The Empire State Building - Visitor Guide

A true New York icon
By Casey Makovich

You haven't seen New York until you've seen the Empire State Building. From dazzling observation deck views to the intriguing lobby and exhibits, here's all you need to know about visiting this stunning skyscraper.

As one of the premier attractions in Midtown Manhattan, the Empire State Building offers spectacular 360-degree views of New York City. While the views are renowned for being incredible, they’re not the only thing you will enjoy when you visit this popular New York City attraction. That's why we've put together an Empire State Building Guide for this attraction to help you make the most out of your visit.

In addition to the breathtaking views this world-famous skyscraper offers, the striking lobby of the Empire State Building and its two main exhibits are worth spending some time checking out as well.

Trying to Find Empire State Building Tickets?

With The New York Pass, admission to the Empire State Building is included, along with admission to more than 130 attractions in the city at a steep discount compared to paying at the gate of each attraction.

Experience the best of NYC at the pace you choose and visit as many sites as you want each day for one low price with this flexible pass. Simply put, you decide what to see and when you want to see it! Learn more about our available passes and attractions.

Tips for Visiting the Empire State Building

When to Visit:

The Empire State Building is open every day, 12PM – 9PM, so you'll have plenty of time to take in all that the attraction has to offer. The type of experience that you have at the Empire State Building can vary depending on whether you’re visiting as a family, couple, or solo.


Traveling with young kids? Plan to visit the Empire State Building early, when the building tends to be the least crowded and lines are shorter. If you're traveling with a stroller, you'll need to fold the stroller up before getting into the elevator, so plan accordingly. The restrooms are on the second floor, and it’s a good idea to use them before getting in line to ride the elevator.


Couples looking for a romantic time can find it at the Empire State Building as well. The best times to get the coziest view are (rather obviously) at sunset. Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night from Memorial Day to Labor Day, a saxophonist plays romantic music to help make the experience more memorable for you and your date.

Some couples arrange to get engaged or even married at the Empire State Building.

Solo/Other Travelers:

If you're not traveling with kids or looking for a romantic time, you have total flexibility when it comes to choosing an ideal time to visit the ESB. If your main goal is to spend time taking in the exhibits, head to the ESB earlier in the day to avoid the largest crowds. If you're looking for the best time to take photos, we suggest aiming to be at the top an hour before sunset (be sure to allow for wait times in line) known as 'the golden hour.'

Each member of your party will need to pass through security to enter the Empire State Building. There are no lockers or coat checks, so you must carry whatever you bring in with you throughout your visit. Tip: restrooms are on the second-floor visitor's center - it’s a good idea to use them before getting in line to ride the elevator.

Overview of Empire State Building Attractions and Exhibits


Image credit: Empire State Building's official site

Your experience begins the minute you walk in the door of the Empire State Building. From the Art Deco-inspired ceiling murals to the aluminum leaf, the sites of the lobby are unique and historic.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the lobby as a historic landmark following an 18-month restoration project in 2009 it to its original 1930s appearance.

2nd Floor Visitors' Center

Image credit: Empire State Building's official site

This space was designed as the first official 'welcome' for visitors to the Empire State Building. This is where you'll show your tickets to enter the exhibits and you can use the restrooms before heading up the elevators.

Sustainability Exhibit

Image credit: Empire State Building official site

The Empire State Building underwent a massive sustainability project in 2009 that would ultimately reduce its energy costs by 4.4 million dollars per year, reduce over 105,000 tons of carbon emissions, and reduce the building's usage of energy by 38 percent – a modern-day engineering feat! The Sustainability Exhibit on the second floor educates visitors about the building’s retrofit project. It describes every process used in the energy overhaul with displays of actual building materials, sculptures, and digitally interactive displays.

Dare to Dream Exhibit

Image credit: Empire State Building official site

Located on the 80th floor, the Dare to Dream Exhibit chronicles the history, construction, and engineering process. It includes original photographs and documents from the 1930s as well as construction notes, architectural sketches, and personal mementos from some of the 3,400 people who worked tirelessly to make the Empire State Building a reality.

