This is new in the Empire State Building after the 2019 reconstruction
The Empire State Building is the most popular observation deck in New York and is visited by over three million people a year. That’s not the only reason why timing is everything if you want to avoid a long wait: when is the best time to visit the Empire State Building and whether the newly renovated 102nd floor, which will open in October 2019, is really worthwhile, we answer in this Empire State Building guide!
The 102nd floor of the Empire State Building after reconstruction
We ourselves have visited the Empire State Building countless times (it was great every time!) – in addition to that, we wanted to find out for you whether a ticket for the 86th floor (that’s the regular viewing platform) is sufficient, or whether you should spend an additional $20 to get even further up and admire Manhattan from the 102nd floor (!!!) of the Empire.
The 102nd floor of the Empire State Building was closed for almost 10 months for renovation work and was reopened in October 2019. Our opinion about the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building has definitely changed since our last visit BEFORE the renovation works.
By the way, the Empire State Building has also changed visually. A new lobby, an exciting multimedia exhibition, King Kong’s hand for a cool selfie and much more now leads the visitor to the observation deck. Before that, we walked through simple, boring corridors. Now the visitor is really offered something that reminds very much of the One World Observatory. The Empire was a bit outdated. We think that a very good job was done to keep up with the new observation platforms in New York as the One World Observatory.
Is it worth visiting the 102nd floor?
From 86 to 102 … and is it worth it? It is one of the city’s most popular sights: the Empire State Building. It’s a great moment when the elevator doors on the 86th floor open and you let your gaze wander over Manhattan. But is it worth visiting the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building? Absolutely! The bulletproof glass windows, each weighing 24 kilograms, provide a 360-degree view over Manhattan and very good selfies because on the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building no light will cast shadows on the faces.
The 102 floor is then 373 meters above the Big Apple. The formerly small elevator is now ultramodern and not as scary as before the renovation. We were thrilled.
At the top, you are not outside in the fresh air, as on the 86th floor, but in a smaller room made of glass (which is related to the fact that the building is pointed towards the top).
The Empire State Building collects a bonus point opposite the Top of the Rock. On the 86th floor, you are not behind a glass pane but have a free view through a high fence. What we liked was that we could admire the city very undisturbed. The floor deep windows provide a grandiose view. By the way, only a certain number of people are let up, so the crowd is much smaller than 16 floors below.
IS IT WORTH IT?
$20 for 16 floors of height difference is worth it if the Empire State Building will be the only viewing platform you will visit in New York. This will give you the full Empire State Building experience and you will be able to enjoy the city to the fullest from the modern 102nd floor of the Empire, albeit behind windows.
If there are other viewing platforms on the program for you, a visit to the 102nd floor is not a must.
My budget tips!
It is the most visited attraction in New York that is not free. So it will be crowded, especially towards the weekend and in the evening. That’s when the New Yorkers and weekend visitors from the USA come there themselves. I have two budget tips for you:
Budget tip number 1: buy online in advance.
If you’re looking for cheap tickets for the Empire State Building (some of them offer discounts of up to 30%!), you’ll find them on this page, for example. It’s more relaxed and you benefit from online discount promotions!
Budget tip number 2: save twice as much with the New York Passes!
When you buy one of New York’s popular sightseeing passes, the Empire State Building ticket is included! The New York Passes are worth as little as three attractions, and with these combined tickets, you can save on other New York sights as well. If you don’t mind waiting at the Empire in the evening, this is a great option to get tickets to the Empire State Building at a great price! My tip if you don’t have an express ticket:
COME EITHER VERY EARLY OR VERY LATE, SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO WAIT TOO LONG!
If you do want to go to the 102nd floor: tickets for the viewing platform on the 102nd floor are available at the ticket counter on the 2nd floor of the building. The entrance fee is $17 in addition to the tickets.
Tips to save waiting time
Tip number 1: use optimal visiting hours!
We love to stand on top of the Empire State Building with a coffee very early in the morning and watch New York “wake up”, so to speak. Another advantage: there is nothing going on yet and there is practically no waiting time! The last time we decided spontaneously shortly after 11 p.m. to go to the Empire State Building, the big rush was already over and in no time we were up there. The optimal visiting time for us is in the morning from 8 to 10 o’clock, a maximum of 11 o’clock and then in the evening from 23 o’clock.
Here you can see the rush hours at the Empire State Building – from Thursday on there is a lot going on – if possible try to avoid this time. On Sunday you can see that it’s departure day, here the whole day is quite relaxed!
Tip number 2: Express tickets
If you want to go to the observation deck of the Empire State Building in the evening (!), I strongly recommend you to buy an express ticket in advance! With a VIP Express Ticket (fast access) you can get to the control faster and you can practically sit at the top of the queue in front of the elevators to the observation deck. The number of Express Tickets is limited, so the waiting time for you is 20 minutes or less. You can download the Express Tickets directly to your smartphone, you don’t need to print them out!
By the way, this is the only attraction where I always recommend it! Compared to the normal tickets you save easily two hours!
Tip number 3: Combination of New York Sightseeing Pass & Express Ticket
If you have already looked at a New York Sightseeing Pass, you will notice that there are no VIP tickets included, only the regular admission tickets. That’s okay because if you avoid rush hours, you don’t need express tickets. However, if you want to go there in the evening, just take the appropriate New York Pass one size smaller (e.g. the Explorer Pass for 4 instead of 5 attractions) and buy the VIP Express Ticket separately! It’s more expensive than the regular ticket, but you’ll still save money when you combine the New York Pass & Express ticket for the Empire!
The VIP Express tickets are valid for the viewing platform on the 86th floor. The Express Pass is especially worthwhile during Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve and other holidays, as well as for all extended weekends. We also recommend the Express Ticket for visits between 11:00 and 14:00, but especially for the time before and after sunset!
If you want to go to the 102nd floor, you have to buy the tickets separately. These are only available at the Empire State Building itself.