The Empire State Building is one of the best-known landmarks of New York City. It’s an instantly recognisable symbol that’s graced the NYC skyline since 1931. It is popular, but don’t for a moment think it’s too popular, and just another tourist attraction. It is a right of passage for any visitor to New York. As a tour guide here in the city, I travel by the Empire State daily, and have been in it many, many times – so I’m very well versed on the reasons why you must visit the Empire Building:
At 102 stories tall, the Empire State Building has dominated the view of the city, and indeed the itineraries of visitors for 86 years. From the observation deck, you can see an incredible view of New York – and on a clear day, you can see for miles, including views of up to five states.
The classic and iconic Empire State Building, New York City. Credit- Unsplash, @BenDumond
Go up the Empire State Building on a clear day
If you are in town for a few days, pick the first clear day and go! If it’s cloudy, you won’t see much at all, sadly. So don’t delay. Head straight there when the skies are clear. It is open from first thing until the early hours of the morning, 365 days per year. I absolutely love going up for sunrise, or for sunset. It makes for an even more special visit. As well as being a quieter experience – it is the perfect start or end to your day.
A spectacular sunset from the Empire State Building. Credit- Unsplash @johannesgh
Magnificent Art Deco Lobby
There is more to this building than the view, however. It is an Art Deco masterpiece. There’s a newly renovated three-story art deco lobby that transports me back to the 1930s each time I go there. You can also take advantage of the exhibits the building hosts. The Dare to Dream exhibit on the 80th floor charts the construction of the skyscraper, and pays homage to the pioneers who brought the Empire State Building to life – from the architects to the builders and laborers. Before you get to the lifts, you’ll find a fascinating exhibit on sustainability and the retrofit that the Empire State underwent from 2009 onwards – proving that the building is a landmark, as well as an example to all of us when it comes to efficiency and our impact on our environment.
We should put more images of the inside of the building here. But. Can’t. Stop. Admiring. The. Outside. Credit- Unsplash @bsuggie
86th Floor Observatory
Of course, the main reason we all visit is the 86th floor observatory - the highest open-air observation deck in the city. The deck hugs the entire building, so you can make your way around 360 degrees, looking for all the main landmarks of the city. My personal advice is to do a hop on, hop off bus tour of New York when you arrive to get your bearings, and to chalk up glimpses of all the sights. Then, catch a ride to the Empire State (it’s also a stop on our Gray Line New York hop on, hop off tours) to get a glorious view of those favourite NYC landmarks, only this time you will be one quarter of a mile up! Central Park, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge all look incredible from the Empire State Building. I have been lucky enough to see this view several times, and I never tire of it.
There are other buildings with observations decks – like Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller and the One World Observatory, but the atmosphere of the Empire State just cannot be beaten, in my opinion. They are definitely worth a visit however – especially considering it is from there you’ll get a good view of the Empire State Building itself.
The view of the Empire State Building from the Rockefeller Center Credit- Unsplash @jonathan_christian_photography
So – make sure the Empire State Building is on your NYC itinerary. My top tips would be to give yourself around two hours to fully experience everything it has to offer. And, make sure you purchase the Free Style New York Pass – you’ll get unlimited use of our Hop On, Hop Off bus tours for 72 hours, as well as access to three attractions – one of which could be the Empire State Building. Purchasing this in advance means you won’t need to stand in line for tickets when you arrive. It’s a win, win.
Enjoy! I guarantee the Empire State Building and New York will live long in your memories!