Standard Admission for adults to the Empire State Building’s 86th Floor Observation Deck is $34. Remember, don’t buy the tickets from the street vendors outside the building — it’s likely a scam. Buy them inside the Empire State Building on the second floor.
Much like at One World Trade Center, there will be very long lines and you’ll be subject to a security screening. Once that’s done, you’ll walk through winding Art Deco corridors until you reach the elevators.
The first elevator will take you to the 80th floor. During the ride, you’ll see that the ceiling of the elevator is a screen depicting the construction of the Empire State Building, with steel beams flying overhead and the sounds of hammers and drills. Wisecracking construction workers with overdone “New Yawk” accents make jokes and comments as the beams come together.
Once on the 80th floor, you’ll be able to see downtown Manhattan through the windows. You can see such landmarks as the Statue of Liberty, the Flatiron Building, and most notably One World Trade Center. You can spend as much time as you like looking out of the windows on the 80th floor and taking pictures. Just be sure to take care while photographing since you’re shooting through thick glass.
Next you’ll line up to get on to a second elevator. The line stretches past the gift shop, which you’ll later exit through on the way out of the building.
The second elevator will take you to the 86th floor and the Observation Deck. Here you’ll be outside and have the full experience, with quite a few amazing views. Even better, your photographs will look great since you’re outside and there are no windows, just the iron bars which you can shoot through.
You can spend as much time as you want on the Observation Deck as well, but it’s usually rather crowded. Expect to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with others, and brace yourself for the inevitable bumps and jostles. Be careful if you’re toting a big camera and long lens.
Once you’re done taking in the sights, you’ll exit through the gift shop I mentioned before, which has all sorts of Empire State Building-related souvenirs.
I didn’t like the experience at the Empire State Building as much as I did at One World Trade Center Observatory. However, at least from a photography standpoint, the views are much better from the Empire State Building because you’re not behind glass.
Because of the spectacular views, I recommend giving the Empire State Building a visit. Try to time your visit so that you’re on the 80th floor around sunset for the most spectacular sights, and hang around to get some good night shots.
Photos in this story taken with an Olympus EM-10, Panasonic 25mm f1.7 and the Olympus 14-42RII kit lens.