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How to Get Empire State Building Tickets

Including Discount Tickets

Updated: November 8, 2023

This post provides all of the information you need to visit the Empire State Building, the world's most famous building.

We explain the different ticket options available to you, compare the 86th and 102nd floor observatories, and how to avoid long lines.

As local tour guides who offer pay-what-you-wish walking tours, we know a thing or two about saving money.

So, we've also included information on discounted tickets.

And, in the video below, Katie, a tour guide with us, Free Tours by Foot, gives you a preview of a visit to the Empire State Building.


TIP:  Entry to the Empire State Building is included for free with the purchase of a few different tourist discount passes such as the New York Pass and the New York Explorer Pass.

Why not consider a pass to help you save money? Find out more here.

There are additional discount tickets available listed below. 

Main Deck (86th Floor)

Express Pass Tickets cost $80 per person. Skip both the entrance line and the elevator line.

Main Deck and Top Deck (86th and 102nd Floors)

Express Pass Tickets cost $129 per person. Skip both the entrance line and the elevator line.

AM + PM Ticket (86th Floor)

This ticket is for those who just can't decide whether to go during the day or the night. 

For night access, you can enter the ESB after 9 pm (21:00).

TIP: If you are considering a tourist discount pass, then note that the CityPass booklet includes the AM + PM ticket.


There are a number of different ways to get affordable Empire State Building tickets.

Most of these discounts will be good for general admission tickets, so anyone who wants an Express Pass will need to upgrade. 

1. NYC City Passes

If you are considering the purchase of a New York City tourist attraction discount pass, you definitely want to read this.

Entry to the Empire State Building's 86th-floor observatory is included for free with the purchase of the New York Sightseeing Pass, the New York Pass, and the New York Explorer Pass.

It is also free "twice" with the purchase of a CityPass booklet, giving you the opportunity to come day and night.

In addition to offering free admission to the Empire State Building, these passes also include several other popular attractions such as the following:

  • Top of the Rock
  • One World Observatory
  • Hop-on-Hop-off Bus Tour
  • Statue of Liberty Ferry Tour
  • 9/11 Memorial & Museum
  • Rockefeller Center Tour
  • Radio City Music Hall Tour
  • Yankee Stadium Tour
  • Circle Line Cruises
  • And more!

These passes work by bundling together dozens of attractions and tours into one discounted price. They can save you up to 55% off of retail ticket prices.

They can also save you time with skip-the-ticket-line privileges are numerous locations, such as the Empire State Building.

Read our post comparing the various different passes to see which one, if any, is best for you.

2. Military Discount

$2-$3 off for veterans with military ID and admission is free for the military in uniform.

3. Combo Packages

Empire State Building + Statue of Liberty

  • $73.06/Adults | $53.30/Children | $60.54/Seniors
  • Includes Empire State Building 86th Floor Tickets
  • Includes Statue of Liberty Tour from Battery Park
  • Purchase a combo ticket or learn more.

Empire State Building + Museum of Modern Art

Empire State Building + Top of the Rock

Empire State Building + 9/11 Memorial & Museum

Empire State Building + American Museum of Natural History

  • $67.36/Adults | $51.65/Children | $60.54/Seniors
  • Includes Empire State Building 86th Floor Tickets
  • Includes 9/11 American Museum of Natural History Tickets
  • Purchase a combo ticket or learn more.

Empire State Building + One World Observatory

Empire State Building + RiseNY

Empire State Building + Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

  • $73.73/Adults | $62.97/Children | $69.95/Seniors
  • Includes Empire State Building 86th Floor Tickets
  • Includes Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Tickets
  • Purchase a combo ticket or learn more.

4. Coupon Codes

If you're looking for an easy way to save a bit of money, this option only requires you to use a special code when purchasing tickets.

Get 10% off each ticket with CitySights. You must use promo code SAVE10.

5. New York Tourist Card

In addition to the more traditional tourist passes, there is also a pass that covers the cost of the Empire State Building and the following attractions:

  • Statue of Liberty Cruise
  • Museum of Modern Art
  • New York City Audio Guide
  • 10% Discount on additional activities

6. Discount Sites

Occasionally, Groupon, Living Social, and other coupon websites offer discounted tickets for a variety of local activities and attractions such as the Empire State Building.

