Empire State Building, New York City
The employees were really nice, most of them ask you where you come from, some say a phrase in your language, some say something related to your country.
The audio tour is totally worth it...I mean, that way you do know what the heck you are actually watching, specially if you go at night. Another thing about the audio tour, it keeps you 'busy' while you are waiting in line to actually get to the top. I listened to the whole history of how the building was built, renovated and designed while waiting in line, once I got to the top all I had to do was listen so I could get a sense of what I was actually seeing. During the day it's pretty easy to find a reference point without the audio tour helping, but at night, you might get lost past the most touristy spots.
There's a lot of things near by and because Times Square is near you can get food almost any time. Photos look much better than the ones you would take from the 'Top of the Rock' in the Rockefeller Center, why? that place has plastic surrounding the top, the ESB has a sort of fence, you won't risk dropping your camera while trying to get a better picture through a tinny space.
Unique Suggestions: The only thing I could complain about is this: as it's so high, the wind is chilly.
I've been to the ESB both in winter and in spring, winter is killer, wind will be piercing, on spring, it was raining a little, and the wind was still kind of too cool for comfort, so beware and bring a coat and scarf.
The people working in the ESB, really, must hate their jobs. They were so rude that we kept wondering if we did or said anything wrong. You will not find such rude behaviour in Europe, that's for sure. The top of the ESB is nothing special. Of course, the view is spectucular but there is not much space so it is crowded and difficult to take pictures.
Unique Suggestions: We did not have to wait long because we had booked our tickets online. So, in order to skip the long lines, buy your ticket from the Net.
Fun Alternatives: We heard from friends that the Top of the Rock in the Rockefeller Center is better. So, maybe next time we go there, we can do that. You should also go to Top of the Rock, then.
Last year I spent 2 hours line waiting to go up the empire state building! arrg. Found out it's cheaper and faster to go to the Top of the Rock! and from there you can get a picture of the EMPIRE STATE BUILDING! imagine that!
Unique Suggestions: Go early.
Fun Alternatives: Top of the Rock!
You do it because you are in New York and it is a must see. It`s pricey- $20 a person. The line ups are long and the staff can literally close the front door in your face. The top level is also packed so it`s hard to get a good space and not feel rushed.
Unique Suggestions: Go up at night to see the city sky line- that made the trip worth it.
We went to the ESB in the evening and had pre-purchased the tickets because we heard the wait would be shorter that way. WRONG!! With tickets, we still waited over 3 hours just to board the elevators to the observatory. Once there, we pretty much turned right around because it was sooooo crowded up there, you could not see a thing. The windows were about 4 to 5 people deep, so you couldn't even look over people's heads. It was horrible. Then, oh yes! we had to wait another 45 minutes or so just to be able to get on the elevators to go down. Horrible experience!!! This was the only experience in our 8 day trip in NYC that we absolutely hated.
Yes, it probably costs a lot of money to maintain this fab building and to keep it open to the tourists, but it can feel a bit of a rip off as well, if you don't know what to expect. They will try to sell you something called "Skyline Ride" film thingy before you go up to the tower, promising that you will beat the queues, which can get pretty long at peak times. It will cost you about $10 more or something, which is not that much I suppose, but it all adds up - especially if there are many of you. It's up to whether you want to do that. You can always try to avoid the queues altogether by arriving early in the morning (as early as it opens).
On the way up, they take photos of every visitor (or group of visitors), which you can then purchase on your way down. I was totally shocked that they were actually asking $25 for only one photo!!! Give me a break.. I'm so pleased I actually had my eyes closed in the photo, so that my boyfriend didn't feel obliged to buy the damn thing. I certainly didn't want to invest 25 bucks.
Also bear in mind that the souvenirs at the top of the ESB are much more expensive than what you pay at the souvenir shops at the street level anywhere in the city, so check out what you find at the souvenir shops before hand. The selection is bound to be very similar.
Unique Suggestions: You are not obliged to buy any souvenirs or drinks and food at the ESB. Just enjoy the view and head somewhere else for your souvenirs and refreshments.
Going up the ESB in the day can be time consuming waiting in the massive queues
Unique Suggestions: you can be waiting 2 or more hours to go up the ESB in the day, i actually went up at Midnight on Thanks Giving and didnt have to wait at all.. After 7pm the queues tend to die off, you get to see the whole city lit up too by the lights of new york
Fun Alternatives: Alternatly, go and have a look up the Rockafeller Building, similar size, cheaper and quicker to go up. plus you get to see the ESB in the background
Heed the warning of the guidebooks and arrive early to the Empire State Building. Otherwise you'll be faced with a 2-3 hour wait and will end up blowing half your day. The view, however, is really nice.
Unique Suggestions: After doing the Empire State, get lunch or drinks at a nearby rooftop bar.