86th Floor Main Deck

Image credit: Empire State Building official site

The famous main deck of the Empire State Building has made it into dozens of movies and television shows. It provides you with an open-air 360-degree view of the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park, East River, Hudson River, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, and much more.

Tip: download the Empire State Building's app on your phone to help identify each building you see in your view so you can learn more about the landmarks and sights. Bring coins if you want to use the coin-operated high-powered binoculars.

102nd Floor Top Deck

Image credit: Empire State Building's official site.

From this high up, you can see the grid of street patterns and a clear view of Central Park. If the day isn’t overcast, you can view other skyscrapers at a distance up to 80 miles away. You will take a manually-operated Otis elevator to the top floor, and our elevator operators will be happy to answer any questions you have. The 102nd-floor observation deck is enclosed with glass.

A little background on the Empire State Building's location:

Although construction of the Empire State Building began in 1930, the history of the land dates to 1799. This is the year that the city sold a land tract to a farmer named John Thompson on the land where the Empire State Building now sits.

Different mansions appeared on the property over the next 131 years before their owners decided to knock them down. Another notable landmark on the site was the Waldorf Astoria Hotel until 1928.

What to Bring (and Not to Bring) to the Empire State Building

You'll definitely want to bring your camera to take once-in-a-lifetime photos of the amazing views and make sure you have a stash of quarters if you want to use the coin-operated binoculars on site. The main observation deck on the 86th floor is also an open-air observation deck, so be sure to dress warmly due to the wind and if it's sunny you may want a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen.

Plan to allow a minimum of two hours for your visit. To ensure the safety of every visitor and the integrity of the building, the management of the Empire State Building prohibits people from bringing several things inside. The following items are strictly prohibited:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Bottles, cans, or flasks
  • Glass items
  • Large packages such as suitcases and carry-on luggage
  • Markers or spray paint
  • Masks or costumes
  • Musical instruments
  • Professional cameras and equipment, including tripods and other camera stands
  • Sports equipment
  • Weapons, including guns, knives, scissors, mace, swords, or any dual-purpose item that could harm someone

Where to Eat Nearby

This attraction has several restaurants inside of it, including:

  • Chipotle Mexican Restaurant
  • Chop’t Fast Casual Restaurant
  • Heartland Brewery
  • Starbucks Coffee Shop
  • State Grill and Bar
  • Sushi-teria
  • Tacombi Restaurant

If you prefer to eat elsewhere before or after your visit, some unique choices are the Playwright Irish Pub and Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong. Both are under a quarter mile of 350 5th Avenue, the official address of the Empire State Building. Some of the signature menu items at Playwright Irish Pub include bangers and mash, fish and chips, and shepherd’s pie.

At Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong, a local Korean restaurant, you can enjoy kimchi, a pork combo, short ribs, and several other Korean specialties.

Attractions Near the Empire State Building

Of course, New York City has several other famous attractions besides the Empire State Building. Depending on the time you have available for sightseeing, consider adding the following attractions to your New York City itinerary:

  • Brooklyn Bridge: The Brooklyn Bridge connects the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan and is one of the oldest roadway bridges in existence in this country. Construction began in 1869 and finished in 1883. Another historical fact about the Brooklyn Bridge is that it was the first steel-wire suspension bridge erected in the United States. The bridge has a wide walkway available to bicyclists and pedestrians, and more than 7,000 people make the trek across it each day. It also has a visitors’ park with several piers, a volleyball court, and a playground. Go on a guided walking tour of the Brooklyn Bridge to make the most of your visit. Tickets to the walking tour and Brooklyn Bridge bike tour or rentals are included with The New York Pass!
  • The 9/11 Memorial Museum is a separate building located at 180 Greenwich Street. The memorial pays tribute to the victims of the September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993 terrorist attacks in New York City. The museum documents these events with many exhibitions. 9/11 Memorial & Museum tickets are also included with The New York Pass.
  • Statue of Liberty National Monument: A gift from France in October 1886, the United States the Statue of Liberty became a national monument in 1924. Liberty Island, where the statue stands, is open every day except for December 25. You need to catch a ferry to see both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The latter is the place where most Americans can trace their ancestry as millions of people entered the United States through Ellis Island in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Statue of Liberty ferry and Ellis Island Immigration Museum tickets are included with The New York Pass.

