The Empire State Building is one of the most famous tourist attractions in New York, if not the world – and for good reason. It is a highlight of the New York Skyline, been featured in countless famous films and held the distinction as tallest building in the world for almost 40 years.
But at the same time, the building is notorious for epic lines and a pricey entrance fee. So is it really worth a visit? While the Top of the Rock has gotten popular because of the cheaper entrance fee and the chance for a photo op with the Empire State Building in the background, you truly don’t want to miss out on the spectacular view from one of the most iconic buildings in the world. Here is a real New Yorker’s top tips for your visit to the Empire State Building.
1. Go Late
The number one tip I can give to people visiting NYC who want to check out the Empire State Building, is to go late in the evening. The last elevator to the observatory goes up at 1:15 a.m. and the deck doesn’t close until 2 a.m., so you have plenty of time to explore and take in the view without having to wait for hours in line just to get up there.
I chose this option for my second time visiting, and didn’t wait in any line at all – we were up to the top in less than 10 minutes. Instead of devoting an entire afternoon to the visit, you can grab dinner, some drinks and show up around 11 p.m. to zip right up to the top and appreciate the splendor of New York City illuminated at night.
It is definitely a much more time-efficient and pleasant experience. For an extra special romantic touch, there is also a live jazz saxophonist on the 86th floor observatory every Thursday to Sunday from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. It’s the perfect romantic way to round out a visit to the top of the world.
2. Skip the 102nd Floor
For an extra $20 you can go to the higher observation deck, but take it from me, the difference between the 86th and 102nd floor is hardly noticeable. During the day the 102nd floor might be slightly less crowded, but if you opt for the late night visit, there’s no real benefit. This way you can save a little bit of dough for another attraction. The 102nd floor is also glassed in, whereas the 86th floor is completely open air, making for much better photo opportunities.
3. Learn Some History
The Empire State Building has a very interesting and rich history. Construction was completed in 1931, at record speed – taking only 13 months to complete. That timeline is impressive even by modern standards, but was outright incredible back in the day.
It was built so quickly because there was a race going on to build the tallest building in the world. The other major contender was the Chrysler Building, which was complete in 1930 and held the distinction of tallest building in the world for just 11 months before being surpassed by the Empire State Building. Both were built in the Art Deco style that was popular at the time, and helped create the iconic skyline that we know and love to photograph today.
It is also interesting to note that, initially, the Empire State Building was considered a financial failure because it was finished right at the start of the Great Depression and they struggled to find tenants to fill this massive building. Thankfully, the luck turned around and the building now has so many businesses inside it that it has its own zip code.
4. On a Foggy Day, Check Out the Simulator
If the weather happens to be less than ideal on the day of your visit to the Empire State Building (as it was on my first visit), or you’re slightly afraid of heights, the motion simulator is an awesome consolation prize. The motion simulator gives you a virtual tour of NYC, with built-in motions that make you feel like you’re on a roller coaster. It’s great fun for kids and adults alike, and gives you a chance to visit the Empire State Building even if the weather conditions aren’t ideal.
5. Be Ready for the Security Check
The one line you’ll have to wait in no matter what (even if you buy tickets online to skip the lines) is the security check, so be ready. They won’t let you bring any glass or bottles (so if you thought you’d bring some champagne, you can’t. Oops!). While you can bring luggage through, if necessary, there is no coat or luggage check. Keep in mind that anything you bring with you, you’ll have to carry the whole time.
The Empire State Building is way more than just a tourist trap and is 100% worth a visit at least once in your life. There is nothing quite like escaping above the hubbub of Manhattan to gaze down on the magnificence of New York City. With these tips, your trip can be even more enjoyable.