One of the most famous skyscrapers found anywhere on the planet, the Empire State Building has graced the New York skyline since its completion in 1931. Nearly a century later, it’s still a destination for people from all over the world, with millions of visitors each year relishing the breathtaking views available from its two observation decks.
History of the Empire State Building
Construction on the Empire State Building began on St. Patrick’s Day, 1930. Remarkably, the 102-story structure took just over a single year to construct. Upon its completion, it become the tallest building in the world, which almost instantly made it a prominent tourist attraction. It’s said that the very first visitors to the Empire State Building paid a mere 10 cents for the right to ascend to its summit and use a telescope to observe the city.
At nearly 1,500 feet, the Empire State Building would remain the world’s tallest building until 1970. Though scores of buildings now stand taller than it, few have the historical importance and pop culture prestige of the Empire State Building. Its unmistakable Art Deco exterior has been featured in countless television shows and movies, and it routinely appears on lists of the most important architectural achievements in history.
What’s at the Empire State Building
For most visitors to the Empire State Building, the main draw consists of its two observation decks: the 86th Floor Observatory and the 102nd Floor Observatory. The 86th Floor Observatory is considered the Empire State Building’s “main deck.” It runs all the way around the building, providing 360-degree views that, on the clearest of days, stretch for miles and miles and miles. It’s also open to the elements. Guests who want to go even higher may pay extra at the 86th Floor to access the newer, recently renovated 102nd Floor Observatory. It’s an indoor observation point, but its views are also 360 degrees in nature and, frankly, amazing.
There are a number of informative exhibits and educational resources to be found at the Empire State Building, too. Primarily located on the building’s 2nd and 80th floors, these interactive displays cover such topics as the building’s construction, architectural design, historical importance, and more. If you’ve purchased a ticket to either Observatory, then you’ll be able to enjoy these exhibits at no extra charge.
Admission to the Empire State Building’s two observation decks may be combined with several other promotions to create a truly unforgettable experience. These special packages are quite varied in nature and include everything from sunrise viewings complete with complimentary coffee to full-access, behind-the-scenes tours of the building to lavish outings that even feature champagne tastings.
There are many additional amenities to be found at the Empire State Building. It’s home to all manner of shops and restaurants operating at a variety of price points, as well as a gift shop well-stocked with various types of souvenirs.
Tips for Visiting the Empire State Building
- The Empire State Building is included on several money saving tourist passes including the New York Pass, NY Explorer Pass, New York Sightseeing Pass and New York CityPASS.
- Prices for the two observation decks differ significantly. The 86th Floor Observatory runs $42 for adults, $40 for seniors, and $36 for kids ages 6 through 12. Tickets to the 102nd Floor Observatory are $75 for adults, $73 for seniors, and $69 for kids ages 6 through 12. Children under the age of 6 are admitted free of charge.
- Given its rich history and immense popularity, it should come as no surprise that the Empire State Building’s observation decks can get very, very busy. If you’re looking to beat the crowds, consider planning your visit for some time in the morning. That’s when it tends to be less hectic.
- Also, purchasing an “express pass” will cost you more, but it’ll allow you to skip the line and head straight toward the observation deck. It’s a quality option if you don’t want to mess around with the worst of the crowds.
- Like many popular attractions operating today, the Empire State Building has its own app available for download. Its audio narration is a terrific way to access a guided tour without paying extra for one of the fancier tours.
- Adults touring the Empire State Building without children might want to consider a late-night visit. The final hour it’s open to the public—after 10:00pm—is typically one of the least-busy times of day at either Observatory. Your views won’t be as grand in the dark, but the twinkling lights of New York City make for their own kind of beauty.