Save on Admission

If you're looking for Empire State Building discount tickets, remember to can save on combined admission to the Empire State Building Observation Deck and over 90 other popular NYC attractions, including Top of the Rock Observatory, Big Bus Hop-On Hop-Off Tours, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises, Central Park Sightseeing Bike Tours & Rentals, and many more!

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King Kong Returns to the Empire State Building!

The Eighth Wonder of the World, a.ka. King Kong has returned to the Empire State Building. Not only is he the inspiration for a brand new Broadway show, but he’s also back where he belongs. The 86-year-old giant ape that first tormented the Big Apple in 1933 has returned with a vengeance in the form of an interactive exhibit at the iconic Empire State Building. Kong is a part of the new ESB museum that opened last week - a fun extension of the recently revealed tech-driven observatory entrance at 20 West 34th Street. Photo by: Empire State Building/Empire State Realty Trust How to see King Kong at the Empire State Building To experience Kong in all his glory, guests can enter a thirties era office designed in line with the building’s Art Deco sheen. The most unnerving aspect of this room are the broken windows showing two giant ape hands reaching into the building. King Kong himself peeps in through the window via a video installation as he climbs to the top of the skyscraper. The new museum is another exciting phase of the building’s $165 million renovations, which includes a new lighting ceremony installation and digital hosts. Work is expected to wrap up by the end of this year. In addition to the King Kong exhibit, the museum looks at the history and cultural impact of the 45th tallest building in the world. The Empire State Building has popped up in over 250 TV shows, and films: the building’s first appearance was in, you guessed it, King Kong. These two icons go way back. .embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; } The Museum Be sure to check out these immersive experience featured across its nine galleries. Admission tickets ensure access to the new second-floor immersive exhibits; as well as entry to the iconic 360-degree view open air Observatory: The Site in the 1920s Starting at its very beginning, black and white photos show the empty site of the original Waldorf Astoria Hotel before the skyscraper’s construction began. Through building surveyors, Guests can look in and see the New York City streets of the late 1920s come to life in full color. Construction Step into the past with moving photographs based on the work of Lewis Hine. Visitors can also interact with specially commissioned cast sculptures of construction workers as they work and take their lunch break. Modern Marvel Creating a safe space for the environment is precisely what the building aims to achieve. The Modern Marvel exhibit outlines the specific measures taken to make the Empire State Building a world leader in sustainability. Otis Elevators Otis Elevators designed the original elevators for the 102 floors. Walk through a simulation of an actual elevator shaft in this dedicated exhibit from Otis Elevators. It showcases not only how the original elevators operated, but the latest technology installed in the newest elevators. With more than 10 million tenants and Observatory Guests each year, these enduring machines are truly fascinating feats of engineering. Urban Campus Most visitors aren’t aware that the building houses tenants from airline offices to tourist boards. The Urban Campus display offers a glimpse into some of the significant tenant spaces, amenities, and hidden views of the building. World’s Most Famous Building An original score has been created especially for the exhibit. Guests are free to explore the space, surrounded by more than seventy screens displaying ESB’s starring role in pop culture. These have been sourced from every decade since the 1930s with movie posters and clips. King Kong Stroll into an office from the 1930s where the famous giant ape’s fingers reach through the walls. Just like the classic movie, he dangles from the building and dodges vintage bi-planes. Those feeling brave enough can step into Kong’s hands for the ultimate Instagram post. Celebrity Many famous faces from around the world have graced the windy observatory atop the ESB. This exhibit highlights some of the most-famous visitors (athletes, musicians, actors) to the attraction. Their images and signed memorabilia adorn the walls. Guests can stop to admire these as they head to the elevators that will take them to their next stop: NYC: Above & Beyond on the 80th Floor. The museum is open from 8 AM to 2 AM, seven days a week. Get down there and meet Kong for yourself! Need more inspiration on things to do in NYC? Step right this way.
Suz Pathmanathan

