Empire State Building 86th floor observatory

You have seen it in countless movies and TV shows, most notably Sleepless in Seattle, An Affair to Remember, and Elf (over 250 productions have filmed here!). Now enjoy the jaw dropping views for yourself. A longtime New York City icon, you cannot visit Manhattan for the first time without enjoying the once in a lifetime city scenery via the Empire State Building. If you have just a weekend in NYC, be sure to add this iconic sight to your bucket list!

Scenic views of New York via the Empire State building observatory

How tall is the Empire State building?

At 1250 feet tall and 102 stories, the Empire state building was once the world’s largest building. It held onto this title until 1970 when the 1368 foot tall World Trade Center went up. The One World Trade Center, which replaced the Twin Towers in 2014, is now the tallest building (1776 feet) in the US, as well as the 7th tallest in the world. Check out this list of the 17 tallest buildings in the world as of early 2020.

Despite its’ dropping in the world rankings (as more and more magnificent skyscrapers were built across the world), the Empire State Building still comes in as one of the top 5 tallest in the US. Some of the most scenic cityscapes you will ever come across in any US city will be via the Empire State overlook. It really is one for the New York bucket list. While Top of the Rock and One World Observatory are also highly regarded, the Empire State experience really is an iconic, not-to-be-missed attraction.

86th vs. 102nd floor

Amazing views via the 86th floor of the Empire State building

When purchasing your tickets, you will have the option between purchasing tickets to the 86th or 102nd floor overlook. The view will be a bit more extensive from the 102nd floor, however, keep in mind that the cost also goes up. In my opinion, the views from the 86th floor are mesmerizing enough that you do not need to pay the upcharge. The night/day combo, on the other hand is a different story, as you will want to enjoy the wonderful cityscape view in both settings.

Daytime vs. nighttime views

CLose up city view via the Empire State building 86th floor observatory

For the best of both worlds you will want to buy the combo ticket which includes both daytime and nighttime admission. As the ticket is just 20 bucks more, you really cannot pass this one up. Daytime offers the perfect opportunity to take picture-perfect photography, while night time offers a more romantic date night type ambiance. Both are great, it just depends on what you are looking for. If you are limited on time, choose the daytime ticket as you will see more, plus get better photos. Photography and architecture buffs will likely want to make room for the combo ticket as a NYC priority.

A few gorgeous daytime views via the 86th floor

A cool street view of NYC via the Empire State building 86th floor observatory
NYC street view via the Empire State building
Gorgeous city scenery via the 86th floor of the Empire State building in NYC
Beautiful scenery via the 86th floor observatory of the Empire State building
Scenic city vistas via the 86th floor observatory of the Empire State building in NYC
Statue of Liberty in the distance via the Empire State building 86th floor observatory
Amazing city scenery via the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building
Fabulous cityscape via the 86th floor of the Empire State Building

Best time to visit

As one of New York’s top sightseeing attractions, the Empire State Building is typically pretty crowded. Outside of the extremely busy holiday period, mid-late winter is the least crowded time to visit. Be prepared for possible extreme cold and wind conditions. However, it’s worth braving the cold to skip all the insane summer lines. On some days, the line goes out the building and all the way down the block!

Pricing & Hours

Tickets are $42 per adult, $40 per senior, and $36 per child for the 2nd floor museum and the 86th floor observatory. For $72 per adult, $66 per child, and $70 per senior, your ticket will include admission to the 2nd floor museum, the 86th floor observation deck, plus a glass elevator ride up to the 102nd floor.

Open 8am-2am, 365 days of the year.

Tips for a great visit

Beautiful cityscape views via the 86th floor observatory of the Empire state building

*Be sure to check the weather forecast and plan for a clear day, if possible. You do not want to pay all that money and be dissapointed with less-than-ideal overcast skies. On a clear day, you can see the Statue of Liberty!

Beautiful view of the Statue of Liberty via the Empire State building observation deck

*Prepare for extreme weather conditions. In the winter, expect cold and windy conditions. In the summer, be prepared for intense heat and humidity.

*Know that you will have to pass a security checkpoint. If possible, leave any backpacks, big purses at your hotel.

*Check Groupon for special deals. Also, if you plan on visiting several attractions, consider purchasing a NY pass which will pay for itself after just a few museums/attractions.

What to do nearby (within a 1/2 mile or so…)

Times Square in NYC

There’s lots to do in this area, being located in the touristy Midtown section of the city.

  • Times Square – Cheesy and overcrowded, but you have to see all the crazy ads and bright lights at least once!
  • Madison Square Garden – See the Knicks play or schedule an all access tour.
  • Bryant Park – Beautiful place to take a walk or relax. In the winter, check out New York’s only free ice skating rink.
  • Macy’s on Herald Square – One of the world’s largest department stores.
  • NY Public Library – Explore this beautiful Beaux-Arts style building via a self guided tour. Note to movie fantastics – several Ghostbusters scenes filmed here!

What to eat nearby

Plain cheese pizza at NY Pizza Suprema

There are a handful of decent restaurants in the vicinity. The best option for anyone who wants to try some authentic NY style pizza is NY pizza Suprema. This family-run business has been in the city for over 60 years and is one of only 4 to be honored by the Ellis Island museum. They offer pizza by the slice as well as whole pies. Although you can never go wrong with plain cheese, they offer more than 2 dozen creative pies, with both carnivore-heavy and vegan options available.