The Best Time to Visit The Empire State Building

By Stuart Bak

One of the most frequently Instagrammed landmarks in the States – nay, on the entire planet – the Empire State Building is the skyscraping cinematic star of downtown Manhattan. The iconic tower has featured in Hollywood classics from King Kong to Sleepless in Seattle and its dizzying stature (all 443.2 meters of it, to be precise) means that wherever you’re staying in New York, it’s kind of hard to miss. All you need to do is look up! There are a number of ways you can visit: choose from self-guided tours, skip-the-line tickets and premium access-all-areas packages with champagne. We break down the various options below, with our expert guide to the best times to visit the Empire State Building.

Opening hours

The Empire State Building is open every single day, rain or shine, from morning until late, including all holidays. Pre-booking is essential and opening hours vary, so do check the Empire State Building website for the latest information before making your booking.

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With Go City, you get access to the 86th-floor observation deck with its uninterrupted 360-degree views of the Big Apple and is accepted for admission until 45 minutes before closing time. The number of NYC icons you can spot from up here is truly staggering. Tick off the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park and more from this sky-high vantage point.

Best time to visit the Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is one of the most-visited attractions in the Big Apple. It’s rarely anything other than busy but you can avoid long waits and jockeying for position on the observation decks by visiting early in the morning or late in the evening.

For families with young kids, the best time to visit the Empire State Building is in the mornings before around 11AM. Bonus: children aged five and under go free. Meanwhile, late evening visits (after 10PM) reward romantics with uncrowded platforms and splendid views of the illuminated Manhattan skyline.

The busiest part of the day is between 11AM and 3PM, when the tourist hordes descend (or should that be ascend?) in their hundreds. Similarly, early evening tends to get busy as the offices empty out. Inevitably weekends (especially Saturdays) are when the Empire State Building is at its busiest.

The popularity of the Empire State Building means booking is essential. We recommend reserving your slot as far ahead as possible to avoid disappointment.

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Getting to the Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is located on 34th and Fifth, slap bang in the center of Midtown. It’s very hard to miss and you really shouldn’t need a map to locate it! There are stacks of ways to get there. Take the 123 or ACE line to Penn Station, from where it's just a five-minute walk. Or jump on the NQRW and BDFM lines for trains to Herald Square Station, also five minutes away. Grand Central Station, reachable via 7 and 456 lines, is around a 10-minute walk.

Of course, if you want to do it New York style, you can also cruise right up to the entrance in a classic yellow taxi cab.


You can pre-book your tickets direct on the Empire State Building website. Options available include access to both the 86th-floor outside observation deck, and the dizzy heights of the 102nd-floor platform, with its far-reaching views across the Big Apple and beyond to six neighboring states. You can also book sunrise and sunset slots or go the whole hog with a premium package that includes a guided 90-minute tour taking in the Art Deco lobby on 5th Avenue, the Celebrity Walk and more, as well as, naturally, full skip-the-line privileges.

Save money with a Go City Explorer or All-Inclusive pass for New York attractions, which includes entry to the 86th-floor observatory via the lightning-fast elevator as well as stacks of other top attractions in and around NYC. These include the Top of The Rock Observatory, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, the Guggenheim and the Statue of Liberty.

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Where to eat

There is a selection of eateries on the Empire State Building’s ground floor. Head to the State Grill & Bar for New York classics like strip steaks, burgers and caesar salads. Tacombi is the place for Mexican margaritas and tacos and a number of other outlets widen the choice to specialty salads, sushi and burritos. Of course, here in the heart of Midtown Manhattan it’s unlikely you’ll go short of places to eat and there are dozens of top bars and restaurants in the immediate vicinity. Splash out on afternoon tea at the 5-star Peninsula hotel or hit the Grand Central Oyster Bar for buttery scallops and classic Oysters Rockefeller.

In brief...

We recommend visiting early in the morning or late in the evening on weekdays to avoid the crowds and enjoy amazing sunrise views or see the best of the famous New York City lights after dark. Don’t forget to book your tickets in advance and get ready to experience some of the best views in the Big Apple!

Choose Go City to make great savings when visiting this and other popular New York City attractions!

