For both locals and tourists alike, visiting the Empire State Building is an NYC bucket list item! With over 4 million visitors each year, it’s cemented itself as one of the most popular attractions in the world. Complete with observation decks, interactive exhibits, and more, it’s one of the best things to do in NYC. Here’s a complete guide to the Empire State Building if you plan on visiting!
Table Of Contents
Empire State Building History
To appreciate just now how iconic the Empire State Building is, we must start with a little history and how it came to be. With nearly 100 years of history under its belt, the idea for the skyscraper began during a competition to build the world’s tallest building in the late 1920s.
Inspired by Art Deco designs, the building began construction during the Great Depression and was completed in the early 1930s. From there, the ESB has become a popular cultural symbol, being featured in films and TV shows like “King Kong.” Ever since, the Empire State Building has continued to receive modern renovations, new attractions, and more.
Where is the Empire State Building?
The Empire State Building is located in Midtown Manhattan at 20 W 34th St. You can find it on the west side of Fifth Avenue, between 33rd Street to the south and 34th Street to the north.
When was the Empire State Building built?
The Empire State Building was completed in 1931, and was designed by architectural firm Shreve, Lamb & Harmon.
How long did it take to build the Empire State Building?
The Empire State Building took an astonishing 1 year and 45 days to complete, with construction starting on March 17, 1930! After demolishing the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, over 3,400 men were used each day to complete the structure. The workers averaged building 4 stories per week.
How many stories is the Empire State Building?
Rising up to 102 stories, the Empire State Building has a roof height of 1,250 feet and stands a total of 1,454 feet tall, including its antenna. At one point in time, it was the was the tallest skyscraper in the world (1931 – 1970), which was surpassed by the original World Trade Center and now the One World Trade Center. Now, it’s the 7th tallest building in NYC, and the 54th tallest in the world.
Planning Your Visit to the Empire State Building
All great tour stops require a bit of planning, and we’ve got all the information you’ll need before you make your booking! Check out everything below, from visit times to transportation, and more.
Best Times To Visit
This is one of NYC’s most busiest landmarks, and lines can form very quickly to enter the Empire State Building. It’s open 365 a days a year, rain or shine from 8 am – 2 am. The busiest time to visit the ESB is in the morning, so if you want to beat the crowd we suggest going anywhere between 12 – 4 pm or after 8 pm.
Transportation to the Empire State Building is quite easy since it’s very centrally located in Midtown Manhattan. Here are the best ways to get to the ESB.
Visiting the Empire State Building via subway is always our best recommendation. The landmark is accessible via many MTA lines which are a short walk away. There are 3 main stations that you want to aim for:
- 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
There are multiple MTA bus routes that will drop you off within walking distance of the Empire State Building. Check out the most convenient bus routes below and all of the options on the MTA website here.
- W 34 St & 5 Avenue: multiple buses including QM10, QM12, QM15, QM16, QM17 and more.
- 5 Av / W 34 Street: BxM7 and BxM18
- 5 Av/W 35 Street: X27, X28, X37, and X38
Tour guide and sightseeing buses are popular among many tourists, and can be a great means of transport to the Empire State Building. Hop-on hop-off tours like Big Bus Tours and TopView® NYC Bus Tours can be great options that will drop you off at the landmark’s doorstep.
We typically don’t recommend driving to the Empire State Building due to many factors, like traffic and parking. It can be difficult to find a spot around the area, and many lots and garages have gauged pricing…especially during pique hours. However, there are many parking structures around ($30-$50/hr) and metered street parking should you choose to drive.
All guests will go through airport-style security upon entrance to the Empire State Building. A list of prohibited items can be seen below. It’s important to note that are no lockers available to store personal belongings, and if you’re traveling with a stroller it must be foldable. Prohibited items below, full list here:
- Glass, including glass bottles
- Alcoholic beverages
- Bags or Luggage, including carry-on sized luggage
- Professional camera and video equipment, including tripods
- Musical instruments
- Costumes or theatrical masks
- Firearms of any kind
The Empire State Building is fully ADA-compliant! The entire property is complete with ramps, handicap-accessible restrooms, lowered walls with binoculars, as well as the allowance of motorized and non-motorized wheelchairs and service dogs.
