NYC Empire State Building – 5 Tips

If you’re traveling to the Big Apple, visiting the NYC Empire State Building is a MUST! Completed in 1931 at record speed (13 months), it was the tallest building in the world until 1970.

View of the NYC Empire State Building from Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center. ESB is in the center with shorter buildings all around. Sky is very blue.
20 W 34th St., New York, NY 10001

This iconic skyscraper is located at the corner of 34th Street and 5th Avenue. But you can catch a glimpse of the NYC Empire State Building from all over Manhattan.

East River in the foreground, NYC Empire State Building nested among a sea of buildings. Cloudy skies.

Observatory visitors enter the building through a special entrance on 34th Street.

1. Buy Tickets in Advance

The Empire State Building uses a timed entry system. So I recommend buying tickets and reserving your time before your trip. It lets you better plan your trip and is one less thing you don’t have to deal with when you arrive.

Plaque of the NYC Empire State Building showing that tickets, restrooms, exhibits and gift shop are on floor 2. The 80th floor has view, exhibits, and restrooms. Th 86th floor has view and restrooms. 102nd floor has upgraded view.

I’ve been to the NYC Empire State Building twice. Both times, I bought tickets through TripAdvisor. I chose this site because the cancellation policy was flexible. In addition, they let me change the day of my first visit due to fog.

Photo looking up at the NYC Empire State Building with fog around the top of the building.

2. Don’t Rush

I recommend allowing at LEAST 2 hours to make the most of your visit to the Empire State Building. Why? This building offers much more than just great views.

View of NYC with buildings and the Hudson River from the ESB Observatory. Blue sky with clouds.

On the 2nd floor, guests can enjoy several interactive displays. Immersive exhibits include a replica elevator.

Inside a replica elevator with wooden walls and metal gate at the NYC Empire State Building

Visitors can also experience construction history and learn about the brave workers who balanced high in the sky to complete ESB.

Video walls showing construction of the Empire State Building.

Keep your phone handy because there are several good spots inside for photos. Guests can take pictures in the grip of King Kong.

Replica of King Kong's hand reaching in a faux window with a video screen showing King Kong looking in.

Or stand alongside the hardworking riveters.

Metal statues of riveters working on a steal beam in the exhibit area of the NYC Empire State Building

There is more to see on the 80th floor, including items from Empire State Building through the years.

Envelope from 1942 from the National Bank of New York Havana Branch to the BVD Corporation in the Empire State Buidling

And finally, what you came to see. The outdoor observation deck on the 86th floor is fantastic! Seeing NYC from this bird’s eye view is so much fun! For an additional fee, visitors can go to a 360-degree glass viewing area on the 102nd floor.

View from the Observatory of the ESB showing a sea of buildings in Lower Manhattan with blue skys.

3. Walk to the NYC Empire State Building

Getting to the NYC Empire State Building is half the fun! So I suggest starting at the Flat Iron Building. Then, walk down 5th Avenue to the Empire State Building.

View of the Flat Iron building from the sidewalk. Yellow umbrellas are on the left. Sky is very blue.

The Flat Iron building is on Madison Square – a great place to stop and look around. Don’t miss the sidewalk clock, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

View of the Flat Iron Building from the NYC Empire State Building observatory. The Flat Iron building is surrounded by other buildings and Madison Square Park.

There are several other historic buildings surrounding the square. The New York Life Building and the Met Life Building are here,

View looking up of the Met Life Tower in Madison Square in NYC.
Met Life Tower

The walk from Madison Square to ESB is about a 1/2 mile along 5th Avenue. As a bonus, you can get great pictures of the Empire State Building along the way.

View looking up 5th Avenue at the NYC Empire State Building. Buildings line the sidewalk.
Walking up 5th Avenue

4. Be Patient

Visiting the Empire State Building is a must-see on a trip to the Big Apple. However, many other people think so, too. So plan to be a little patient.

Observatory at the top of NYC Empire State Building with fencing along the rain and windows along side building

There are several locations at this attraction where you may end up waiting in line. Some are optional, like pictures of the model ESB or with King Kong.

Model Empire State Building from inside the building with stairs on either side of the model

However, some lines are not optional. You may encounter lines at the entrance, for security screening, for the elevator to the 80th floor, for the elevator to the 86th floor, and both elevator rides back down again. 

Line of people waiting to go up to the top of the Empire State Building

5. Don’t Fret the Elevator

Elevator rides in tall buildings make me a little nervous. But I learned there was no need to feel worried about that long ride up to the 80th floor.

Elevator doors in the  NYC Empire State Building

Good news! It only takes about a minute, and you can’t really feel the movement. 

The best part is the show! The ceiling comes alive during the ride. So you’re at the top before you know it.

Video screen on the ceiling of the ESB showing a view looking up during construction.

The NYC Empire State Building is stunning both inside and out. And, of course, the views are sensational. With the art deco design and immersive exhibits, this is one place you’ll want to visit again and again.

Check out New York City Vacation (3.5 Days)!

Wall inside the Empire State Building showing a  replica of the building

2 thoughts on “NYC Empire State Building – 5 Tips”

  1. I used to walk past by the ESB almost everyday .. never paid serious attention to TBH. After reading your post, I feel like I should pay a visit now. Thank you.

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