Useful links

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Get the Go City attraction pass for New York

Visit the Empire State Building with Go City

Official Empire State Building website

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Christmas in New York City 2019 - Holiday Things to Do & Fun Seasonal Activities

There are few places as magical in the wintertime as Christmas in New York City. And when it comes to celebrating the Christmas holidays, you better believe that NYC has got plenty going on. If you’re traveling to New York this holiday season, check out our list of the top things to do for Christmas in New York City 2019. Save on attraction admission for the Holidays Regular admission to a number of these attractions is available on the Go New York Pass®. Choose as you go from dozens of top attractions and save up to 50% on combined admission vs. paying at the gate. See all available New York passes, attractions & prices. Please note, some of these special Christmas & holiday events may be separately ticketed and not included in the Go New York Pass. Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree We're sure the first thing that comes to mind when you think New York City Christmas celebration is the iconic Rockefeller Plaza Christmas Tree. For over eight decades, the Tree Lighting Ceremony has been a classic New York tradition. If you're going to be in the city during the holiday season, you have to visit the gorgeous display. Pose in front of the gigantic tree, watch from above as holiday visitors skate the rink, shop around the Rockefeller Plaza shops, and more. The tree will be lit for the first time for the Christmas 2019 season on Wednesday, December 4, and will remain lit through early 2020. On Christmas Day, the tree will remain lit for the full 24 hours, so be sure to check it out! Since you'll already be at 30 Rock, you may as well take a trip up to the Top of the Rock Observatory. You can see the tree from the highest vantage point while taking in the views of the entire city below. This is a great opportunity to see New York's Christmas lights from a unique perspective. Getting in: Top of the Rock tickets are included in Go New York Pass. Bryant Park Winter Village presented by Bank of America Bryant Park's Winter Village has become one of the most popular holiday destinations in recent years. The popular greenspace has transformed into a Winter Wonderland for the past 17 years, and this year is no exception. Complete with 170 stalls, a 17,000-sq ft ice rink, and a delicious food hall made up of 12 vendors serving delicious holiday meals, it’s no surprise as to why it’s the best and biggest holiday market in the city. Shop local at the boutiques, offering everything from fashionable sunglasses to hand-made sculptures of your favorite movie characters. It's the perfect place to find a niche gift for that tricky loved one in your life. While you shop, make sure to try a few of the holiday treats too. Delicious craft cocoa and sugar cookies are not to be skipped. Of course, the crown jewel of the Winter Village is the ice rink which serves as a centerpiece. The ice rink is always packed with visitors twirling about and is a fun experience no matter your skating skill level. You can rent skates and a locker on-site and get right onto the ice. There are skating lessons and skate assistants available for kids as well. Anyone visiting New York during the holidays has to visit Bryan Park's Winter Village. It's such a special space and worth spending a few hours! *Please note, the Rink and the Lodge will be open from October 31, 2019, through March 2020. The Holiday Shops will only be open until January 5, 2019. Getting in: Bryant Park Winter Village is free and open to the public. Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park Ice Rink tickets are included with Go New York Pass. New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show Participate in another one of NYC’s most beloved holiday traditions with the visit to the New York Botanical Garden. Their Holiday Train Show is a one-of-a-kind experience. You’ll see trains wind through replicas of over 150 different New York landmarks – all made of organic, botanical materials. Think tiny depots made of bark and acorns, bridges made of sticks and stones, and décor made of dried mosses and flowers. It’s a truly inspiring work of artistic labor and a super fun thing for the whole family to see. Kids and adults alike will be amazed at the artistic and technical skill that has gone into making the magical Holiday Train Show. Getting in: New York Botanical Garden tickets included with Go New York Pass. Union Square Holiday Markets Another great place to do some Christmas shopping is the Union