Rare Bar and Grill (16th Floor Bar) - 303 Lexington Ave., at 37th St. 212-481-1999; Tue-Sat, 4:30pm-midnight
Hotel Metro (Rooftop Terrace) - 45 W. 35th St., between Fifth and Sixth Aves.; 212-279-3535; hotelmetronyc.com; Mon-Fri, 5:30pm-10pm
La Quinta Inn Manhattan - 17 W. 32nd St., between Broadway and Fifth Ave.; 212-736-1391; laquinta.com; Daily, 4pm-midnight
Sure, its one of the most famous buildings in the whole world, but is it really worth it? Well... to tell you the truth I can't say because I never went up. Why? First time I tried to go there, it was raining and there was less than a mile visibility from the top. Second time, there was a two hour wait! Two hours! I didn't really think it was worth the wait...
Unique Suggestions: If you are set on going up, the way to beat the lines is the purchase tickets for the motion ride that they have up there as well as regular tickets to go up. You'll be paying more but you will bypass most people who just want to go up. In the end, the extra money will be worth it so you don't waste time in line.
Fun Alternatives: Top of the rock. What's that? Well, if you want to see the view of the city from the Empire, you might as well go to the Rockefeller building. It's just as high as the Empire, and when you go up there, you get to see the Empire State building along with the rest of the view, but the best thing about it is the line. Or lack of it. It took us less than 15 mins to go up, compared to the 2 hour wait for Empire. They just opened the building up to the public just recently so take advantage of it. Most people only know of the Empire State Building so most of the people will be going there.
Now, I've never been to the top of the Empire State Building, for reasons to be explained here.
A ticket to the observatory was $11 for adults, $9 for seniors and $6 for kids ages 5-12 in 2001, and I have neither knowledge nor doubt that the price has since risen. But, even if you're willing to pay for that, lines into the ticket office are typically an hour and a half, perhaps even twice that much. If the view is worth that much to you, though (and I know it is to some) then knock yourself out. I, unfortunately, was visiting the city with my family and thus had no time for the ticket line.
It is to my understanding, though, that valid tickets to the observatory can be printed from the internet. But I haven't a clue how much this would help.
Ok, so everyone thinks going to the top of the Empire State Building is a must do, so romantic, etc. Well, I would not recommend it unless you like LONG lines. Buy the time we paid almost $30 for the two of us and we waited for over an hour in lines while employees tried to get you to pay even more for the audio tour we didn't even enjoy the views. We went during the week in the evening. If you must go I would definately find out when the slow times are.
Unique Suggestions: Call ahead and find out when the slow time are during the week, 212-736-3100.
Now, with the WTC so tragically gone, this is a tower you shouldn't miss, or maybe you should after all.
The building itself is interesting, so is the entrance hall, but it stops there. OK, you can queue in line for an hour or two, pay 13 hefty dollars, take the elevator up to the 80th floor, queue again to have your photo taken in front of a fake background view, it'll cost you 15 dollars at the pick-up later, queue again to take the elevator to the 86th floor, for the observatory and the tacky souvenir store, more queueing to get down again, past the photo pick-up, more queueing for the final elevator trip down...ah well, maybe I'm just ranting because on the only day availbale to to do this thing the top floors were shrouded in misty clouds with zero visibility. For me it was a total waste. But, at least I can say "been there, done that"...
Unique Suggestions: After purchasing the tickets and waiting for the elevator, you have your last chance to say no and come back later if the visibility is low. If you can, do that. I couldn't, unfortunately since I only had one day in NY.
From the moment you enter the ground floor of the Empire State Building, you are constantly harassed by people trying to sell you on purchasing "Tony's Audio Tour" for assistance in your viewing. Around every turn of the byzantine and infinite waiting process, there is another sell by Tony's goons. You are warned that you'll miss it all, you'll never see anything, and will probably go blind (just kidding) if you don't buy this tour. The shakedown was almost mob-like in my opinion.
OK, I didn't buy one. I can't say whether or not Tony the cab driver is the greatest thing since marble rye bread. But I will tell you this. You will see plenty on your own. Do you really want to walk around listening to some two-bit cassette recorder instead of just taking it all in, enjoying the fresh air and the majesty of New York City.
My advice is to just say NO to Tony's Audio Tours. I promise, the sun WILL come up tomorrow if you dare pass up the opportunity. :)
Fun Alternatives: Just use your own eyes, or ask others for help in finding some of the sights.
Or...you could follow the folks who DID buy the Audio Tour around and just wait until they point and say "see, there's Yankee Stadium, just where this swell guy Tony said it would be". : ) Sorry, folks, just being sarcastic.
Just enjoy the view.
Yes yes it's a tourist trap but it does have fantastic views!
Unique Suggestions: Don't be a tourist snob and actually purchase a joint ticket for the observation deck AND the ride - this will get you out of the massive queue - you can enjoy a thrilling ride and a bit of a laugh courtesy of Kevin Bacon and friends then it's straight to the lifts to the top - go on, you know it makes sense!!!!
Especially during the tourist season, the lines standing outside the Empire State Building can be really long.
Unique Suggestions: If you visit in July or August and want to take daytime pictures, try to get there early (the Observatory opens at 9 am), or late (last elevator up is 11:30pm)
Refer to my "Must See Activities" section for an entry on the Empire State Building and its Observatory.