
(though imo view is not as good as "Top of the Rock" @ Rockefeller Center)
is still probably worth the cost and the hassle.
Most digital cameras (even with lenses & filters) don't quite seem to do justice to what the naked eye & brain get to appreciate:
a huge panorama and view of Manhattan island starting from Central Park to the north, down into the "jungle" of thousands of skyscrapers, overlooking the beautiful old bridges of Williamsburg & Brooklyn to the east and south past the remains of the World Trade Center all the way out to the Statue of Liberty.
If you want to really enjoy it, plan for about an hour of taking pictures
(high observation deck is usually crowded with lots of tourists taking pix and you spend 1/2 your time waiting for them to finish),
plus add in at least another 1/2 hour total getting up and back down in the lines and elevators.
The guards told me the day I was there was a fairly "light" day (mid-morning / noon on a weekday), and the site recommends getting there @ 8:00am when it first opens, but the guards also told me there really is no pattern and it can be crowded at any time.
Without CityPass the pricing is imo a little steep - almost a gouge..
Plus with CityPass you also get the audio hand-held tour free and it is not bad, sometimes informative & entertaining,
plus admission to the highest 102nd floor observatory without extra charge
(maybe they screwed up, but they didn't charge me the extra $15).
CityPass seems like an excellent deal here.
CityPass pricing info: Empire pricing* Disclaimer - I actually recommend Top of the Rock instead. A better deal and imo a better view, but that's just my opinion. Check 'em both out beforehand and make up your own mind.