Square Holiday Markets at Union Square Park. Local crafters and artists come together to set up booths of home-made items, from jewelry to scarves, to artwork. The Union Square Market has sections like Little Brooklyn and Urbanspace Provisions in addition to a Warming Station and Lounge. There will be over 50 stalls to shop around and plenty of delicious food and drink available. You're sure to find some perfect gifts for family and friends back home... or for yourself! Getting in: the Union Square Holiday Markets are free and open to the public. THE RIDE Holiday Edition Take NYC’s most enjoyable bus tour with a special holiday twist! Now in its seventh year, it’s more fun and festive than ever, with a focus on holiday sights and sounds. You'll tour New York on a unique bus with side-facing seats, as your entertaining guides tell you what you need to know. But that's not all – keep your eye out for street performers bringing NYC to life all along the route. It's an unforgettable attraction at any time of year – but extra special during the holidays. The RIDE is a great way to get to know NYC and soak up the Christmas spirit, all at the same time! Getting in: THE RIDE tickets are available on the Go New York Pass. View the Holiday Lights from the Empire State Building A good way to see the city’s best and brightest Christmas lights is with a trip to the top of this towering skyscraper – one of the city’s most famous buildings, too. The Empire State Building is an amazing experience any time of year, but when you build in the festive atmosphere and twinkling lights of the holiday season, it simply can’t be beaten. Explore the exhibition halls, enjoy the full Empire State Building Experience, and snap photos of the Winter Wonderland that is New York City. Getting in: Empire State Building tickets are available on the Go New York Pass. Origami Holiday Tree at the American Museum of Natural History If you’re in search of a unique spin on a Christmas tradition, pay a visit to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). Their 30-year tradition of putting up an origami tree has inspired kids and adults alike for quite a long time, and it’s well worth your time to visit. The origami itself is made by volunteers throughout the preceding year who were inspired by some aspect of the museum’s collections. The origami takes all forms - from dinosaurs to sea creatures to figments of the imagination. The tree will be on display from November 25, 2019 - January 12, 2020. Explore the museum while you're there! AMNH is one of the largest museums in the world, featuring a 94-foot model of a whale, a famed collection of dinosaur fossils, a 563-carat Star of Indian sapphire, and plenty more intricate artifacts. It has to be on your New York Bucket List. Getting In: American Museum of Natural History tickets are available on the Go New York Pass. Holiday Window Displays on Fifth Avenue Embark on a self-guided tour down Fifth Avenue to take in all the intricately-designed holiday displays. Each year, the displays get more and more ornate, with flashing lights, golden decorations, and gorgeous artwork calling for attention. Its beautiful holiday ambiance almost offsets the craziness of holiday shopping at stores like Saks and Macy's. Almost. Fashion fans may want to take a Fashion Window Walking Tour of Fifth Avenue, to see the beautiful windows with an expert guide. Getting in: Fashion Window Walking Tour tickets are included with the Go New York pass. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche The Metropolitan Museum of Art will continue its longstanding holiday tradition of erecting the 25-foot blue spruce. It serves as the perfect backdrop for their Neapolitan Nativity scene, complete with silk-robed angels hovering above. The Met's take on a Christmas display always shows the creativity and artistic nature of New York City's art scene. After visiting the tree, make sure to explore as many of the exhibition halls as you can. The museum houses a variety of artworks in all mediums, covering art from each part of the globe. Getting In: Metropolitan Museum of Art tickets are available on the Go New York Pass. Remember to save on attraction admission So there’s our brief list of the top things to do in New York City during Christmastime and the holidays. Remember, many of these options are included on the Go New York Pass, which can save you up to 50% on combined admission vs. paying at the gate. Please note, the Christmas events taking place at some of these attractions may be separately ticketed and not included with the Go New York Pass. We hope you plan to add a few of these fun options to your winter vacation itinerary!
Katie Sagal
Statue of Liberty in front of the Manhattan skyline

