Nothing screams New York like the Empire State Building.
It’s iconic. It’s appeared in countless films, books, songs… It’s become an emblem of New York as much as the Statue of Liberty or Brooklyn Bridge.
But fame means big crowds and high ticket prices. So how do you go about making the most out of a visit to New York’s world-famous skyscraper?
TIP 1: VISIT THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING
I always like to visit the places that don’t cost any money: parks, beaches, hiking trails, city streets, and some museums and galleries. But sometimes, you just have to spend a little. After all, if you travel the world and spend absolutely nothing, there are a lot of sights you’ll probably miss.
In New York, the Empire State Building is one of them.
There is a case for visiting other buildings instead. The Rockerfeller Center isn’t far away, and the One World Center is certainly taller. Personally, though, I’ve always been a fan of the classics.
So I went for the Empire State Building, and spent the whole time I was up there imagining a mix-up of King Kong, An Affair to Remember, Sleepless in Seattle, Enchanted, and that episode of Doctor Who.
TIP 2: GET THERE EARLY
I had originally planned to visit it at 11am. The 3 hour wait made me change my mind.
Instead, I went on the following day.
The Empire State Building opens at 8am. Get there for 7:30am and the queue is fairly short. Ok, so you still have to wait for the building to open, but you should be able to wait inside for at least some of that time. And when I did it, I’d bought my ticket and was listening to the audioguide by 8:05am.
I’ll take a 35 minute wait over a 3 hour one any day! And good things are worth the wait.
TIP 3: DECIDE WHICH FLOOR TO VISIT BEFORE YOU GET THERE
There are 2 options: the 86th floor alone or the 86th floor + the 102nd.
Visiting the 86th floor is $32, whereas visiting both floors is $52.
Floor 86 is the iconic one, the one that’s in all the films. There’s the inside viewing platform and the outside observation deck. You can see for miles, and if you’re there early on a winter morning, you can watch the sun rise over the Manhattan skyline.
The view from Floor 86:
But Floor 102 – well, it’s an experience, isn’t it? Ok, so the view may not be radically different to the view from Floor 86, but if you go all the way, there’s a definite feeling of being up on top of the world.
The top of the Empire State Building is actually a gigantic spire., and it’s this that you’re standing in if you choose to visit Floor 102. Despite urban myths that this spire was originally planned as a docking point for zeppelins, it was actually only put there to make sure that the Empire State beat the nearby Chrysler Building in the race to become the tallest building in the world.
On Floor 102, you’re so high up that your view is affected by the curvature of the earth. This means that even buildings which are taller than the Empire State (buildings like the One World Center in Lower Manhattan) seem shorter. It really does feel as though you’re looking down from te sky.
And when I say ‘feel’, I also mean that literally. If you stand on the 102nd floor and close your eyes, you’d swear you could feel the building swaying in the rushing winds.
As with Floor 86, if you get there early, the top floor isn’t particularly busy, which means that you can have a leisurely look out at the Manhattan skyline without worrying about the little room filling up.
The view from Floor 102:
TIP 4: GET THE AUDIOGUIDE
It’s free, so why wouldn’t you get one?
Despite this, I saw a few people refusing them. Don’t.
I had some great free audioguides during my trip to New York, but this was the only one that contained videos (including terrifying footage of builders and engineers clambering about on steel girders high above the skyline) and interactive quizzes. It’s also useful for all the important dates about the construction of the tower. And once you actually get up to the top of the building, it shows you what you can see in the city as you gaze out from your lofty perch.
TIP 5: TAKE A CAMERA
This is a must have for the Empire State Building. After all – it’s an incredible view!