The Empire State Building in New York | The Bucket List Series

The Bucket List Series: A series of short, inspirational travel articles focusing on single bucket list experiences from all over the globe. The goal; to bring you the very best things that our fabulous planet has to offer.

The Empire State Building, New York

Located at 20 West 34th Street in midtown Manhattan, the Empire State Building is a 102-story tall, art deco style building that was first built between 1930 and 1931. Designed by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon during the Great Depression, the building was erected in just 410 days and even has its own zip code! Therefore, it has long since become an integral part of the New York City skyline. As a result, every New Yorker has visited this iconic landmark at least once so that they could admire the sweeping views from the outdoor observation deck on the 86th floor and the interior viewing platform on the 102nd floor with floor-to-ceiling windows.

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New York City Skyline | Canva

What can I see at the Empire State Building?

Now, as a local New Yorker, I’ve visited the Empire State Building dozens of times, both before and after the total redesign in 2019. And let me tell you, your experience at the Empire State Building will be even better now than it was before. Yes, you’ll still get to admire the stunning views from the top and take in the exquisite art-deco design of the interior of the building.

Because of recent changes, wait times are a lot less since they’ve completely transformed the entrance of the museum to improve traffic flow, Plus, there are now a ton of new and exciting, interactive exhibits on display inside the building that detail this amazing landmark’s rich history. This way, you can really appreciate the historical and cultural significance of what sits in front of you. 

So, enjoy a series of fascinating multimedia exhibits like the Story of an Icon Museum on the second floor, which shows you how the structure was built atop the former site of the Waldorf Astoria. However, the fun doesn’t stop here since other exhibitions include a display about opening day, a recreation of the building’s original elevator, and an exhibit on how workers scaled the building and used rivets to create its structure. Plus, you’ll learn how the Empire State Building is striving to become more environmentally friendly and even step into a dazzling media room where you’ll watch movie clips in which the Empire State Building is featured. You’ll also laugh at a funny King Kong multimedia experience and will pass by a wall full of pictures of the Hollywood celebrities that have got to the tippity top – an NYC bucket list experience that is not to be missed. 

It’s a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience that I was excited about since the views from the top are some of the best in the city. It was also a bit of a bittersweet experience for me since the last time I went I was with my mother, who has since passed away. Therefore, while I loved the new, infinitely more interactive and informative Empire State Building, I was saddened that my mother could not join me as I made my way through, the opulent, art-deco lobby, on through the bright lights and dazzling displays on the second floor, and to feel the wicked wind whip through the air as I took in the awe-inspiring views of NYC from the 86th floor.

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King Kong Exhibition | Girl With The Passport

Useful information about visiting the Empire State Building

While the views from the 102nd floor are amazing, the observation deck is fully enclosed by floor-to-ceiling windows, which do not make for great photos. Instead, be sure to head down to the 86th floor since you can step outside and take amazing photos without glass in the way. If you can, time your visit for Thursday evening since a saxophone player will sometimes play on the 86th-floor.

To get here, you can either walk from Times Square (it’s only about a half a mile and takes around 10 minutes) or take the N/, R, or W train to 34th street and Herald Square and walk from there.

You also must buy tickets in advance (because of the pandemic). Please do this well in advance since time slots fill up fast. Now, in terms of ticket options, you can either tour the building independently or as part of a VIP tour. Personally, I’d opt for the VIP Tour since you’ll enjoy complimentary snacks and drinks in a private lounge, will get a private tour and detailed history about the building. But the best part? You can even skip the line and go straight to the top.

I’d also time your visit for sunset so that you can take in bright pink and golden orange hues from the top. Also, be sure to check the weather before you visit since the views will be obscured on an overcast day.

If you’ve booked your tickets well in advance and are not sure what the weather will be on the day of your visit, check the weather early on, on the day of your visit. And if it’s cloudy, just head to the ticket counter and exchange your tickets for another day or time.

Lastly, be sure to dress warmly, even on summer days, since the wind at the top is quite strong and can make you feel exceptionally chilly.

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View from the 86th Floor | Girl With The Passport

About the Author

Kelly is a native New Yorker who has been a full-time blogger for the past five years. When she is not writing for her websites, Girl with the Passport or Travel New York Now, she is exploring the city or traveling around the globe alone in search of new adventures. 

You can follow her on her adventures on TiktokPinterest, and Instagram

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Becki from Meet Me In Departures

Adventure travel blogger with a big addiction to the World. An ex-rat-racer who was fed up with sleep-work-eat-repeat materialistic mentality that plagues modern living. I love anything to do with off-beat travel, abandoned places, temples & ruins, street art, wildlife in its natural habitat, adventure sport.....basically anything but the 9-5!

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