Empire State Building Tickets
Access to the Empire State Building is on a ticket reservation basis, which are scheduled out in 15 minute intervals. There are plenty of different ticketing options that come with certain access, add-ons, and exclusives. Ranging from $44 – $500, you can get a range from basic access to the observation decks to VIP guided tours of the landmark. Check out some of the most common ticketing options below:
- Main Deck Tickets: Access to 86th Floor Observatory
- Top Deck Tickets: access to both 102nd & 86th Floor Observatories
- Express Pass 86th Floor: Expedited entry to ESB and skip-the-line access to the exhibits
- CityPASS®: Admission plus access to other NYC landmarks
- Starbucks Reserve® Sunrise Experience: Early morning experience w/ free Starbucks coffee and Princi pastries
Exploring the Empire State Building
The Empire State Building was listed the #1 US attraction by Tripadvisor in both 2022 and 2023, but what is there to do exactly?! Home to observation decks, shops, eateries, and more, we’ll outline all of the fun that lies ahead!
86th Floor Observatory
The most popular attraction at the Empire State Building is the main deck observatory on the 86th floor. Offering 360-degree views of New York, the open-air wrap-around observation deck provides breathtaking views of the city…plus 6 different states if it’s clear enough!
Top Deck: 102nd Floor Observatory
For a slightly higher price, you can also elevate to the 102nd floor, where the “Top Deck” observatory resides…offering even higher views of Manhattan through their floor-to-ceiling windows on all sides. From this deck, you’ll be able to see up to 80 miles outwards on a good day!
As you explore the Empire State Building, be sure to spend some time with the multiple exhibits around the building that tell the historical tale of the place you stand! From construction to pop culture and beyond, these different experiences are a great walk through of how the landmark came to be. Check out just some of the exhibits below and see them all here:
- The Site in the 1920s: Watch the NYC streets of the late 1920s evolve from the destruction of the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel to the beginning construction of the Empire State Building.
- Construction: Immerse yourself and snap photos with bronze sculptures of coworkers who completed the building in astonishing time.
- Kong: Touch King Kong’s hands which poke through the walls, just as they did in the 1933 film.
- Celebrity: Admire a collage of A-list celebrities, athletes, and other famous visitors’ images and memorabilia from their trip to the ESB.
- Artistry in Light: Listen to a short film by world-renowned lighting designer Marc Brickman on how the spire lights of the ESB work.
- World’s Most Famous Building: Take in a clip montage of 600 commercials, films, TV shows, comics, and games that feature the iconic building.
Feeling hungry during your visit? There are a few dining options you can choose from, including a sit-down restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner called STATE Grill & Bar. Another sit-down option includes NYC Mexican staple Tacombi, which are great for tacos, margaritas, and everything in between!
If you’re looking for something quick, there’s also Chipotle, Chop’t, and JP.
Empire State Building Fun Facts
Did you know these things about the world famous building?! We bet some of these fun facts about the Empire State building will surprise you!
- The Empire State Building’s exterior Tower Lights often change color to celebrate different holidays, happenings, and events! You can check out what color the building is right here.
- The Empire State Building is owned by Empire State Realty Trust, who have owned the building since 2002.
- The Empire State Building is the world’s most photographed building.
- The Empire State Building was part of a race to build the tallest building in the world.
- The Empire State Building is the #1 most popular destination among Uber’s 75+ million riders.
Things To Do Near Empire State Building
After your visit to the Empire State Building, you may be wondering what to do next! Thankfully, the landmark’s central location makes it easy walkable to other NYC attractions. From sports to ice skating, check out just some of our favorite nearby activities.
Madison Square Garden
Just down the block from the Empire State Building sits the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden. At any given night you’re likely to find a Knicks or Rangers game, concert, comedy show, plus more! Plus, you can even reserve guided tour tickets, which offer you 60 minutes worth of access to exclusive backstage areas, luxury suites, the Chase Bridge, and more! Learn more here.
One of New York City’s most famous parks is right around the corner, and there’s always something happening here! In the summer, you can find movie screenings, yoga sessions, concerts, and more. During the winter it transforms into the Bryant Park Winter Village with a massive ice rink. You never know what might be happening here so stop by if you’re in the area.