For many, the Empire State Building is a must visit when in New York City. I can’t count how many romantic movies and novels I have read that have used the beautiful building as a setting backdrop. I knew I had to visit the Empire State Building during my visit here, because I am forever chasing beautiful viewpoints.
I already had the New York CityPASS, which included admission to the Empire State Building for the same day and night – so twice in a day to see the day and night view! After going on TripAdvisor, the line-hater in me was horrified to hear stories of people waiting 2+ hours to get up.
So, we decided to try our luck and hope that the line up wouldn’t be two hours to experience one of NYC’s greatest attractions.
Empire State Building Line System:
There are a total of FIVE lines before you are able to make it up to the observatory deck:
- The line on the main floor (there wasn’t a line during the day but at night there was)
- The airport style security checkpoint line
- The ticket purchasing line up
- The lineup to the 80th floor elevator
- And finally, the lineup to the observatory deck on the 86th floor
For $65 a person, or a bit more than double the regular price of $32 a person, visitors are given the option to bypass the line with the VIP express ticket. I’m not too sure if this bypasses ALL five lines, but it definitely bypasses the elevator lines.
Skip the line with the NYC CityPASS
With the NYC CityPASS, we were able to skip the ticket purchasing line up, which was the longest line of all. After you show the staff your CityPASS, they show you a shortcut to the elevator lines.
We quickly passed by the ticket purchasing line and we were SO glad that we had the CityPASS! The line up was crazy to purchase tickets, even on a Wednesday late afternoon! I can’t imagine a Friday or Saturday night.
Because most people are stuck in the ticket purchasing line, the elevator lines went by pretty fast and weren’t long at all. The waiting areas are a spiraling maze of rope guards for the busiest nights. I feel so bad for people who come during peak hours (Friday & Saturday nights).
Walk up the Empire State Building?
They don’t really advertise this anywhere, but if you don’t want to wait for the second and final elevator to the 86th floor, you are able to walk up six flights of stairs instead. The staff will announce when they are escorting people to walk up, so be mindful of any announcements as you are in line!
My mom and I did this during the night visit as we didn’t know about it during our first day visit. We were a bit tired after walking up the flight of stairs, and I definitely felt the soreness in my legs the day after, but it was definitely worth not having to wait in line. Can you tell how much I hate waiting in line now?
Now, on to the views!
View of the Upper East Side with Brooklyn across the East River. The buildings look short, but they are actually quite tall if you don’t compare them to the majestic Empire State Building.
View of Upper Manhattan, with Central Park in the background. The buildings look like lego towers to me. Even from 86 floors above, you can still hear the fire truck and police sirens. You just can’t escape from the hustle and bustle of the concrete jungle!
View of Lower Manhattan, with the One World Trade being the tallest skyscraper in the photo.
Hello! 🙂 I also recommend bringing a GoPro/selfie stick so you can get better views for your photos!
Since we were able to skip a large chunk of waiting with the CityPASS, we had to wait probably 30-40 minutes. The longest line was security, which everyone has to wait in regardless of which type of ticket they have. We spent about a half hour at the top, soaking in the beautiful, unbeatable New York views.
After dinner, we came back as the CityPASS offers both day and night admission for the same date! As predicted, the night line up was longer but we were able to be up there in 45 minutes as we walked up the six flight of stairs and skipped the last elevator line.
View of Upper Manhattan at night.
View of Lower Manhattan at night.
The view at the top is absolutely breathtaking. You are able to see the concrete jungle from above, in all its chaotic, busy, and beautiful glory. I highly recommend adding the Empire State Building to your bucket list, you won’t be disappointed.
Consider purchasing the New York CityPASS to save 40% on six must-see attractions, and by pass the super long Empire State Building line!
Thanks for reading,
CityPASS media passes provided for review. Opinions are own.