7. Group Sales

When you purchase tickets for 20 or more people at a time, you can get a special discount for purchasing group tickets.

You'll have to contact the people at the Empire State Building directly either at or 212-736-3100 to take advantage of this deal.

8. Senior Discount

If you're 62 years of age or older, you're eligible for a $2 discount on tickets to the Empire State Building.

9. Children Get In Free

Kids under the age of 6 are granted free admission with parental supervision, so as long as you purchase an adult ticket, your child can enter for free!

10. Educator Discounts

Whether you're leading a group of children on a field trip or you're just curious if there are any deals available for educators, we recommend contacting the Empire State Building directly to inquire about any potential discounts.

11. First Responder Discounts

In addition to the military discounts, you may also be eligible to save some money on tickets if you are a first responder.

Please contact the Empire State Building directly to inquire about whether or not they currently offer this discount.

12. International Student Identity Card

If you're an international student in university, you're eligible for the International Student Identity Card.

This card is only €10 per person, and it includes discounts on several activities and attractions in New York City.

You can use this ISIC card to save up to 25% off admission to the Empire State Building. That represents a savings of $10.50, which is almost the full cost of the card!

Students interested in visiting other notable attractions in NYC might want to consider this option.

You'll already be saving money if you use it for even one more service. Here are a few other discounts included with the ISIC card:

  • 15% off the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Tour
  • $11 Discount at the Museum of Modern Art
  • 25% off New York Craft Cocktail Tours
  • 10% off New York Pizza Tours

Learn more about the International Student Identity Card.


No matter when you choose to visit or which ticket you purchase, it will be important to plan out your trip to the Empire State Building.

Lines can be painfully long, but they are avoidable.

In this section, we give tips on what to expect, and how to avoid long lines as well as list what you can't bring into the building.

Be sure to also read our post comparing the Empire State Building with Top of the Rock and One World Observatory as well as our guide to 100 NYC attractions.

Podcast Episode: Listen to tour guides Lori and Katherine discuss visiting the Empire State Building on an episode of our NYC Travel Tips podcast.

This podcast offers bite-sized audio clips with tips on how to plan your trip to NYC. You can get our podcasts on Apple, Google, or wherever you get your podcasts.


The Empire State Building is open daily from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 a.m. The last admission at night is 1:15 a.m. 

This makes the Empire State Building something that you can use at any time of the day.

The building's main entrance is at 20 34th Street.

There are two viewing platforms: the more popular and cheaper option is on the 86th floor and the more private and expensive platform is on the 102nd floor.

We answer whether the 102nd floor is worth it in the following section.

Empire State Building

During peak seasons (summer months and holidays), general admission ticket holders can expect a wait time of 45-60 minutes to get through security and elevator lines to reach the observation decks with a total visit time of approximately 1.5 - 2 hours. 

Waits can be even longer during the peak of the peak hours, such as sunset, or on days with clear skies that follow cloudy and rainy days. 

Those purchasing tickets on-site have an additional ticket line to deal with.

Express Pass holders (those who can skip all lines) will enjoy an average wait time of between 10-15 minutes on average to reach the observation decks. 

This ticket is not cheap. Find out about all skip-the-line options and see if they are worth the extra money for you.

If you want to avoid the crowds (and avoid paying for the Express Pass), we recommend visiting between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. or after sunset when wait times for general admission ticket holders tend to be shorter than the average. 

There are numerous reviews on Google and TripAdvisor of people saying they arrived at 8 a.m. and encountered no lines at all. 

(Tip: We offer several morning walking tours at 9:30 or 10:00 a.m. and several starting at 1 and 2 p.m.)

We recommend using Google's popular time function which tracks phones that arrive and leave the building. 

You can set it to any day you like.

TIP: If you're planning to see the Empire State Building at night, consider visiting between the hours of 9 p.m. - 1 a.m. from Thursday to Saturday.

During these hours, a live saxophonist will be on hand to provide wonderful music – and he takes requests.

Check out some of our other suggestions for things to do at night in NYC.

