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Empire State Building
While you can't truly call the Empire State Building a free NYC attraction, you can enjoy the iconic building for free on a number of levels. It's true that to go to the top it will cost you $20 a pop, you can go into its lobby for free and obviously view if from afar from many vantage points around the city. One of the best is from the Brooklyn Bridge at dusk. Noted for being the world's tallest building for over 40 years, the famed Art Deco skyscraper gained perhaps its greatest notoriety when Hollywood's mythic King Kong climbed to its top forever cementing its being not only NYC's icon but perhaps the symbol of the entire United States.
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Empire State of mind
Chances are if you're visiting the Big Apple then you're going to want to visit the Empire State building.
Personally (I'm sure some would disagree) I didn't find the Empire State Building very impressive from the outside - I saw it and thought "is that it?" it was alot smaller than I imagined. Going inside is different though, the entrance is quite grand but the views are even better.
We went quite late at night in the hope of beating some of the mad day time queues. Its really windy up there but the photos you will get will be great. I just wish I had my slr camera at the time!
great views...not so great crowds!
This is such an iconic landmark of new york it would be a sin to visit the city but not visit ESB. The views are fantastic from up here and the building itself is beautiful - including the amazing lobby when you first come in - excellent photo opps here!
It seemed to take an age to get up to the viewing platform - not at all like the experience Meg Ryan had in sleepless in Seatle! but was worth it.
I would advise anybody wanting to go up to firstly buy your tickets before you go. I bought mine on the website and printed off my own tickets - so at least avoided the first queue! (and the tickets are valid for 2 years i believe - so you are not time or date tied)
Secondly if you want to see the views in the day go as soon as it opens, or if you want to see it all lit up go later on...the last lift up is 11.15pm.
If you have childen it may be better to do this as it gets VERY crowded!
It is worth just walking past at night to see the upper floors all lit up. On special dates it is lit up in certain colourways...if you look on the website it will tell you the dates and colourways. When we were there it was all lit for thanksgiving. - Amazing!
The Empire State Building
Completed in 1931 and named after New York State's nickname, the Empire State Building is one of the symbols of New York City. It was the world's highest building for forty years and until the construction of New York's World Trade Centre. Since 2001, the Empire State Building has returned to being New York's highest structure. The 381-metre building occupies a prominent position in central Manhattan and is a magnificent example of Art Déco architecture. The observation deck at the top offers the best views over New York - definitely a must when visiting the city.
A must do
The Empire State is one of the signal sights of NYC. It is once again the tallest building in the Eastern USA after the 9/11 disaster. Its design, with its impressive art deco lobby, made with marble from Georgia, some expensive wood from somewhere, is at once stunning and a sign of the times in which it was built.
The views from the observation galleries is as you would expect. I heard it said that the view from the Rockefeller center is better, as the Empire State is a beautiful sight from it.
There are queues so be patient. It is $20 well spent, as you cannot really say you went to NYC unless you went up it.
Go early, dont bother with 102 floor & Skyride
The Empire State Building was awesome. You have to go EARLY and yes, you do have to wait in a line. If the line is out the door--dont bother, come back later. If you can get your tickets online, definetly do it. IF YOU'VE BEEN TO EPCOT & DID "SOARING"--DONT BOTHER WITH THE SKY RIDE. ITS SO BAD!!!!! It jerks you around, its not smooth and enjoyable--too many quick flashing, odd angle and distorted pics of the city sights. And especially for the extra money...its not worth it.
One more thing....dont buy the $30 overpriced picture they take of you. They give you a picture card and the prices are a bit more reasonable when you order online.
The View from Above
I wasn't going to do this one as I hate standing in lines and, well, it's one of those really cliche tourist things. Still, as my Other Half pointed out, it IS the ESB and something I'd probably only do once in my life so off we went. About 45 minutes into a long, hot wait I was giving him the evil eye but once we (finally) stepped on onto the observation deck...
... the pictures say it all.
The website has everything you want to know about the history and visiting info of this historic, Art Deco spire so I'll stick to the generals:
Entrance to the building is on 5th Avenue, between 33rd and 34th Streets. There is a separate handicapped entrance (see website).
You will wait through a succession of 3 lines before you reach the 86th floor observatory: security, ticketing and elevators. The longest part of the wait will be inside the building and it was oppressively warm when we were there so you'll probably be shedding your coats (no coat check). Bring something to keep the kids occupied! Cameras and camcorders are, of course, fine but no tripods. Also no suitcases or bottles allowed.
There are several ways to cut the waiting time:
Order tickets in advance from the website - which eliminates the ticket line.
Order Express passes, which eliminates the ticket line and places you at the front of the other two. This comes with a price (around $45) but if you have $$ and don't have time, this is the way to go.
During your wait, they do their level best to sell you add-ons like tickets to a simulated helicopter show (Skyride) or 102nd floor observatory, audio guides and souvenirs.
General admission is, at the time of this writing, about $20 for adults and less for children and seniors (see website). US military, in uniform, and little ones under age 6 are free.
The ESB is open 365 days a year, 8:00AM to 2:00AM. Last elevators go up at 1:15AM.
A note about the illumination: it's normally white but changes per seasonal holidays (like Christmas) and other national/world events. They also occasionally turn it off on foggy/cloudy nights during peak migration season (spring/fall) as the birds are drawn to the lights and can smash into the side of the building.
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
A great view from above
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.
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The tallest skyscraper in Manhattan
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
- Historical Travel
Empire State Building vs. Rockefeller Center
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.
Empire State Building part I
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).
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Empire State Building
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.
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You don't have to go up it to admire it!
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.
Empire State Building or Top Of The Rock?
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.
Soaring Empire State Building!
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 :)
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