Empire State Building Tickets: When Is the Best Time to Visit

 

Looking downtown towards the Freedom Tower from the top of the Empire State building.
Looking downtown towards the Freedom Tower from the top of the Empire State building. Photo credit: Kyle Sanok/Let’s Go!

Be warned: this piece does not present a definitive answer as to when you should book your Empire State building tickets. Rather, as your adviser, I want to give you the pros and cons of visiting one of New York’s most famous sights at any point of the day. Taking photos, waiting in line, reading posters — the whole experience takes around 1.5 hours, maybe a bit more in a large group. I’m grouping available trips into five time slots. However, these do not represent any actual time limitations. Feel free to go up whenever — stay for however long! Just be aware that each time presents its own benefits.

Morning, 8 am – 11 am:

The Empire State building tickets and pamphlet.
The Empire State building tickets and pamphlet. Photo credit: Kyle Sanok/Let’s Go!

Pro: The lack of crowds for me primarily drew me in to this earlier time slot. It took less than ten minutes for me to get up to the 80th floor, and fewer than five to continue upwards to the 86th. On both levels, I did not have to wrestle for a spot against the window or a fence to capture the unobstructed views of New York City. At this time of day, the sun’s position in the sky makes for better photos, free from strange shadows that eclipse half of your face.

Con: If you’re not a morning person, maybe this time slot is not the one for you. Secondly, you miss out on the night view and seeing the city at its peak.

Midday/Early Afternoon, 11 am – 2 pm:

A view of the Empire State Building from Bryant Park.
A view of the Empire State Building from Bryant Park. Photo credit: Kyle Sanok/Let’s Go!

Pro: This time fits in really nicely with many people’s schedules. Like the morning slot, you have great views of the city, and can pretty much get good photos (although a bit shadowy) from every angle.

Con: The crowds. This is one of the two most popular times to visit the Empire State Building, so be prepared to elbow your way through the observation deck to get a good view.

Late Afternoon/Evening, 2 pm – 6 pm:

Looking across midtown from the top of the Empire State building.
Looking across midtown from the top of the Empire State building. Photo credit: Kyle Sanok/Let’s Go!

Pro: The crowds have begun to dwindle. The sun has started to recede, freeing up the space for unshadowed photos.

Con: At least in the summer, afternoon showers or thunderstorms appear a bit more often than they would in the morning, so you risk a rainy visit.

Dusk/Night, 6 pm – 10 pm:

The view of the Empire State building as you approach it.
The view of the Empire State building as you approach it. Photo credit: Kyle Sanok/Let’s Go!

Pro: The ultimate draw of this time slot is definitely the sunset. If you’re lucky, on a clear day, you can watch the city’s radiance shift from sun to electricity. Billboards, breaklights, and street lamps soon fill your vision, and buildings become distinct not by their outline against the blue sky, but rather their illuminated offices and apartments within.

Con: Definitely packed at this time. Right after dinner, this makes for one of the busiest parts of the day, and everyone will be clamoring for that perfect photo of the sunset.

Night, 10 pm – 2 am:

The Empire State building in all its glory, from afar.
The Empire State building in all its glory, from afar. Photo credit: Kyle Sanok/Let’s Go!

Pro: Few realize how late the Empire State Building stays open. While you may miss the expansive city views and blue skies, on a clear day you’re sure to gain proof that New York City never sleeps. No matter what day of the week, the buildings will shine. Crowds at this time vary. However, towards the later hours (1-2 am) things will slow down.

Con: This is definitely past my bedtime. If you’re not a night person, maybe the 2am Empire State Building tickets will not work as well. Also, you will miss the beautiful daytime views and might have to deal with some later night crowds from 10pm to midnight. Pictures will most certainly require flash, and you may not be able to capture far away attractions like the Freedom Tower or Central Park.

However you choose to do it, there is no “wrong” time to buy your Empire State Building tickets for. Crowds are there for a reason and I’m confident enough that you’ll be able to get that perfect picture no matter what. If you’re going up soon, I’m jealous I’m not there to do it again!

Ready to see the Empire State Building for yourself? Book your tickets with PlacePass!

Can’t get enough of NYC? Check out what Greenwich Village has to offer.

Written by: Kyle Sanok, a Let’s Go! researcher-writer

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