Built during the Great Depression, the Empire State Building barely survived the economic downturn. But thanks to movies like King Kong, its fame slowly grew, and it eventually became one of the most recognizable skyscrapers in the city. Find out who should go, how to get to the Empire State Building, important time savers, and why you might want to skip it.
Why You Should Visit the Empire State Building
Iconic: The ESB is such an iconic NYC structure, it’s practically the city’s mascot.if you’re the type of person who wouldn’t go to Paris without visiting the Eiffel Tower, Egypt without exploring the pyramids, or India without snapping a photo in front of the Taj Mahal, the ESB should be at the top of your must-see list.
Photographic: Not only does this 1,450-foot skyscraper make a great subject for a photo, it’s a great background for selfies and that thing tourists do when they pretend like they’re propping it up with only a palm.
Architectural: One of the most famous Art Deco structures in NYC, this architectural marvel was the tallest building in the world until the Sears Tower (now the Willis Tower) was completed in 1974.
Historic: Built during the Great Depression, the ESB became the tallest building in the world when it was finished. Take the tour to get the full scoop before heading up to the viewing platform. Or, save money by reading up on the history here.
Kid Friendly: Kids appreciate the astounding views and quirky history of the ESB just as much as adults do. Download a kids’ guide to the ESB to entertain your knee-high New Yorkers while waiting in line for the elevator!
Cinematic: The ESB had been featured in movies such as An Affair to Remember, King Kong, and Elf. Check out a full list of movies that have been shot at here.
How Much Does the Empire State Building Cost?/Money Savers:
Adults: $49-$175 per person; kids: $39-$175 per person
- Buy a discount pass to save money on your ticket. Discover the pros and cons of discount passes before buying.
- Snap a photo of the ESB from one of the options in the related attractions section below (hot tip: check out the Top of the Rock hack!).
How Much Time to Visit the Empire State Building/Time Savers:
Fly-By: 10 minutes to catch an impressive glimpse of the ESB from several points in the city. Check out the related attractions for the best viewing spots.
In-Depth: 60-to-50 minutes to visit the viewing platforms; during peak seasons, make sure to buy express tickets online to avoid additional wait times at the ESB. Most people spend around 45 minutes on the main observation deck and up to two hours if visiting multiple decks.
- Buy and print tickets online beforehand to save up to 60 minutes the day of; you can even buy “express” tickets online that allow you to skip the elevator line. Check out the current wait times on the ESB’s website.
- Avoid the ESB during major holidays, like New Year’s Eve.
Need to Know:
You can buy several types of ticket packages for the ESB. The “basic” ticket gets you to the 86th Floor observatory. You can upgrade your ticket for access to the 102nd floor, VIP access, or special behind-the-scenes tours.
Why You Should Skip:
If you want to get a great view of the city from Top of the Rock or One World Trade Center, you can skip the viewing platforms at the ESB.
When to Go to the Empire State Building:
Between 8 AM and 10 AM or after 9 PM. (I prefer to go after 11 PM to avoid crowds altogether and get spectacular views of the city at night!)
How to Get to the Empire State Building:
Walking: The ESB is located on 34th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. Check out my walking guide to estimate the amount of time it would take to walk there from anywhere in Manhattan.
Subway: Take the Q, R, N, W, 1, 2, or 3 trains to 34th Street, and walk 1/2 block. Or, take the 6 train to 33rd Street, and walk 2 short blocks.
Taxi/Car: Traffic can be horrendous in Manhattan first thing in the morning, so it’s best to take the subway. If you’re headed back to your hotel late at night, you can easily grab a cab on 34th St or 5th Avenue.
Bus: Everything I mentioned above for cars goes double for the buses. If you’re dead-set on the bus, you can take the M5, M7, M55, or M34 to the Empire State Building.
Related Attractions/Other Ways to See:
Top of the Rock: Get a great view of the ESB from Top of the Rock viewing platforms. Find out more about this attraction, the best ways to get tickets, and money saving hacks on my Top of the Rock page.
DUMBO: Go to Water and Washington Streets in Brooklyn for a free way to get an impressive photo of the ESB through the legs of the Manhattan Bridge on clear days.
22nd Street & 5th Avenue: Another free location for great shots of the ESB.
Need more inspiration on how to focus only on what you love in NYC? Check out a full list of attractions.
Don’t forget to read a few articles on how to hack New York City, so you can see more, do more, and stress less!