We arrived up out of Union Square subway station, to a an unexpectedly quiet area of Manhattan. People were sitting out in Union Square Gardens, drinking coffees and chatting. People walked unhurriedly along the pavement (sidewalk). It was a far cry from the busy streets of London
“OMG” my sister squealed. “Its the Empire State Building”
“No its not … is it? It looks a lot smaller than in the pictures”.
It was our first evening in New York City, and after struggling around on the subway system with our bags, to get to our apartment in Brooklyn, we wandered in to a small part of Manhattan for some food.
My little sister was in her element; for her this was one of the defining moments, that she was, in fact in New York City (mine was probably a day or so later, when we got to see the Statue of Liberty from the Williamsburg Bridge).
We stopped to take several photos of it, and just looked around us, both simultaneously exclaiming “we’re not in Kansas anymore!”
A few days later, we decided to climb up it, to see the view from the top. We decided we wanted to do an evening climb, as we felt it would be less busier, and we were going to go to the Observatory deck at the Rockerfeller Center in the day, so wanted two perspectives on the city.
In my time of travelling, I have been to the observation deck of many tall buildings or structures, and I do love how they put emphasis on how tall they are, or how much taller they are than another building in the World. The views are often pretty amazing, and I’ve seen cities from the Sky Tower in Auckland, New Zealand, The Eureka Sky Deck in Melbourne, Sears Tower (now known as the Willis Tower), in Chicago, Seoul Tower and the Baiyoke Sky Hotel in Bangkok. Though recently in London, I discovered that you can get pretty sweet views of the city for free.
History of the Empire State Building
The Empire State building, was named after the nickname for New York City (Empire State), and was completed in 1931. It held the record, as the World’s Tallest building for 40 years, until it was overtaken by the original World Trade Center in the 1970s, until 2001. After the collapse of the twin towers, it did take the title of the tallest building in New York, but not in the US.
Its 102 floors were built by over 3,000 workers (five of which died during construction, possibly due to poor health and safety). It took just over 1 year to be built, opening on May 1st 1931.
The Empire State Building is located just off 34th Street, on 350 Fifth Avenue, and you can get to it from a number of stations; we walked from Grand Central. Chances are, if you are anywhere in Midtown Manhattan, you’ll spot it, so follow it and you’ll get there.
There are two options for the observation deck of the Empire State Building. One ticket will get you just to the 86th floor, and the other to both floors.
Tickets to the 86th floor are currently $32 and to get to the 102nd floor it is an additional $20 – so you’re out over $50 if you want to make it to the top.
We wanted to get to the top, just to say we had been there, but in all honesty, the view doesn’t look anymore impressive, or different. It is just warmer, as it is an enclosed viewing deck.
As we got up there at night, the view was clearly different to during the day, but it was pretty seeing every lit up, and sparkling.
Seeing a city in this way really shows you how huge the place is.
From the viewing deck, we could make out various Bridges, and Times Square, but for the most part it seemed like a concrete jungle of skyscrapers.
You don’t need to buy tickets in advance, unless you plan to go up mid morning or afternoon, when it is busy. The link to where you can by is under the cost section above.
If you are planning a visit at night, the observation deck on the 86th floor is semi outdoors, and so it is freezing (especially if going around this time of year or in Winter), so bring a jacket.
I loved my trip up to the Empire State Building, it feels slightly surreal, that I’ve been to the top of such a historic building, and made me fall in love with New York even more.