Insider's Guide To Visiting the Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is one of the world’s most famous skyscrapers, standing for 40 years as the tallest, and continuing to be a cultural icon that draws about four million tourists each year. It is open earlier and later than many other attractions in NYC so it’s a good way to begin or end your day. The 86th Floor Open-Air Observatory Deck remains the most awe-inspiring experience as it wraps around the entire spire.Here is a place everyone wants to visit, but nobody wants to be overwhelmed by the seemingly endless crowding so we’re here to help you sort through some details before you head out!

When Should You Go?

  • Go between 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM in the summer months for shorter lines.
  • Go in the middle of Winter for much shorter lines but gorgeous winter sunsets or crisp blue skies.
  • Go after 9:00 PM and you will also avoid peak crowds. The last elevator ascends at 1:15 AM.
  • Go in the late afternoon and stay into the evening to enjoy both day and nighttime views.
  • Go on Thursday, Friday or Saturday between 9:30 PM and Midnight for live music during the summer.
  • Go when it is not a holiday or weekend to avoid dense crowds.
  • Go during meal times. While everyone else is chowing down you can enjoy the extra elbow room.
  • And if you’re happy to mingle and mix with lots of people, go any time at all!

Is there Parking?

Hopefully you won’t bring your car, but if you do, use an APP such as SpotAngels or ParkWhiz to find a place to park. The Empire State Building’s website has a nice walking map from various places in the city.

Is there anything else to do in addition to the Observatory?

  • The iconic Empire State Building has undergone massive renovations over the past four years and in 2019 opened an additional Observatory on the 102nd floor with floor to ceiling windows promising spectacular, second-to-none views of the entire city. Enter through the new entrance on 34th Street into the restored lobby with stunning art deco ceiling murals and the new Dare to Dream Exhibit that chronicles the amazing original construction of the building in just 13 months.
  • The 2nd floor is now a series of exhibits and galleries showcasing everything from the original construction to the famous Otis Elevators to a life-size King Kong replica clinging to the building.
  • An interactive multimedia tour is now included with ticket purchase. Download the APP for free or connect via the onsite free Wi-Fi. It is available in nine languages.

More Tips to Make Your Day

  • The VIP Express Pass allows you to skip all the lines (except security) and zip along to the front enroute to the 86th floor. Only a limited number are sold to ensure your wait is no longer than seven minutes. This pass is especially recommended for holidays and long weekends.
  • While new kiosks have made last minute ticket purchases faster, it’s still considerably easier to purchase them online in advance.
  • Be prepared to stand in a security checkpoint line, much like at the airports. Bring as little as possible with you and definitely do not bring anything that could be construed as a weapon, or anything made with glass. Bring your camera but not your tripod.
  • Keep kids entertained and prepared by using the Empire State Building’s suggestions. Best suited for kids starting in 3rd grade, many activities can be adapted for younger children. Bring a small toy or coloring book.
  • Expect longer lines in the summer months. Expect colder air out on the Observation Deck in the winter months! Dress appropriately…wear sunscreen and light jacket or sweater in the summer because the wind up there on the deck can be piercing. In cold weather, a jacket, hat and gloves are recommended.
  • Open 365 days, 8AM to 2 AM. This means almost all the time. In addition, a new Sunrise Experience means you can pay extra and go even earlier on select dates.