Inside Empire State Building – what to expect on a tour

Explore the heart of New York with a visit to the iconic Empire State Building, a must-see on your vacation. 

Discover the fascinating world inside this historic building by going beyond its stunning observatories. 

Let’s delve into what awaits you during your Empire State Building tour.

Can you go inside the Empire State Building?

Absolutely! Dive into the heart of the Empire State Building, whether you’re a local or a visitor. 

As a tourist, you can explore the building even if you’re not working in its many offices. 

Feel free to wander through the lobby without purchasing tickets – an opportunity to experience a piece of history. 

The Empire State Building’s lobby is an esteemed historic landmark recognized by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

However, if you crave the spectacular views from the 86th and 102nd floors or wish to explore other exhibits, you’ll need to grab your Empire State Building tickets. 

The attraction offers four distinct experiences, with the Standard and Express tickets being the crowd favorites. 

Get ready for an unforgettable journey into the heart of this iconic New York landmark!

Empire State Building’s entrance

Empire State Building’s entrance
Image: Academic-accelerator.com

As of late 2018, everyone visiting the observatories and the building’s tenants had to use the entrance on 350 Fifth Avenue, which was a bit inconvenient.

Now, if you’re a tourist heading to the observatories, you’ll enter the Empire State Building through the 20 West 34th Street entrance. 

This new entrance ensures a smoother and more convenient experience for visitors exploring the Observation decks.

If you plan to see the Empire State Building, take a 60-minute Statue of Liberty cruise, and visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The New York Digital Pass is here to cover everything.

Plus, it comes with a 10% discount code that you can use up to five times for future purchases.

It makes your New York adventures even more budget-friendly!

Empire State Building tickets

When it comes to Empire State Building tickets, there are four options for you:

Standard Ticket

It’s the most affordable and widely chosen way to enter.

Booking it online lets you skip the ticket counter lines and stroll right into the building.

You also have the flexibility to pick the time of day that suits your visit. 

Enjoy convenience without breaking the bank!

Adult Ticket (13 to 61 years): $48 to $51
Seniors Ticket (62+ years): $46 to $49
Child Ticket (6 to 12 years): $41 to $45
Infant Ticket (up to 5 years): Free

Express Ticket 

Opt for the Express Ticket for a premium Empire State Building experience:

Skip the lines at the ticket counter, security check, and elevator queues – a hassle-free entry.

Priced at $87 for visitors above six years old, it ensures a swift and luxurious journey.

Enjoy the flexibility to choose the time that suits you, ensuring a seamless and efficient visit to this iconic New York landmark.

General Admission (6+ years): $91
Infant Ticket (up to 5 years): Free

Sunrise Tickets

Sunrise Tickets
Image: Esrtreit.com

For those with time and budget flexibility, consider the Sunrise Tickets.

Exclusive to sunrise visits, this ticket lets you witness New York’s dazzling lights, experience the sunrise, and explore the city in full daylight.

Price: $147 for all visitors.

All-Access Ticket

Dive into the ultimate Empire State Building tour with the All-Access Ticket.

For parties of up to four, this VIP experience includes access to the celebrity green room, a private guided tour, and the luxury of skipping lines.

As a bonus, receive a limited-edition 90th Anniversary tote bag.

Price: $543 for parties of up to four.

102nd floor observatory tickets

Enhance your Empire State Building experience by visiting the 102nd-floor observatory. 

While you can’t pre-book tickets for the 102nd floor, if you’re captivated by the views from the 86th floor, you can upgrade for an additional $20 per person. 

This allows you to enjoy a more spectacular perspective of New York during your visit.

What is inside the Empire State Building

The iconic structure extends beyond the 86th and 102nd-floor observatories. 

Exhibits on the 2nd and 80th floors welcome all ticket holders to explore.

The Lobby

The Lobby
Image: Esbnyc.com

Since 2018, there have been two distinct lobbies. 

The new one facilitates entry for observatory visitors, while the Fifth Avenue lobby serves the building’s tenants. 

In the past, visitors would explore the historic lobby before elevating to the 86th-floor observatory.

Now, the experience concludes in the Art Deco Fifth Avenue lobby. 

Don’t forget to gaze at the ceiling, adorned with a captivating gold-leaf-on-canvas abstraction of planets and stars.

Main Deck – 86th Floor Observatory

Main Deck – 86th Floor Observatory
Image: Destinationlesstravel.com

Soar to the highest open-air observatory in New York City, accessible to all Empire State Building ticket holders.

Use high-powered binoculars for an intricate view of the city, and in recent years, radiant heaters have been added to ensure a cozy visit.

To access the Main Deck, visitors can choose either the Standard ticket or the Express ticket, providing an unforgettable cityscape perspective.