Note: We offer several evening walking tours that end around 9 or 9:30 pm, just in time for a night visit to the ESB)

If you find yourself in a long line, you will have a handheld audio tour to help you understand the building's history and what you are seeing once you are on the observation decks. 

The tour is available in 9 different languages including English, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, and Portuguese. 

Before you arrive at the observation decks, you’ll have the opportunity to explore several exhibits about this National Historic Landmark.

Their main exhibit is called “Dare to Dream”, and it provides several important details about the construction and history of the Empire State Building.

The newest exhibit focuses on the sustainability efforts that are being made to decrease the amount of energy used by the building.

Many guests have reported that this area is very well laid out and it provides a lot of useful information.

And you will exit the observation deck areas by walking through the gift shop on the 80th floor.

Security and Prohibited Items

Guests are allowed to bring in smartphones, small cameras, baby strollers (folded on observation decks), as well as purses, and small bags, such as backpacks. 

There is a list of prohibited items that all visitors should keep in mind.

Prohibited Items

  • Any and all Weapons
  • Glass Items
  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Cans, bottles, flasks
  • Professional Cameras/Camera Equipment
  • Sports Equipment
  • Markers, Paint, etc.
  • Musical Instruments
  • Costumes and Masks
  • Large Packages, Suitcases, and Luggage

Be sure to read our post on luggage storage in NYC for ideas of where to store large prohibited items. 

Prices are just $2/piece/hour or up to $6 for the day.  

How to Get to the Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is located between 34th and 32nd Streets and 5th and 6th Avenues.

You enter the building at 20 West 34th Street between 5th and 6th Aves.

How to get to the Empire State Building

We recommend that you use this Google map for directions to the Empire State Building from anywhere in the city. 

Be sure to read our post on navigating the NYC subway system and choosing a subway pass.

Hop-on-Hop-off Bus:

If you're already planning to use a hop-on-hop-off bus service, you should know that most of them make stops on 5th and 6th Avenue and include ESB in some packages.

Take a look at our New York bus tours comparison post for more information.


The Empire State Building sells both a general admission ticket and a skip-the-line ticket known as the Express Pass. 

During peak hours and especially in popular seasons, the more expensive Express Pass can be a useful option to avoid waiting in line for too long especially if you can't make the off-peak times.

However, the Express Pass is pretty expensive, an extra $36/per person, and maybe a bit too costly for most visitors. 

On most days of the week, you could avoid long lines between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. as well as between just after sunset and 2 a.m.  

NOTE: The Express Pass is not to be confused with what some tourist discount passes call "skip-the-line" (these passes only let you skip the ticket office line). However, if you have a tourist pass, you can upgrade to the Express Pass.

Express Pass is Worth It

Almost every review for this skip-the-line service is positive. Several guests even went so far as to suggest that the Express Pass is an absolute must.

According to many visitors, the lines can get pretty long during busy seasons and this is an excellent option to skip those lines and get to the observation deck as quickly as possible.

Not Always Necessary

Some reviewers indicated that the Express Pass isn't always necessary.

If you plan on visiting either during a slow period or season, you might be able to reach the observation deck nearly as fast with general admission as you would with this skip-the-line option.

Sometimes Confusing

A few customers were very confused about how to use the Express Pass.

While some guests couldn't find the signage indicating where they needed to go, others were unhappy with people in the general admission line who got upset at them for trying to move ahead. 


In addition to the question of Express Pass or no Express Pass, visitors to the Empire State Building Observatory also need to choose whether or not to pay the additional $20/ticket to visit the 102nd-floor observatory.

All tickets include the 86th floor.  

Which Observatory Empire State Building

On the 86th-floor observation deck, you will be 1050' (320 m) above the street. The 102nd floor is 1250' (381 m) above ground. 

Both offer 360-degree views.

While that is a considerable distance, it's important to note that many visitors who visited both observatories didn't feel like the view on the 102nd floor was worth the extra money. 

The 86th floor is open-air and larger. 

The 102nd-floor observatory is enclosed and several complaints include dirty windows.

However, many of these people also stated that they just had to go to the very top of the Empire State Building, something we think many of you may fall victim to. 

With this said, many people appreciated the more intimate feeling on the higher floor. In winter, it's nice to be in an enclosed, warm space.

