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How to get tickets to the Empire State Building

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Everything you need to know about visiting the iconic skyscraper

A tall building with a large spire at nighttime with its lights on. It is surrounded by other tall buildings that also have lights on. The sky is blue and purple.
The Empire State Building.
Max Touhey

If you had to pick only one building to represent New York City—its entrepreneurial spirit, its glamor, and its desire to be the biggest and best at everything—the Empire State Building would be it.

Constructed in 13 months right after the start of the Great Depression, the Empire State Building became—for a short period, anyway—the tallest building in the world when it opened in 1931. In the 88 years since, it’s become one of the New York’s most recognizable icons (as well as both a city and national landmark), thanks to its place of prominence in the skyline and its exemplary Art Deco architecture.

The observation deck near the building’s pinnacle (there’s also a less regularly accessible one on the 102nd floor) has become one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions, welcoming more than three million visitors every year. Of course, the big problem with visiting the skyscraper’s observation deck is that you can’t, you know, see the building itself. (For that view, book a ticket to Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center.)

But it’s still one of those New York experiences everyone should do at least once—here’s how to get tickets, when to visit for the best views, and more.

Where to buy Empire State Building tickets

As with many of the city’s biggest tourist draws, it’s better to buy ahead of time. The Empire State Building’s website has several different ticket packages available to purchase, including a “skip the line” option for those who simply can’t wait to get to the top. (You’ll pay dearly for it, though; those tickets start at $73.) Buying online means you can plan for the exact day you want to go, rather than winging it.

If you don’t want to buy ahead of time, there are kiosks in the visitors’ center at the building’s 34th Street entrance where you can snag tickets. They’re good for entry between 8 a.m. and 2 a.m. on the day you buy them (or the select date you choose, if you’re purchasing ahead of time online).

How much do Empire State Building tickets cost?

Prices for tickets vary based on a number of factors: a visitor’s age, time of day that you’re visiting, and what, exactly, you want to experience.

The most basic ticket—which takes you to the 86th-floor observatory, and that’s it—starts at $38 for adults, $36 for seniors, and $32 for children (if they’re under six, they get in for free). A “premium” experience, which comes with a 90-minute guided tour and a commemorative photo, is more than three times that amount.

You can also buy a special “sunrise at ESB” package, which is limited to just 100 people daily, for about $114; a special day/night pass, which allows for entry twice in one day, starts at $55. The building’s website has all of the details on various packages.

The top of a large skyscraper, with many windows and brass ornamentation on the exterior. There are other skyscrapers surrounding it, and a large river behind it. Max Touhey

What else do I need to know?

  • The ESB observation deck will always be crowded, but it may not be as bad if you go as early as possible. Try around 8 a.m., when it first opens, to beat the crowds.
  • The last elevator to the top of the building is 1:15 a.m., if you’re planning a late-night visit.
  • Two new exhibits recently opened on the building’s second floor, giving visitors an immersive look at the building’s place in pop culture, its design, and more.