Top Deck – 102nd Floor Observatory

Top Deck – 102nd Floor Observatory
Image: Esbnyc.com

Elevate your experience by taking a lift from the 86th-floor to the 102nd-floor observatory, a smaller and completely enclosed space.

Revel in breathtaking panoramic views through expansive glass windows, showcasing the beauty of New York City.

On clear days, witness up to six states, offering glimpses of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Delaware.

These are spanning approximately 80 miles (130 km).

Tickets to the Top Deck cannot be booked online directly. 

So, visitors first need to purchase either the Standard ticket or Express ticket to reach the 86th-floor observatory.

And then visitors can opt for an upgrade to this exclusive and stunning Top Deck experience.

Upgrade your tickets and step back in time to the 1920s and explore the historical roots of the Empire State Building:

The Site in the 1920s

The Site in the 1920s
Image: Esbnyc.com

The Empire State Building stands on the grounds where the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel once graced New York City.

William Waldorf Astor initiated the Waldorf Hotel at this site in 1893, and within four years, his cousin opened the neighboring Astoria Hotel.

Together, they boasted an impressive 1,300 bedrooms, securing their status as the largest hotel in the world during that era.

However, as the 1920s approached, the hotels had become outdated, leading to their closure in 1929.

Soon after, the iconic Empire State Building emerged in their place, forever changing the city’s skyline.

The ‘Site in 1920s’ exhibit offers a captivating glimpse into history.

It utilizes a black-and-white panoramic image of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel during the Empire State Building’s early construction stages. 

By utilizing building surveyors, visitors can peer inside and witness the vibrant streets of New York City during the late 1920s vividly brought to life in full color.

Immerse yourself in the bygone era as the city underwent a transformative architectural shift.

Construction exhibit

Construction exhibit
Image: Secretnyc.co

Explore the Construction exhibit, inspired by the remarkable work of American sociologist and photographer Lewis Hine:

Lewis Hine, commissioned to document the Empire State Building’s construction, captured iconic photographs of the workers in action.

Hanging in a specially designed basket up to 300 meters (1000 ft) above Fifth Avenue, Hine found unique vantage points for his legendary photographs.

The exhibit immerses visitors in the live-action of construction.

Ironworkers, engineers, and masons surround it amidst the clamor of machinery and moving steel beams.

Bronze sculptures of workers present excellent selfie opportunities, allowing visitors to stand amongst these life-like representations.

Additionally, the exhibit features three models showcasing the Empire State Building in various stages of completion.

It provides a fascinating journey through its construction history.

Opening Day

Opening Day
Image: Twitter.com

This seemingly small exhibit is significant in the Empire State Building’s history. 

Witness the excitement of a newsboy proclaiming the building’s opening in the bustling streets of 1930s New York City.

Modern Marvel (Sustainability Exhibit)

Modern Marvel (Sustainability Exhibit)
Image: Coast2coastwithkids.com

Known as the Sustainability Exhibit, it highlights a crucial chapter. 

In 2009, the Empire State Building embraced cutting-edge technology to reduce energy usage and carbon emissions. 

The Modern Marvel exhibition engagingly walks visitors through this transformative project.

Otis Elevators

Otis Elevators
Image: Elevatorworld.com

Step into the past with the Otis Elevators exhibit, showcasing the original mast car that transported guests from the 86th to the 102nd floor until 2018. 

Otis uses this space to demonstrate its latest lift technology, which seamlessly moves over 10 million tenants and observatory visitors annually. 

Experience a simulated elevator shaft, comprehend the building’s extraordinary height, and grasp the distances these elevators cover. 

This section pays tribute to Otis, an integral part of the Empire State Building’s towering achievement.

Urban Campus

Urban Campus
Image: Serenaslenses.net

While you can tour five floors of the Empire State Building—the Lobby, the second floor with exhibits, the 80th floor with additional exhibits and a gift shop, the 86th floor with the Main Deck, and the 102nd floor with the Top Deck—there are nearly 100 more floors inaccessible to visitors. 

The Urban Campus exhibit provides a glimpse into significant companies with offices in the building, showcasing their amenities and the hidden views enjoyed by those working there.

World’s Most Famous Building

World’s Most Famous Building
Image: Squintopera.com

The Empire State Building has enjoyed enduring fame, featuring prominently in numerous movies, commercials, TV shows, comics, and games. 

A dedicated theater equipped with 72 screens and a 180-degree surround-sound system.

It illustrates the building’s iconic role in pop culture, incorporating over 600 short clips from various media.

King Kong’s Escape

King Kong’s Escape
Image: Mickmicknyc.com

In the 1933 film “King Kong,” the Empire State Building took center stage. 