However, keep in mind, that you could use that extra $20 to purchase tickets to Top of the Rock or One World Observatory and get an additional perspective.


With three different observation decks in New York City, you might be wondering whether or not you should visit the Empire State Building.

The attraction gets overall great reviews.

Some guests are going to go no matter what, but others might want to consider factors such as wait times and weather before deciding.  

With that in mind, let’s discuss a few reasons to plan a trip to this historic site.

Incredible Views of NYC

Tourists and locals alike often report that the Empire State Building provides one of the best views in New York City. 

The highlight is its central location in Manhattan.

Although you can also get a good look at the city from either Top of the Rock or One World Observatory, several visitors indicate that there’s nothing quite like the view from this beloved NYC landmark. 

However, one drawback is that visitors to Top of the Rock really like the view of the Empire State Building and Central Park which is really missing at the ESB.

Be sure to also read our post on the 28 best views of NYC.

Worth the Wait

Even though a lot of visitors report that it can take a while to reach the top, the Empire State Building still enjoys one of the best ratings for any attraction in New York City.

This graceful skyscraper was the tallest building in the world for 41 years and is an icon to many all over the world.

So, it's no surprise that many reviewers indicate that the experience of visiting this observation deck is well worth the wait that you might have to endure. 

Great for History Buffs

Whether you’re interested in the overall history of New York or you just want to see the site where several famous films have been shot, a trip to the Empire State Building is a must.

This skyscraper is a National Historic Landmark and it is one of the many locations that has become an unforgettable and recognizable icon of NYC.

In addition to everything else, travelers also suggest that the exhibits on display are very interesting.

Guests seem to appreciate all of the information that they provide about the construction of this modern marvel. 

Extended Night Hours

Once the sun goes down, the Empire State Building becomes one of the best places to visit in New York.

Not only are the lines typically much shorter, but the views of a famous city glimmering with lights are also quite impressive.

Unlike all of the other observation decks in NYC, the Empire State Building is open until 2 am every night.

Visitors can enjoy the views for 2 hours longer than at any other location, which is definitely a great option for night owls.

Many reviewers indicate that a nighttime visit is definitely worth consideration.

Check out some of our other suggestions for things to do at night in NYC.


Al Smith, the skyscraper race, and the audacity to do grand things

Two men were especially important in the construction of the Empire State Building.

The first was William Frederick Lamb, the designer of the building – a Brooklynite who had studied Beaux Art architecture in Paris.  

The other man was former New York Governor Alfred E. Smith, who was the chairman of the construction company.

Alfred Smith had borne witness to daring construction projects, such as the Brooklyn Bridge or the NY mass transit system. 

His confident attitude reflected the spirit of an era that was quickly being replaced during the Great Depression.

As an Irish Catholic himself, he ordered the symbolic start of the construction to be March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day.

About 3,400 workers mostly European immigrants and Mohawk ironworkers from the Montreal area finished the construction in less than 14 months.

When the Empire State Building with its 1250 feet (381 m) was completed in 1931 it stood as the tallest building for 40 years, surpassing the Chrysler Building, as well as the 40 Wall Street Building in height, once the spike was added to the final structure.

Fun Facts

  • The Empire State Building takes up a whole city block and has its own zip code 10118.
  • The Waldorf Astoria Hotel used to stand on that city block.
  • It was one time called the 8th Wonder of the modern world.
  • It was also called Empty State Building, due to a lack of renters in the first 2 decades.
  • The total floor space would cover 21 city blocks.
  • 57,000 tons of steel were used to build it.
  • In 1964 floodlights were added to illuminate the top at night. Different colors are used to celebrate important holidays and events.
  • Recent sustainability leadership and the energy efficiency makeover will save $4.4 million per year.
  • In 2012 floodlights were exchanged with LED fixtures, which added 16 million colors to the formerly 9 available colors.
  • Every year the Empire Building Run-up lets participants climb up the 1,576 steps. The record to climb the 86th-floor is held by an Australian who did this in less than 10 minutes.

About The Author

Stephen Pickhardt

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers. Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo,, and more.
Updated: November 8th, 2023
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