75 years ago, on May 1st, 1931, the Empire State Building opened to the public.

The idea for the skyscraper came from John J. Raskob, whose goal in the project was merely to outdo his former competitor, Walter Chrysler, and the Chrysler Building.  Raskob, and then Governor Al Smith, conspired to make sure that the new building would surpass the Chrysler building in its height, 103 floors, and its magnificent design.  Including the antenna on top, the Empire State Building stands 1,454 feet tall.

Amazingly, this ambitious project only took 410 days to complete, an average of about four-and-a-half floors completed per week.  View the photo history of the building of the Empire State Building here.

The building, Fifth Avenue at 34th, seems to float above the street, and the rest of its surroundings, when viewed from a distance.  It is one of the definitive parts of the Manhattan skyline, and is impressive it its history, architecture, and views.  It is often recognized from its frequent appearance in movies.  The photo, above, was taken from a nearby hotel room.

Admission to the building is $18 for adults, $16 for youths (12-17), $12 for children (6-11), and $16 for seniors (62+) and military personnel (with ID).  Toddlers, and military personnel in uniform are free.  An audio tour is also for available for an additional $6.  It allows you to correspond the audio to various signages, which identifies and explains what you are viewing.  Tickets are available onsite or online.  Buying tickets online will allow you to bypass some of the waiting lines.

There are a fair amount of security issues to consider:  Everyone must go through security to enter the building.  No glass or bottles are permitted.  Cameras and camcorders are allowed, but no tripods.  Only carry-on size bags are allowed, and there is no coat check or baggage holding area.  Plan to visit when you aren’t carting a lot of stuff around.

On the 86th floor is an observatory, that features both an indoor, glass-enclosed area, as well as an outdoor promenade.  The promenade circles the entire building, and gives spectacular views of the city.  The observatory has a gift shop for souvenirs, and is handicap accessible,

There is also an observatory on the 102nd floor, and tickets can be purchased at the observatory ticket office on the 2nd floor on-site, or also online.  These tickets are $14, and are in addition to regular admission.  The observatory hours are 8 am to Midnight, daily, and the last elevators go up at 11:15 pm.

Shops, restaurants, and a variety of services are also located in the Empire State Building, reminding us that it is more than just a pretty building, but is also home to offices and businesses.

Lines, and subsequent wait times, vary substantially depending on time of year and time of day.  Don’t sandwich in a visit when you a schedule to keep.  Allow an entire afternoon, and just enjoy the spectacular views.  It’s been said that you haven’t really seen the city, until you’ve seen it from the top of the Empire State Building.

The Empire State Building can be reached by subway:

1,2, or 3 (Seventh Avenue Lines) to 34th Street/Penn Station

A, C, or E (Eighth Avenue) to 34th Street/Penn Station

B, D, F, N, Q, R or Path to 34th Street/Avenue of the Americas


Photo credit:  Jon Rochetti, c. 2006