At 102 stories and 1,454 feet tall, the Empire State Building is one of the most famous and recognizable skyscrapers in the world. Over 4 million people visit its observatories each year to take in the breathtaking 360-degree views of New York City and beyond from the 86th and 102nd floors.
But before you head uptown to visit this Art Deco landmark, it’s important to know the Empire State Building’s hours of operation, ticket pricing, and other key details to make the most of your visit.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about visiting the Empire State Building, including:
- Empire State Building hours and best times to visit
- Purchasing tickets in advance vs. on-site
- Security and prohibited items
- Observatories and views from the 86th and 102nd floors
- Tips for taking photos during your visit
- Getting there – subway, parking, directions
- Accessibility for visitors with disabilities
- FAQs about tickets, lost items, wedding proposals, and more
Let’s get started with an overview of the Empire State Building’s open hours and the best times to visit this world-famous NYC attraction.
Empire State Building Hours of Operation
The Empire State Building is open daily with hours that vary by season:
- Winter Hours:
- January to mid-February: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., last elevators go up at 8:15 p.m.
- Spring Hours:
- Mid-February to March: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., last elevators at 9:15 p.m.
- Summer Hours:
- March to March: 8 a.m. to 12 a.m., last elevators at 11:15 p.m.
- Fall Hours:
- April to December: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., last elevators at 10:15 p.m.
As you can see, hours are extended during the busy spring and summer seasons when visitor demand is highest. It’s recommended to check the website for updated hours if visiting around a season change.
The best times to visit to avoid long ticket and elevator lines are:
- First thing in the morning when it opens
- Late nights in spring/summer months
- Anytime during the last 1-2 hours before closing
Avoid visiting in the middle of the day or immediately after sunset when it’s busiest.
Buy Tickets in Advance Online
Purchasing timed entry tickets in advance online is highly recommended as it allows you to skip the long ticket office lines. You’ll be able to go right up to the security entrance.
Tickets start at $46 for adults and $40 for children for the 86th floor observatory. The premium 102nd floor observatory tickets are $76 adults and $70 children.
Other money-saving ticket options include:
- Express tickets – Skip all lines including security with exclusive VIP access
- CityPass – Save 40% on combined admission to 6 NYC attractions
- Night tickets – After 8 p.m. admission
- Packages like proposal and weddings
You can purchase tickets on the Empire State Building’s website, on third-party sites, or in person at the ticket office if needed. Allow at least 1-2 hours for your visit.
What to Expect When Visiting
Here are some key things to know about what to expect when visiting:
- There is an airport-style security checkpoint where bags are screened and you walk through a metal detector.
- Prohibited items like weapons, glass bottles, and tripods are not allowed.
- The 86th floor observatory has both indoor and outdoor decks.
- The newer 102nd floor observatory is smaller with floor-to-ceiling viewing windows.
- Restrooms are located only on the 86th floor.
- Visitors take elevators to reach the observatories.
- Strollers must be folded, but wheelchairs can access all areas.
- No tripods are allowed, but selfie sticks and handheld cameras are permitted.
- Professional photographers take souvenir photos that can be purchased online after your visit.
- The gift shop on the 2nd floor sells branded merchandise.
- An additional gift shop is located on the 80th floor.
Now that you know what to expect, let’s go over some tips for having the best experience when visiting the iconic Empire State Building.
Tips for Visiting the Empire State Building
Follow these tips to make the most of your visit:
- Purchase tickets online in advance – This allows you to skip long ticket office lines
- Arrive early or late – Avoid the midday rush by visiting first thing in the morning when it opens or in the late evening shortly before closing time
- Watch the weather – Opt for a clear day for the best outdoor views from the 86th floor deck
- Dress appropriately – Bring a light jacket or sweater even on summer days since it’s cooler on the upper decks
- Limit bags/items – Don’t bring unnecessary bags and items to speed up the security screening process
- Bring your camera – Capture incredible views and memories with your camera and/or smartphone
- Share photos on social media – Post your pictures on sites like Instagram and tag the Empire State Building @empirestatebldg to showcase your experience
Planning ahead helps maximize your time enjoying the views rather than waiting in lines. Now let’s look at how to get to this famous New York City landmark.
Getting There: Parking, Subway, Directions
The Empire State Building is located at 350 Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan.
By Subway: Take the B, D, F, M, N, Q, R, or W trains to 34th Street-Herald Square.
By Bus: Take the M1, M2, M3, M4, M5, M6, M7, or M55 buses to 5th Avenue.
By Car: Parking garages are available on 33rd Street. Use GPS or follow directions to 350 Fifth Avenue.
Walking: The Empire State Building is conveniently located only a few blocks from main attractions like Times Square and Macy’s Herald Square.
Once you arrive, visitors enter through the lobby at 20 West 34th Street. Follow signs to the ticket office, security checkpoint, and elevator banks.
The Empire State Building also has fully wheelchair-accessible observatories and restrooms. Service animals are permitted throughout the building.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some common FAQs about visiting the Empire State Building:
What’s the best time to visit? The least crowded times are first thing in the morning when it opens or in the evening shortly before closing time. Avoid midday and right after sunset when it’s busiest.
How long is the visit? Plan to spend 1-2 hours including time for security, ticket lines, elevators, observatory viewing, gift shop, and taking photos. Express tickets can shorten the time needed.
Can I store bags? No, there are no storage lockers so limit what you bring to essentials only.
Can I take photos? Yes, selfie sticks and handheld cameras/phones are permitted, but tripods are prohibited.
Is there parking? Yes, garages located on 33rd Street provide parking. Public transportation is also very convenient.
Can I buy tickets on site? You can purchase entry tickets at kiosks inside, but lines can be over an hour long. Buying timed tickets online in advance is highly recommended.
Experience Top Views of NYC
A visit to the Empire State Building’s observatories is an absolute must for both first-time NYC visitors and lifelong New Yorkers alike. With handy tips on tickets, hours, transportation, and planning, you can focus on marveling at the breathtaking views.
From stunning panoramas looking straight down Fifth Avenue to views of landmarks like Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, and One World Trade Center, it’s a one-of-a-kind sightseeing experience. Go from sunrise to sunset and see the city transform before your eyes during your visit.
The Empire State Building’s status as a time-honored icon and the views themselves will take your breath away and create lasting memories.
What time can you visit the Empire State Building?
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Is the 102 floor worth it?