I'm a New Yorker who visited the Empire State Building for the first time – Insider

I’ve lived on Long Island since I was born — my dad commuted to Manhattan my whole childhood and I went to the city countless times as a kid. I then commuted myself for a year after college, before moving into NYC myself in 2019.
But, somehow, neither my parents nor any of my schools took me to the Empire State Building, and by the time you’re 26, none of your cool NYC friends want to visit either.
There are four ticket levels you can purchase to visit. There’s a basic ticket that’ll get you to the 80th floor and the 86th-floor observation deck. For an adult, it costs $44, while kids cost $38 and seniors cost $42.
To get to the 102nd floor and its glass observation deck will set an adult back $77. Children are $71 and seniors are $75.
There’s an added premium if you want to go at sunset: A 102nd-floor ticket costs $92 for an adult, and an 86th-floor ticket costs $54.
While these ticket prices may seem steep, the basic ticket is comparable with the cost of visiting similar tourist hot spots in the city. For example, tickets to visit the top of the Rockefeller Center, or the Top of the Rock, start at $40 for an adult, while a standard adult ticket for One World Observatory costs $38.
Maybe it was just because it was the middle of the day on a Tuesday, but there was absolutely no one around.
There was a set of stairs to walk up where this replica was housed. There was a sticker on the floor advertising a hashtag to use with your selfies, but there wasn’t anyone around to snag said selfies, besides me.
I was advised that I had to buy a ticket online first to ensure I’d get a spot at the time I wanted, but from all these empty ticket machines, I have a feeling I could’ve just waited.
I have to assume that it’s packed here on weekends — this place is built to sustain crowds. According to the building’s website, 4 million people visit yearly.
It basically looked like airport security.
The red carpet was for people who purchased an express ticket … but there was no reason for it on the day of my visit.
I thought I had made it to the elevators before I saw camera flashes. Then, I thought it was for security, but I was wrong.
The photographer laughed and asked if it was just me visiting alone, which was a fair question. As it was just me, I decided I’d just be holding on to my postcard.
If you want to learn more about the building’s history, I would highly recommend paying a visit. The Empire State Building has been part of NYC’s skyline since ground was first broken in 1930. There are lots of exhibits about how much the city has changed in the intervening 92 years.
There are many interactive touch screens, statues, photo opportunities, and information. It’s one of the more interesting museums I’ve visited in a while.
This made me thankful that the observation decks don’t have glass bottoms.
Much of the museum is dedicated to the Empire State Building’s iconic place in pop culture in comics, movies, TV shows, toys, and more.
One of the most famous images involving the Empire State Building is King Kong, a giant ape, scaling the building. This photo-op pays tribute to the iconic film — you can even pretend Kong is grabbing you.
Spoiler: This was the biggest crowd I saw my entire visit, and I was still on the elevator around two minutes later.
My ears popped multiple times on my way up.
There were even more exhibits up here, fake binoculars that hooked up to video feeds around the city, and, of course, spectacular views.
“On a clear day, you can see six states from our observatories: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Delaware,” according to its website.
On the southern side of the building, I was exposed to more sun and was shielded from the wind, making it an altogether lovely experience.
I’ve never seen anything quite like it before.
Yes, I was holding on to my phone for dear life while trying to snag a picture through the rails.
It was so windy that I thought my hat was going to come off, or that my phone was going to fly out of my hands. I also was worried that my fingers were going to get too cold to take any pictures without dropping my phone, so I hurried back to the warmer side.
And hi Chelsea, Midtown West, and the Hudson River.
I was prepared for something worth an extra $33 … but I was underwhelmed.
The 102nd floor is in the base of the needle atop the building.
The best part was that I had a better view of Central Park and wasn’t freezing my behind off to see it.
I just moved from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to the Upper East Side in Manhattan, so forgive me for getting a little nostalgic.
The observation deck on the 102nd floor opened in 2019.
The exterior of the Empire State Building was just one of many iconic NYC holiday movie destinations I stopped at last year.
If you have an afternoon to kill and don’t mind spending the $44 ticket price, I would definitely recommend swinging by the Empire State Building. You’ll learn more about the building and the city’s history, and you’ll get a brand new perspective.
Sure, it’s a little cheesy, but it’s iconic for a reason.
A view from 86 floors up was high enough for me, and it was cool to actually be outside as opposed to being stuck behind the glass.
But I was impressed — now it’s time for me to try the other iconic NYC buildings that offer stunning views!
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