Walk west on 42nd to 5th ave., go left, south, to 34th st, right. 15 mins.
Daily 8am-2am, last elevator at 1:15am
Observatory admission $19 adults.
Buy tickets online prior.
It took 60,000 tons of steel, 10 million bricks, 2.5 million feet of electrical wire, 120 miles of pipe, and seven million man-hours to build. King Kong climbed it in 1933 -- and again in 2005. A plane slammed into it in 1945. The World Trade Center superseded it in 1970 as the island's tallest building. And in 1997, a gunman ascended it to stage a deadly shooting. On that horrific day of September 11, 2001, it once again regained its status as New York City's tallest building, after 31 years of taking second place. And through it all, the Empire State Building has remained one of the city's favorite landmarks and its signature high-rise. Completed in 1931, the limestone-and-stainless-steel Streamline Deco dazzler climbs 102 stories (1,454 ft.) and now harbors the offices of fashion firms, and, in its upper reaches, a jumble of high-tech broadcast equipment.
Always a conversation piece, the Empire State Building glows every night, bathed in colored floodlights to commemorate events of significance -- red, white, and blue for Independence Day; green for St. Patrick's Day; red, black, and green for Martin Luther King Day; blue and white for Hanukkah; even blue for the New York Giants Super Bowl appearance in 2008 (you can find a complete lighting schedule online). The familiar silver spire can be seen from all over the city.
The best views, and what keeps the nearly three million visitors coming every year, are the ones from the 86th- and 102nd-floor observatories. The lower one is best -- you can walk out on a windy deck and look through coin-operated viewers (bring quarters!) over what, on a clear day, can be as much as an 80-mile visible radius. The citywide panorama is magnificent. One surprise is the flurry of rooftop activity, an aspect of city life that thrives unnoticed from our everyday sidewalk vantage point. The higher observation deck is glass-enclosed and cramped.
Light fog can create an admirably moody effect, but it goes without saying that a clear day is best. Dusk brings the most remarkable views and the biggest crowds. Consider going in the morning, when the light is still low on the horizon, keeping glare to a minimum. Starry nights are pure magic.
In your haste to go up, don't rush through the three-story-high marble lobby without pausing to admire its features, which include a wonderful Streamline mural.
Empire State Building Ticket Buying -- Lines can be horrible at the concourse-level ticket booth, so be prepared to wait -- or consider purchasing advance tickets online using a credit card at http://www.esbnyc.com/
. Tickets to the ESB are also included in your CityPass. You'll pay slightly more -- tickets were priced $2 higher on the website at press time -- but it's well worth it, especially if you're visiting during busy seasons, when the line can be hours long. You're not required to choose a time or date for your tickets in advance; they can be used on any regular open day. However, order them well before you leave home, because only regular mail is free. Expect them to take 7 to 10 days to reach you (longer if you live outside of the U.S.). Overnight delivery adds $15 to your total order. With tickets in hand, you're allowed to proceed directly to the second floor -- past everyone who didn't plan as well as you did!