Fun Facts About the Empire State Building

Blimps, Movie Roles, Famous Visitors and More

Empire State Building lit up against a dark sky

John Moore/Getty Images

The Empire State Building is much more than just a tourist attraction. It's a piece of New York City history, a colorful beacon in Manhattan’s evening skyline, and a destination for breathtaking views and romantic encounters. So, just how much do you know about New York’s most famous skyscraper? Check out these 8 fun facts about the Empire State Building to find out.

Great Heights

The Empire State Building became the world’s tallest skyscraper in 1931. At 102 stories and 1,454 feet high, it bested the Chrysler Building by a good 400 feet. As of 2017, the Empire State Building is the 31st tallest building in the world. Number one is Dubai's Burj Khalifa at over 2,700 feet.

Blimp Parking

The building is topped by a mooring mast for dirigibles, which were the latest trend in air travel in 1931. However, only one blimp ever docked at the Empire State Building, on September 16, 1931, before the idea was abandoned because it was deemed too dangerous.

Plane Crash in 1945

On July 28, 1945, the Empire State Building was the site of a tragedy when a small plane crashed into the 79th floor on the 34th Street side of the building. The pilot of the plane, his two passengers, and 11 people inside the building were killed.

Famous Visitors

More than 110 million people have visited the Empire State Building’s famous observatory since the building opened in 1931. Famous visitors have included Queen Elizabeth, Fidel Castro, the rock band KISS, Ronald McDonald, Lassie, and Tom Cruise.

Bright Lights, Big City

The Empire State Building puts on quite a show with colored light displays throughout the year to mark holidays and other events. The first light to shine from the top of the Empire State Building was a searchlight beacon that announced to the city that Franklin D. Roosevelt had been elected president in 1932. In 1964, the top 30 floors were illuminated by new floodlights designed to transform the building into a nighttime attraction for the World’s Fair. These days, the Empire State Building shines a rainbow of colors – like green for St. Patrick’s Day, pink and white for breast cancer awareness, or lavender for the anniversary of Stonewall.

Movie Star

The Empire State Building’s most memorable movie role was as King Kong’s plaything in 1933’s King Kong. The Empire State Building also played a romantic lead in An Affair to Remember (and its remake) and Sleepless in Seattle. The building has been in many other films, too, including classics like Annie Hall, North by Northwest, On the Waterfront, and Taxi Driver, among others.

Race to the Top

The Empire State Run-Up has been an annual tradition since 1978. Every year, runners race up the 1,576 stairs to the 86th floor. The record time of 9 minutes and 33 seconds was set in 2003.

Get Married at 1,000-Plus Feet

Every Valentine’s Day, some lucky couples are selected to get married on the 86th floor of the building. To have your wedding at the top of the Empire State Building, you must submit an application detailing why you want to get married there; couples are chosen via an online contest.

Was this page helpful?