The Best Time to Visit The Statue of Liberty

Perhaps the definitive emblem of American freedom, the Statue of Liberty is a must-see attraction on any visit to New York City. Sure, it can be seen from dozens of vantage points around Manhattan: the 86th floor of the Empire State Building, Battery Park, Brooklyn Bridge, the One World Observatory... and the list goes on. But nothing beats getting right up close with a roundtrip on the ferry to Ellis Island, where you can visit the Ellis Island Immigration Museum and various parts of the Green Goddess herself. Yep, that even includes the 162-step climb up the internal spiral staircase and into the famous crown: one for those with a head for heights only! Read on for our guide to the best times to visit this American icon. Opening hours The park is comprised of Ellis Island, Liberty Island and their various attractions, and is open from 9AM until 5.45PM daily, including most holidays. The park is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Please check the Statue City Cruises website for the most up-to-date ferry schedule and seasonal variations on opening hours. Advance booking is required. Your Go City attraction pass includes the return ferry trip, plus entry to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum and ground level area of the Statue of Liberty National Monument. Best time to visit the Statue of Liberty The first thing to know is that the Statue of Liberty is one of the most-visited attractions in NYC. The second is that, if you plan to visit both Ellis and Liberty islands in one day, you should aim to get as early a ferry as possible. Services start running from 8.30AM in summer, which should even leave early risers with enough time for a leisurely breakfast before boarding. Summer is Lady Liberty’s busiest season, with more frequent ferry services leading to denser crowds and, by extension, longer lines. Spring and fall see slight dips in tourism, meaning less time spent waiting around, while winter is the quietest season of all, with queues often non-existent. But it’s a hardy soul who braves the cold of Liberty island in New York’s famously freezing January. Inevitably weekends are busier than mid-week, but it really is all relative and there is truly no quiet time to visit the statue. Our recommendation is to catch the first ferry departures Tuesday–Thursday if you really want to beat the crowds and get inside the museums ahead of anybody else. Note that the popularity and limited capacity of the statue’s crown and pedestal areas (not included in the standard ferry ticket) mean advance booking is essential. Getting to the Statue of Liberty The only way to get to the Statue of Liberty is via ferry from departure points in Battery Park in Manhattan or the Liberty State Park in New Jersey. Aim to arrive approximately 30 minutes before your scheduled departure time as there’s a required security screening of all passengers before boarding. Tickets You can check the latest schedule and book tickets on the Statue City Cruises website. All ferry tickets include access to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum and Statue of Liberty Museum and grounds. If you want to visit the pedestal or climb the spiral staircase to the crown, you’ll need separate tickets. These must be booked in advance via the Statue City Cruises website. Save money with a Go City Explorer or All-Inclusive pass for New York attractions, which includes your ferry ticket plus entry to the museums. Passes also give you access to dozens more iconic attractions around the Big Apple, including the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, the Guggenheim and the Empire State Building’s 86th-floor observation deck. Where to eat Fancy a picnic? You’re welcome to bring your own food and non-alcoholic drinks to both islands, but all items must be sealed during the screening process and large coolers are not permitted. No food or drink can be taken inside the pedestal or crown of the Statue of Liberty; lockers are available for storing items. There are also snack bars on the ferries as well as cafes serving a variety of sandwiches, snacks, salads and ice creams on both islands. In brief... Visiting as early in the day as possible, ideally Tuesday to Thursday during spring or fall makes for the most comfortable weather conditions and the shortest lines. In truth, there is no time to visit the Statue of Liberty when it won’t be at least a little busy, but the tenet of booking the earliest ferry in the day holds true regardless of season or day of the week. It really is your best chance of dodging the lines and being first inside the museums before the tourist crowds descend. Finally, don’t forget to book your tickets in advance, especially if you plan to visit the pedestal or crown areas. Get the Go City attraction pass to make great savings when visiting this and other top New York City attractions! Useful links Book tickets online Get the Go City attraction pass for New York Visit the Statue of Liberty with Go City Further information for visiting the Statue of Liberty
Stuart Bak

