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.

Young girl admiring the view from the Empire State building

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.

Table of the busiest and least crowded times to visit the Empire State Building

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.

Binoculars at the top of the Empire State Building at nighttime

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 

Buy tickets online

Get the Go City attraction pass for New York

Visit the Empire State Building with Go City

Official Empire State Building website