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New York City

Empire State Building

The fifth-tallest skyscraper in the United States, nicknamed for New York, the Empire State Building, standing 1,455 feet 8 9/16 inches, was the tallest building in the world for forty years following its completion on April 11th, 1931. A modern American cultural icon of industriousness, the Empire State Building’s Art Deco styled exterior and street-level are considering part of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. On June 24th, 1986 the Empire State Building became designated as a National Historic Landmark. The Empire State Building’s construction cost a total $40,948,900 to build, which adjusted for inflation to 2015 dollars is over $635 million dollars.

Construction on the Empire State building began on March 17th, 1929 on what was once farmland and later occupied by the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The building’s drawings, designed from the top-down in only two weeks by William F. Lamb from the firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, were based on the Reynolds Building in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the Carew Tower in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Grounding breaking occurred on January 22nd, 1930, with construction starting soon after on St. Patrick’s Day – March 17th, 1930. Construction required 3,400 workers, many of them European immigrants, as well as Mohawk and Kahnawake Indians. Five of the workers who participated in the construction perished as a result of job-site accidents.

Striving to gain the title of “world’s tallest building”, early 20th century Manhattan was home to a significant building boom which saw a race between developers. Fellow Art Deco styled Chrysler Building, which began construction on September 19th, 1928 and completed May 20th, 1930, required an added spiral to surpass 40 Wall Street, and then-tallest structure in the world the Eiffel Tower. The Chrysler building was the world’s tallest building from May 27th, 1930 to April 30th, 1931. 40 Wall Street was completed at a brisk pace of 11 months but stood as the world’s tallest building for less than 2 months from April 1930 to May 27th, 1930.

While the Empire State building’s 410 days of construction completed the project 12 days ahead of schedule on April 11th, 1931, it wasn’t until May 1st, 1931 that the building officially opened to the public with United States President Herbert Hoover turning on the building’s lights with the push of a button in Washington D.C.  In November 1932, the Empire State Building’s top lights signaled the defeat of President Hoover to rival Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The building’s early years earned it the nickname the “Empty State Building” which coincided with some of the darkest periods of the Great Depression in the United States when most of the office space remained empty. In fact, the first year the building was open, the observation deck’s $2 million dollars was equal to income from rent.  It took until 1950 for the Empire State Building to finally achieve profitability, though it was later sold for $51 million dollars in 1951 to Roger L. Stevens.

Visiting the Empire State Building

While the Observation Deck might be the most famous, general tours of the building’s main section start at between $19.29 for Adults and $14.75 for children.

The Empire State Building’s Observation Deck is open daily between 8:00 A.M. and 2:00 A.M. We recommend that if you are traveling as a family, the best times to get in are between 8:00 A.M. and 11:00 A.M. before the rush starts. If you’re interested in skipping lines, there are express passes available that range in price from $65 to $85. If you are looking to get to the Main Deck Only without an express pass on the 86th Floor, it will cost $26 for children, $32 for adults, and $29 for seniors (ages 62+). If you want to go to both the 86th and 102nd floors, it will cost $46 for children, $52 for adults, and $49 for seniors. VIP passes to skip the lines on the 86th floor are $65 for everyone over 6 years old. If you would like to add the Top Deck Experience to your express pass an additional $20 fee is added, bringing the total to $85 per person.

There are optional passes available such as the NY CityPASS which includes six attractions, including the 86th floor observatory and same day admission between 10:00 P.M. and 2:00 A.M. Pricing is more flexible, with youths up to age 17 only $89 and adults $114. The other option is the NYC It All Tour package for $99 which includes the Empire State Building’s 86th floor observatory, the City Sights Hop On/Hop Off Bus Tour, the Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise, and entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

If you are traveling to the Empire State Building as a couple, you should plan to get in between midnight and 1:00 A.M. or just after opening in the morning when the reduced number of people makes for a more private overview of the city. There is a saxophonist who plays regularly Thursday through Saturday nights from 9:00 P.M. to 1:00 A.M.


As with most visits to sights in New York, we strongly recommend taking advantage of the city’s extensive subway system. If you are traveling to the Empire State Building, we recommend getting off at the 34th St-6th Avenue station using either the B, D, F, V, N, Q, R, or W lines. Alternatively you can take the 6 to the 33rd Street-Park Avenue station.

Don’t forget to bring your quarters!

There are plenty of coin-operated binoculars to see through up on the observation deck!