No visit to New York City is complete without a trip to the top of the Empire State Building. You've seen it in so many movies, but you have never seen Manhattan until you step out onto its Main Observation Deck and soak in the view.

Be a star at the Empire State Building

You have seen it in dozens of movies. This is where Meg Ryan rushed to meet Tom Hanks at the end of Sleepless in Seattle, only to find a child’s knapsack and then the love of her life. It’s where Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr were supposed to meet in An Affair to Remember, until fate got in the way. Even King Kong found love here with Fay Wray tightly clasped in his giant hand. The Empire State Building is arguably the most famous building in the world.

You cannot visit New York City without being moved by its towering beauty and a visit to the top is a simply unforgettable experience. Every single time I have stood at the top of the Empire State Building and looked out at its 360-degree view of the Manhattan skyline, I have been profoundly moved.

Be Prepared to Wait

Expect lines. Very long lines. However, you can avoid the worst of waiting. The lines are shortest at 8am and at 3pm, and at night. Be a Star at the Empire State Building, go first thing in the morning, and start off your Manhattan day with an unbeatable view. Or go at night. That view of millions and millions of sparking lights in the city that never sleeps will take your breath away.

Don’t rule out a visit if it’s snowing or raining a little. The view is still spectacular, and a little inclement weather does keep the lines down. You can also save some time by paying more for an Express ticket that skips the line, but that’s not necessary if you just plan your visit properly.

Two More Tips for Your Visit

There are several stages to the line-up, and as you head to the top you will walk through many hallways, wait for a couple of elevators, and at every step of the way, someone will try to sell you something. They will take your photo for a souvenir, they will offer you audio tours, there’s a new app available for your iPod, there’s even a SkyRide attraction in the lobby. Keep in mind that the real star here is the view, and you don’t need any additions to appreciate it. Just don’t forget your camera.

Another tip is to skip the extra cost for the Top Deck observatory on the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building. The view is the same as it is from the Main Deck on the 86th floor, only higher. It’s not worth the extra money or the extra wait in additional lines.

Instead, save your money for the gift shop on the Main Deck of the Empire State Building. It’s a great gift shop where you can buy everything from super kitschy King Kong refrigerator magnets to classic photo books detailing the fascinating history of this Art Deco building.

The View

What can you see from the top of the Empire State Building? In a word: Everything. Stand on the south side and you can see the Flatiron Building, the Statue of Liberty, New York Harbour, and the new One World Trade Center rising up in defiance. Look north and there is the wide green expanse of Central Park, the Dakota Apartment on its west side, the Metropolitan Museum of Art on its east, and Harlem to its north. To the east, Broadway winds right below you and the Hudson River sparkles between you and New Jersey.

However, the best view, in my opinion, lies to your northeast. Standing (almost) shoulder to shoulder with the Empire State Building is the Chrysler Building, one of the other of New York’s iconic Art Deco buildings. Built at the same time, it was taller for only eleven months until the Empire State Building was completed. The crown of the Chrysler Building is a glimmering and sculpted one-of-a-kind wonder, and you can only see it from here.

Be Your Own Star

The most fun thing to do at the top of the Empire State Building is to act out some of your favourite New York movies that have taken place here. So, what will you be? Star-crossed lovers or a giant ape?


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