Try imagining New York City’s skyline without the towering spire of the Empire State Building. Impossible, right? Taking a mere 11 months to construct, the 1,454-foot-tall emblem became the city’s highest building upon completion in 1931. (When One World Trade Center is finished, it will tower over the ESB by a good 300 feet.) During your visit, pay special attention to the lobby, restored in 2009 to its original Art Deco design. You can also impress your pals with these tidbits while queuing for the observation decks: In 1945, 14 tenants were killed when a plane crashed into the 79th floor during heavy fog; a terrace on the 103rd level was once intended for use as a docking station for airships; and the topper’s three tiers of lights can illuminate up to nine colors at a time. High-speed elevators shoot visitors up 1,050 feet to the 86th-floor observatory, where you can either peer out at the city from the comfort of a glass-enclosed pavilion or brave the elements on the open-air decks. Tickets to the 102nd Floor Observatory are an additional $17. Daily 8am–10pm: The New York Skyride Visitors take a motion-picture tour over, through and below the city streets ($29; seniors, students and children 6–12 $19).
Empire State Building
Find cool historical tidbits about the beloved 102-story structure known as the Empire State Building—and some stellar shots of NYC from atop it, too—by clicking through our slide show.
The Empire State Building stands (spire included) 1,454 feet tall. It surpassed the Chrysler Building to become the tallest building in the world in 1931, a title it held until the World Trade Center’s North Tower was completed in the early ’70s.
In 1930, photographer Lewis Hine snapped this shot of a laborer fastening the building’s steel beams. Construction lasted a mere 11 months and employed more than 3,000 workers.
When this photo was taken in 1930, workers had constructed the first 40 floors of the building.
In 1945, an airplane crashed into the building’s north side during heavy fog, killing 14 people. In this photo, workers cover a hole from the accident on the south side of the building.
Here is a view facing north from atop the 86th-floor observatory.
This is a view facing the East River from the 86th-floor observatory.
This view from the 86th-floor observatory that overlooks the Hudson River.
In our roundup of the top 50 New York City photographs, Art editor Howard Halle described William Klein’s Atom Bomb Sky, New York, which prominently features a towering Empire State Building, as follows: “At the height of the Cold War , Klein rather cheekily bestowed an apocalyptic title to this image of the sun peeking through the haze as it crests over midtown; but it endures as a representation of New York’s splendor.”
Here’s Halle again, writing about Berenice Abbott’s photograph New York at Night: “Taken from an upper floor of the Empire State Building at dusk just before Christmas, 1932, this image imparts a magical twinkle suitable for the season, thanks to a special developer Abbott used to render the contrasts between light and dark.”
There are three levels of lights atop the Empire State Building and up to nine colors can illuminate at a time. This rainbow-colored lighting scheme celebrates Pride Week. Track the Empire State Building’s lighting schedule over at the building’s official site.
Red, white and blue lights illuminate the top of the Empire State Building to mark the Fourth of July.
All three tiers of lights turn green for St. Patrick’s Day.
The Empire State Building has been referenced in pop culture far too many times to mention here. But we’d be remiss not to include the ending of 1933’s King Kong, a film that nabbed the seventh spot on our 100 best NYC movies feature. In it, writer Alison Willmore notes, “Any list of New York films has to include one of the most famous images of the city ever committed to celluloid: the giant stop-motion ape beating his chest atop the Empire State Building and swiping at the biplanes that have come to take him down.”
In 1964, Andy Warhol released the eight-hour film Empire, which consists solely of an uninterrupted shot of the Empire State Building.
The cover of Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, depicts an exaggerated, towering image of the Empire State Building.
In our Secrets of classic New York issue, writer Rebecca Dalzell notes that “an unmarked door on the 102nd-floor observation deck conceals one of the most impractical secrets of [the Empire State Building]. Although visitors can't access it, a set of steps leads to a narrow terrace that was once intended to be a docking station. Airships were supposed to moor at the tip of the mast, and passengers would be able to alight there. (But don't be fooled—though this image illustrates what such an event might have looked like, it's a fake.)”
A full renovation of the Empire State Building’s lobby, which re-created its original Art Deco design, was completed in 2009.
Here is a close-up of the lobby’s anemometer, which took the place of the clock above the Empire State Building’s information desk during the restoration.
Check out the lobby’s original 1931 ceiling mural.
The Empire State Building’s elevator bank is to the left. It takes less than a minute for express elevators to shoot up from the lobby to the 86th-floor observatory.
|Venue name:||Empire State Building||Contact:|
350 Fifth Ave
|Cross street:||between 33rd and 34th Sts|
|Opening hours:||Daily 8am–2am|
|Transport:||Subway: B, D, F, M, N, Q, R to 34th St–Herald Sq; 6 to 33rd St|
|Price:||$25, seniors and military personnel with ID $22, children 6–12 $19, children under 5 and military personnel in uniform free.|