Beat The Heat in NYC This Summer

Summer is well and truly upon us, at once awesome and yet unbearable in its glory. There’s still a few months of sun left (fingers crossed) to explore all the wondrous delights that New York has on offer. But it’s also hot. Very, very hot. All those tall, glass, sky-scraping behemoths and streets paved with tarmac mean that NYC scorches like no other. Still, you’ll want to make the most of the sunshine before it skedaddles for another half year, so here are some of the best ways beat the heat in NYC this summer. Water is your friend, human Water is brilliant, isn’t it? Not only does it make up 70-odd percent of your flesh body, it’s also pretty neat to drink too. You should be drinking 2-3 liters a day, and that’s never truer than when the sun’s beating down. Your best bet is to carry a reusable bottle around with you. Not only can you fill it up at one of the many water fountains around, but you’ll also be super environmentally friendly. If only people had been as conscientious as you over the past century. Maybe things wouldn’t be so hot. Of course, if you’re already out with no water bottle of your own, you can pick one up from any number of shops and stands around town. Remember to stay hydrated on the subway too. Not all of them are air-conditioned, and the ones that aren’t can become a humid kind of hell. Dress to impress (your body's temperature) Dare to get those pasty legs out in a sundress or a pair of shorts. Freedom is key – anything tight or heavy is only going to make you sweat buckets. That’s not pleasant for you. Or for anyone else who might be within smell-shot. Are you brave enough to don a pair of sandals or flip flops too? O’ courageous one, we salute you. Or just run away from the sun Of course, if it all gets a bit much and you want to seek the safety of a beautifully air-conditioned building, there’s plenty of inside hilarity to be had too. Fancy a little culture to go with the cold air? There are museums aplenty. Looking for a little summer spending spree? Try the innumerable shops. Or if you’re starving, stop by a local restaurant and pray they have air-con. Ice cream, you scream, everybody screams As if you needed an excuse. What better way to beat the heat in NYC this summer than with the ice-cold, sugary delights of ice cream? You’re sure to find ice cream vans on most street corners, so go exploring. Vegans can even have their chilly tastebuds sated at one of the renowned Van Leeuwen shops around town. Just cruisin' Miss all of the hustle, bustle and blazing microclimate of the city by backflipping on to a boat. Sweet moves. If you’ve never seen the city by sea, then you haven’t even lived. There are plenty of options too. Take a Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise, and catch a glimpse of NYC’s iconic skyline with the glorious breeze running over you. Close your eyes and imagine it. Excellent. Or go say hi to Lady Liberty on the retro Shearwater Classic Schooner. Either way, you’re bound to beat the heat in style. Them’s just some of the ways to beat the heat in NYC this summer. If you're ready to take o New York armed with all of our tips, here are some of the best things to do this summer.
Dom Bewley
New York Skyline