Best Brunch Spots in New York

Brunch is a serious business in New York. It’s when everyone rolls out of bed, fights through that weekend malaise (or possible hangover), and heads out to the new hot spot for the decadent food and bottomless mimosas. For brunch lovers heading to (or living in) New York City, we’ve pulled together our favorite venues for this timeless weekend rite. To help fill out the rest of your day, we’ve also made some suggestions for other fun things to do in the area after you’ve eaten your fill. Red Rooster View this post on Instagram A post shared by Red Rooster (@roosterharlem) on Feb 2, 2019 at 9:01am PST The brainchild of famed chef Marcus Samuelsson, this Harlem hot spot boasts a menu filled with all the luscious southern favorites you can imagine—fried chicken and waffles, biscuits, gooey cinnamon rolls, and the ever-popular rooster slam, a delectable combo of hot honey chicken, blueberry waffle, French toast, beef sausage, bacon, and a fried egg. Things to do Nearby: We like the walking tour of Harlem that focuses on the history of gospel in this neighborhood, or the self-guided bike tour of Harlem to help you burn off that eggs benedict. Jacob’s Pickles View this post on Instagram A post shared by Jacob's Pickles (@jacobspickles) on Aug 22, 2019 at 9:53am PDT You’ll probably need to wait at this immensely popular UWS spot, but it’s worth every minute. Their abundant menu features practically everything we can imagine wanting for brunch: more southern favorites like biscuits and gravy, the French classic Croque madame, deviled eggs, catfish tacos (I know, right!?) and, of course, their signature array of pickled veggies. Things to do Nearby: Jacob’s Pickles is conveniently close to many cultural attractions like the American Museum of Natural History and the New York Historical Society Museum, as well as the west side of Central Park. Victor’s Café View this post on Instagram A post shared by Victors Cafe (@victorscafenyc) on Aug 26, 2019 at 9:01am PDT A sumptuous array of Cuban cuisine awaits you at Victor’s Café. Located in Hell’s Kitchen, this brunch powerhouse offers classics alongside new inventions—our top picks include ceviche de pargo, bartolito (plantain croquettes), empanadas, and the Cubana frittata. They also offer hearty brunch entrees that feel more like dinner options, but you’ll leave feeling stuffed and content. Things to do Nearby: Within a stone’s throw of the theatre district, Victor’s Café is near the Museum of Modern Art, Radio City Music Hall, and the Top of the Rock. Plus, you know, all the theatres. Vinegar Hill House View this post on Instagram A post shared by Vinegar Hill House (@vinegarhillhouse) on Aug 10, 2019 at 4:33am PDT Among the most popular restaurants in Brooklyn, Vinegar Hill House is a cozy space serving rustic dishes from a modest menu. You won’t have a wealth of choices, but what they offer makes up for it in taste. Some current dishes (although these may change) include sourdough pancakes, omelets, and shrimp and grits. Things to do Nearby: Explore the Brooklyn Navy Yard, walk around DUMBO, get some shopping in, or check out the local street art. Olmsted View this post on Instagram A post shared by Olmsted (@olmstednyc) on Aug 18, 2019 at 9:19am PDT Located in Prospect Heights, this eclectic restaurant features plentiful brunch in beautiful digs. The menu shifts frequently to cater to seasonal produce and local sources, but some recent options have included Austrian donuts, potato latkes, heirloom tomato schnitzel, and waffles with seasonal fruit and whipped cream. You can also enjoy a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Things to do Nearby: One of the best ways to unwind and burn a few calories from brunch is to stroll in some fresh air—fortunately, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Museum is right near Olmsted! Locanda Verde View this post on Instagram A post shared by Locanda Verde (@locandaverde) on Aug 15, 2019 at 6:01am PDT Fans of Italian cuisine will adore the rustic and hearty fare offered by one of the city’s best. A beloved spot in Tribeca, Locanda Verde features favorites like lemon-ricotta pancakes, frittatas, sandwiches, and all kinds of egg dishes. If you’re there on the later end of brunch, you can also opt for more hearty savory dishes—definitely worth the feeling of being extra full. Things to do Nearby: Several cruises depart from the adjacent piers if you’re hoping to enjoy a leisurely boat ride around the harbor. You’re also close to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. Café Mogador View this post on Instagram A post shared by Mogador (@mogadorcafe) on Jun 17, 2019 at 10:05pm PDT Fans of Moroccan food, or anyone looking to try something unique, will delight in Café Mogador. Its East Village location boasts flavorful Mediterranean dishes like halloumi with eggs, French toast, eggs with spicy stewed tomatoes, buttermilk pancakes, and organic granola. You can also choose from sides like house-made merguez sausage, bacon, and authentic sauces like Schug. Things to do Nearby: You’re a few blocks or a quick transit ride away from several different cultural tours, including a tour of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral and the downtown experience by the RIDE, an entertaining tour perfect for visitors. Upland View this post on Instagram A post shared by Upland (@upland_nyc) on Aug 4, 2019 at 7:28pm PDT Anyone homesick for California or their fresh cuisine won’t want to skip brunch at Upland. Located in the Flatiron District, this chic restaurant combines Italian influences with a Cali cool vibe in dishes like funky donuts, buttermilk pancakes, eggs benedict, quiche, and bucatini cacio e pepe. May we also recommend “The Larry David,” an everything bagel with smoked whitefish, tomatoes, capers, and cream cheese? Things to do Nearby: If you’re brunching with your significant other—or a hot date—then try checking out the Museum of Sex. It’s a funky little space that’s among the most unique museums in the city. Otherwise, the Empire State Building is a few blocks farther north. Balthazar View this post on Instagram A post shared by Scott Shells (@scottshells) on Sep 1, 2019 at 9:18am PDT A longstanding Soho brasserie, Balthazar is not for those with a light budget. However, should you be in the mood to splurge, they offer a menu bursting with French delights like caramelized banana tartine, chicken liver, and foie gras mousse, eggs Florentine, a ratatouille omelet, and many (very expensive) seafood options. If you want to see the décor but only want to spend a bit, try one of their hangover drinks—which will still run you over $15/drink, but hey, it’s Soho. Things to do Nearby: Soho’s location makes it the perfect nexus for local tours, as well as the City Winery, which is an awesome destination if you want to keep up with the imbibing. Maison Kayser View this post on Instagram A post shared by Eric Kayser Officiel (@maisonkayser) on Aug 12, 2019 at 8:19am PDT This bakery-slash-café is one of a series of such outposts, but the original location in the UES is a nice place to start. Offering primarily French fare—and doing very well at baking said French pastries—this is the perfect option for those looking for a quick bite or less expensive option. Some of their most iconic dishes include natural levain bread and viennoiseries, all baked on-site. You can choose from a pit stop at the coffee bar to grab some bread, or a sit-down at the café to enjoy a full Parisian menu. Things to do Nearby: The Upper East Side is filled with nature, culture, and fun. Spend the rest of the day at the Met, zip around Central Park on a bike, or marvel at the architecture at the Guggenheim Museum. Share Your Adventure with Us Tag @GoCity in your vacation photos and we'll feature you on our page. Follow the Go City Instagram and Facebook pages for competitions, special offers, and events and inspiration for your chosen destination too!
Katie Sagal

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