It's Time to Get in a State

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by tartlette on September 10, 2009

This year Mr Tart and myself found ourselves in New York (well, I mean we had planned to be there!). I’d been a couple of times before but Mr Tart had never been so I designated the Empire State Building (ESB) as a must see.


The ESB was built in 1930. At the time it was the world’s tallest building and it is still up there in the tallest buildings list (currently number 15). The ESB is 1472 ft tall (if you include the antenna) and there are 102 floors.


Ok so you may have guessed that the ESB is in New York City! It is at 350 5th Avenue and the intersection with 34th Street. Trust me you can’t miss it! The nearest subway station is 34th Street/Penn.


The ESB is one of America’s most visited attractions so it’s never going to be that cheap to visit. The visit costs $20 for adults and $14 for children (under 5s go free). If you are over 62 then it costs $18. If you want to do the audio tour as well then it costs an extra $8. There is also an option to buy the express pass which means that you skip the queues but this is a whopping $45! You can also pay an extra $15 to go up to the 102nd floor observation deck (the normal price gets you to the 86th), but you can only buy these once you are at the ESB.


The ESB is open every day (yes including Christmas Day). It is open from 8am to 2am every day.


We had booked our tickets on the ESB website. We (foolishly as it turned out) thought that this would save us lots of queuing time when we got there. Not to be. If you haven’t bought the express pass, be prepared to queue…..a lot…..I mean really a lot!

We got to the ESB about 10am. The queue went all the way round to 33rd Street. Mr Tart made a lot of ‘this better be worth it’ noises. I told him firmly that it was worth it, I promise! After about half an hour we managed to get to the entrance. Yes, you did hear that right! Oh well, the time outside was useful for writing postcards….! Once inside the building you go up an escalator to join queue number two.

Yes, there is a theme developing which you may notice throughout this review. Queue number two is the one for security, which is fair enough. Then you get to join queue number three (you lucky things). However, we managed to avoid queue number three as it is the ticket queue and we’d booked online. We were slightly annoyed though as it looked like the world and his wife had booked online and only a handful were buying their tickets on the day! So, bring on queue number four! This one was to have your picture taken in front of a delightful screen, upon which they would later superimpose you onto the ESB. Oh the joy! OK, so I know I’m sounding like a very moaning Minnie but enough of the queues already! I think it would have been better if they had had a queue for those who wanted the picture and those who didn’t. I would never buy those pictures anyway as they are such a rip off!

Ready for it – queue number six is up! This queue is the one to get into the lift to actually go up the tower. There are a few lifts so this queue wasn’t too long. In all it took us about an hour and a half to get this far. Mr Tart was getting grouchy (luckily I brought food and water so that kept him calm!). In this queue there were at least some information boards to tell you a little bit more about the ESB, which kept us happy.

The lifts are scarily fast. The go up to the 86th floor in about one minute. I really had that feeling of my stomach going! Once you reach the 86th floor you head out onto the observation deck. Once outside, you really do forget all the queues, it is completely breathtaking. You can see all of New York laid out below you.

We spent about 30 minutes up the tower. It’s a lot of queuing and quite a lot of money for a relatively short amount of time but it’s still worth it. We really enjoyed spotting places that we’d been to and places that we’d seen on TV. We could see the Statue of Liberty, the Chrysler Building, Central Park and the Flat Iron building. You can spend quite a while looking at all the buildings and just watching the people and taxis going about their business below. The observation deck has a concrete rail which comes to chest height and then there are metal bars stopping anyone trying to climb over (it has happened in the past). The bars are criss-crossed and not too close together so it doesn’t obscure the view at all. It does mean that there is the distinct possibility of dropping something through them so make sure that you use the strap on your camera to stop you losing it (and possibly doing some damage to the people below!).

Also on this level there are telescopes so that you can use to look at the sights, so if you want to use these remember to take some coins with you. There are also signs up telling you what you are looking at.

The observation deck was quite busy but it didn’t take long to get to the edge so that we could do the photograph thing. People will generally move along fairly quickly.

Another thing to note is that it is a good idea to take a jacket if it’s not the absolute height of summer. We were there in April and it was quite warm at the bottom but it was absolutely freezing at the top of the tower where the structure was blocking the sun and the wind can be pretty fierce as well. The observatory deck does have an indoor, glass fronted middle which is great if you’re not so good with heights. This level is wheelchair accessible as well.

There is also a shop in the building, surprise, surprise. The shop sells a lot of ESB and general New York souvenirs. They were generally overpriced and we didn’t stop to buy anything.

I think next time I would try to go up the ESB near to sunset so that I could see New York laid out at night time as all the lights are supposed to be amazing. The Building itself is lit up every night. On the ESB website there is a lighting schedule because they light it different colours on different days (e.g. red, white and blue on US holidays).


I don’t really think you can go to New York City and not go up the Empire State. It really is the most amazing view. Ok so the queues can be unbelievable but it is worth it. Mr Tart was moaning when we were queuing but he was really glad that we’d made the effort to go up in the end. It’s not cheap either, but again I do think it’s worth the cost.

Empire State Building
350 Fifth Avenue at 34th Street
New York, 10118
(212) 736-3100

© LP 2000-2009