Things to do in New York on Labor Day Weekend

Labor Day, the first Monday of September, the end of summer, and a national holiday celebrating America’s workers. With the festivities spread across the entire weekend, how will you celebrate yours? Luckily, there’s no shortage of things to do in The Big Apple on Labor Day weekend. Whether you’re a history buff looking for culture, a wild child looking to party the nights away, or just want a weekend getaway for a special family event, NYC is the place to be. Join the Parade If you’re playing Word Association, the next word that comes after Labor Day is... Parade! Cheer on the workers and union members as they parade down Fifth Avenue, or add a dash of spice as you soak in the party atmosphere watching the West Indian Day Parade in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Catch some live sports There are plenty of sporting events happening over the Labor Day weekend, with 2 of the biggest on your very doorstep. The US Open is a highlight of the Tennis calendar, where superstars from around the world compete in the world-class Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. New York and baseball are the perfect Labor Day combo. See what all the hype’s about by catching a Yankees or Mets home game. A baseball game can last anywhere from 1 to 8 hours, with an average of around 3, so block out at least half a day when making plans. If you’re there outside of game time, consider getting a behind-the-scenes look with a Yankee Stadium Guided Tour. If you can’t get to a live game, NYC is jam-packed with sports bars where you can watch many sports with a lively NY atmosphere. Check out Timeout’s list of the 16 best sports bars in NYC. Tick off an iconic museum or two There are so many incredible museums in New York City (approximately 100) that it can be a little overwhelming to choose where to go. Fear not, as we’ve listed some of the very best below. The American Museum of Natural History Made up of 26 interconnected buildings, and housing an expansive collection of over 34 million specimens of plants, fossils, and meteorites, this is the closest you’ll ever come to a time machine. Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) Named one of the most influential modern art museums in the world, lay eyes on some of the most iconic pieces by artists such as Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Salvador Dali, and Monet. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum Detailing the tragic events of September 11, 2001, this moving tribute ensures we never forget the lives lost, nor the resilience and indelible spirit of New York to endure, rebuild and flourish once again. Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum With 30 restored aircraft, a submarine, and a British Airways Concorde Jet alongside the USS Intrepid, history truly comes to life. From high-tech simulators to the torpedo rooms, a trip to the USS Intrepid will ensure it’s a Labor Day you’ll never forget. Enjoy NYC’s natural beauty If you don’t want to be stuck indoors this Labor Day, how about stretching your legs and exploring the more beautiful corners of the city? NYC has 14 miles of beaches, but some are prettier than others. Coney Island The most iconic would probably be Coney Island in Brooklyn, with the amusement park providing the perfect backdrop. Enjoy the adrenaline rush of the rides or just chill on the white sands. Both are great options. Manhattan Beach Also in Brooklyn, Manhattan Beach is perfect if you get bored just lying around. With basketball, tennis, volleyball, and handball courts, it’s fun for all the family. Main Beach Head to East Hampton for a little slice of heaven. Enjoy the last days of summer in style, lazing on the white sands in perfect harmony. There are no fairgrounds or sports nuts here... just beautiful tranquility. Other outdoor attractions If you’re no fan of sand, there are plenty of other options to get your nature fix. Central Park A trip to NYC wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the iconic Central Park. Only the fifth-largest park in the city, yet the most visited urban park in the whole United States. Take a two-hour guided bike tour before finding the perfect picnic spot to relax away your Labor Day. Governor’s Island Formerly a top-secret US Army base, Governor’s Island is now the perfect day-trip destination. Catching the ferry before noon ensures a free ride, and then spend the day cycling around, exploring the special events, and taking incredible shots of the iconic New York skyline. Kayak on the Hudson River Cycling too pedestrian for you? How about spending your Labor Day on the water, kayaking up the Hudson River? If you want an adventure holiday weekend, add some standup paddle boarding or sailing to complete the perfect trip. Finish your day with fireworks The fireworks show is a superb end to the Labor Day weekend, but New York can get crowded. You need to know the best spots to get a magnificent view of the light show. A rooftop bar near the Hudson River or Brooklyn Bridge would be our first choice. Elevated for a panoramic view, a great party atmosphere, and you continue your celebrations without changing seats. Before you travel, do a quick search for ‘labor day rooftop party’ to find the hottest locations. Coney Island gets another mention on this list, but this time as a prime location for viewing the show. On a clear night, you’ll get breathtaking views of the fireworks over the NY skyline. However you choose to spend your Labor Day weekend, New York is the dream location.
Adam Fraiel

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