It became one of the first instances of a historic building integral to a movie—three years after its inauguration. 

The exhibit recreates the excitement of that time. 

Step into an office and experience the famous scene where King Kong climbs the building to escape. 

Touch his hands, hear his growls, and witness vintage fighter planes circling outside the windows, akin to the original movie. 

It’s a captivating journey into cinematic history!

Celebrities Galore

Celebrities Galore
Image: Gonewyork.com

The Empire State Building’s 86th Floor Observatory attracts many celebrities.

Some are drawn by the allure of their favorite city’s views, and others to showcase events through the building’s captivating night lights. 

Witness a different side of the Empire State Building at night, a unique experience altogether. 

The exhibit celebrates these famous visitors, featuring their images and signed memorabilia adorning the walls.

Artistry in Light

Artistry in Light
Image: Onediversified.com

Since 1976, the Empire State Building’s nightly illumination has enriched New York City’s skyline. 

Each day, the lighting takes on different colors, each supporting or endorsing a cause. 

This exhibit unravels the creation of these mesmerizing music-to-light shows through a short film narrated by the renowned lighting designer Marc Brickman.

Stephen Wiltshire’s Drawing

Stephen Wiltshire’s Drawing
Image: Twitter.com

Marvel at the incredible talent of British autistic architectural artist Stephen Wiltshire. 

In 2017, he embarked on a 45-minute helicopter ride above Manhattan, capturing its essence in a remarkably detailed landscape drawing. 

This awe-inspiring art is on display inside the Empire State Building.

It showcases Wiltshire’s extraordinary ability to recreate a landscape from memory after a single viewing.

Discover ways to enter the Empire State Building for free.

Entering for Free

There are three ways to access the Empire State Building without purchasing tickets. 

The New York Pass and New York City Explorer Pass include free admission to the 86th-floor observatory. 

With the New York CityPass, visitors enjoy two free visits to the Empire State Building—once during the day and once at night. 

These discount passes bundle various attractions and tours, providing up to 55% savings on ticket prices. 

These passes are highly recommended if you’re on an extended holiday or have a large family or group.

It offers both cost savings and the convenience of skip-the-ticket privileges at most attractions. 

Additionally, all three passes grant free entry to Top of the Rock, another iconic New York observatory.

Kids under six can also enter the iconic building for free if a ticket-holding adult accompanies them.

Restaurants in the Empire State Building

Discover diverse culinary experiences within this iconic New York landmark.

State Grill and Bar

Located at 21 West 33rd Street, New York 10118, this fine-dining establishment offers American, Contemporary American, and Steak cuisines for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The restaurant’s dress code is Smart Casuals.


Part of the popular Tacombi restaurant chain, this branch at the Empire State Building aims to showcase Mexico’s culinary traditions.

Enjoy authentic home-style Mexican cuisine, notably their signature tacos.

Other Options

Beyond State Grill & Bar and Tacombi, the Empire State Building offers various alternatives.

For a quick bite before your observatory trip, explore Chipotle, Chop’t, or Sushi-teria on the ground floor.

If you’re looking for swift options, Starbucks and Juice Press are also available.


Can I experience the Empire State Building without purchasing separate tickets?

Yes, you can explore cost-saving options! Discover passes like the New York Pass or New York City Explorer Pass, granting complimentary access to the 86th-floor observatory.

Can I buy Empire State Building tickets on the same day of my visit?

Absolutely! Same-day tickets are available, but to streamline your experience, consider purchasing online in advance to avoid potential queues and ensure availability.

Is there a best time to visit the Empire State Building to avoid crowds?

Yes, indeed! For a more relaxed experience, plan your visit during weekdays, early mornings, or late evenings. These times typically see fewer visitors, allowing you to enjoy the attractions with more ease.

Are there any special exhibits inside the Empire State Building?

Certainly! Immerse yourself in unique displays such as King Kong’s Escape, Celebrities Galore, and the intriguing Urban Campus experience, adding an extra layer of fascination to your visit.

How can I access the 102nd-floor observatory of the Empire State Building?

That’s easy! You can elevate your visit by upgrading from the 86th-floor to 102nd-floor. This provides a more panoramic view of the New York City skyline, enhancing your overall viewing experience.

Are there any family-friendly activities at the Empire State Building?

Absolutely! Engage the whole family with interactive exhibits, kid-friendly audio guides, and the chance to spot landmarks through special viewfinders on the observation decks.

Can I take photographs inside the Empire State Building?

Yes, you’re encouraged to capture memories! Feel free to take photographs for personal use, but keep in mind that professional photography equipment requires special permission.

Featured Image : Stock photos by Vecteezy

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