Must do or tourist trap?

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by tvordj on May 16, 2013

The Empire State Building may not be as instantly recognizable as the Statue of Liberty but it's equally as famous. In fact, the building itself is not one of the more beautiful in the city. It's nice, yes but the nearby Chrysler is nicer but the views from the 86th and 102nd floor observation decks more than make up for it. There are some lovely Art Deco details through the interior, especially in the lobby.

The higher deck is entirely glassed in and it costs more to go there. There's an exhibit on the history of the buildinng on the 80th floor and you can go up to the decks from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. The view of the city at night would be equally spectacular. Due to high crowding, the early morning or later evening hours are going to be the best times to go. It's open every day and there are ramps and elevators.

We were told that when it's busy you can expect 3 hour waits and I can well believe it. We waited an hour arriving at 10:15 a.m. and the crowds were lined up outside the building onto Fifth Ave. when we left around noon. Mostly the lines move well but if you can get your tickets ahead of time or use a pass, that will help. You can also pay nearly double to go through express lines. I don't know if it's worth it unless you were going to be there in the heaviest visiting times. We used the New York Explorer pass but it didn't save us much time as we still had to have it scanned at the ticket counters.

It is a bit of a tourist trap and if you're claustrophobic in crowds it probably isn't for you. the 86th floor deck is not that wide so it's a crush of people. There isn't a cafe but there is a gift shop. There are plenty of places to eat and drink in the lobby and on Fifth Ave.

Here's how it goes: Queue to go through a security scan. Queue for the tickets if you don't have one yet. Queue for the elevator to the 80th floor. Queue for the elevator to the 86th or 102nd floor. You can take the steps from the 80th to 86th if you have the energy.

Bus to 33rd street or the subway to 34th/Herald Square. The ESB is on 34th and 5th ave.

General admission is $25 for the 86th floor, $42 for the 102nd. There are discounts for seniors and children. The express passes are almost double.
Empire State Building
350 Fifth Avenue at 34th Street
New York, 10118
(212) 736-3100

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