Destinations Magazine

Your Guide to Hacking the Empire State Building Line

By Davedtc @davedtc

One of the biggest and most famous landmarks in New York City throughout the US is the iconic Empire State Building. It attracts over 4 million visitors every year, which in comparison is about half as many people that live in the entirety of Manhattan. If you are doing your math, that means that around 11,000 visitors go up the ESB every single day. This means a whole lot of elevator rides. What it also means is that the Empire State building can boast some of the longest lines of any NYC attraction. This article is to give you the simple hints on how to bypass the line and spend the most time possible at viewing the big apple.

1. Book a ticket online:
Like most attractions these days, you have the ability to grab a ticket online at no additional cost. You can even print out your ticket before hand which will save even more time. This will prevent you from having to go to any of the ticket agents which during peak times can save anywhere between 10-20 minutes.

2. Splurge on an express ticket:
Yes an express ticket is going to cost you more but weigh that against the price of your time especially during a holiday or vacation. For an adult the cost of an express ticket can run you about $13 more to get to the 86th floor and $23 if you go to the 102nd floor. While this might seem like a lot, I can tell from personal experience that it is worth every penny. From entering the Empire State Building to reaching the top, with the express ticket the last time I was at the empire state building it might have taken me 15 minutes to get to the 86th floor. On top I had a conversation with a really nice family who said it took them around 2+ hours with a regular ticket (mind you this wasn’t even during peak times). Apparently it can take as much as 3+ hours if you go during the most crowded times (weekends or not during the morning). So is it worth it to you?

3. Go early in the day:
Unless your goal is to catch the most perfect sunset, there is no reason not to go early and miss the crowds. This can cut or add an extra hour plus to your wait times. Yes, the sky line is stunning right at sunset but there are places that are just as good if not better to catch a NYC sunset (Brooklyn shoreline for example). The earlier you go the faster you will find you can get to the top and enjoy what you really came for.

4. How high is high enough:
The Empire State Building actually has two viewing areas that you can visit. The first on the 86th floor and the second on the 102nd floor. Like everything in the city, the more you want the more it will cost. So if you want the very top it will cost you an extra $11 for a regular adult ticket. I promise that on the 86th floor you will see exactly the same things you will see on the 102nd floor. I have always bypassed going to the very top when showing friends who are visiting and there has never been a complaint (plus the price is cheaper). There is always an extra line to the top and I find that the 86th floor view is just as breath taking.

I am a native New Yorker who has always enjoyed giving advice to people who live in the city and people who visit.

Empire State Building

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