The Empire State Building Reopens with Social Distancing in Mind

A VIP experience and new protocols aim to keep guests safe

Empire State Building

Courtesy of Empire State Building

After closing its doors in March due to COVID-19, the Empire State Building, one of New York's most-visited tourist attractions, has reopened—with new protocols to help keep visitors and staff safe.

Since reopening, the Empire State Building’s updated protocols include requiring reservations, updated hours, requiring guests to wear facial coverings, a reduced capacity by more than 50 percent, and temperature screening (a temperature below 100.4 degrees F is needed for entry). Also, employees will wear masks and gloves, as well as face shields for entry screeners. Last year’s $165 million renovations also included hospital-grade air filters and fresh air ventilation. 

The building’s main deck observatory on the 86th floor is a must-visit for many tourists, with tickets ranging from a reasonable $36 to $42—not a bad price for the 360-degree view of New York City and, on a clear day, five states. 

But for guests who want a truly VIP, socially-distanced experience, the building has re-introduced its pricy All-Access Tour.

For $460.06 per person, guests experience exclusive access before they even enter the doors. The tour, which accommodates up to six people, starts through a private entrance that immediately leads to a green room. This is the place to enjoy complimentary snacks or beverages while lounging in a space that’s normally designated for celebs—you can even tack on a bottle of Veuve Clicquot for an additional fee.

After enjoying a few bites and sips, an Observatory Ambassador treats guests to areas of the Empire State Building that aren’t usually accessible to visitors, including viewing memorabilia donated by celebs.

Empire State Building

Courtesy of Empire State Building

The swanky is finally capped off with the private guide escorting guests to the open-air 86th-floor observatory and the 102nd floor, which was unveiled in late 2019, and is accessible via a glass elevator. More than 100 stories above the Midtown streets, the observatory has a panoramic view of the city thanks to the floor to ceiling windows. The extended experience runs two and a half hours, with four sessions available daily.

If you're still in the mood for social distance, but looking for a slightly more wallet-friendly option, there’s the Premium Experience, limited to seven people. The 90-minute tour costs $161.55 per person and includes a personalized tour of the restored lobby, exhibits, and skip-the-line access to the 86th-floor observatory.

Early risers can instead opt for Sunrise on the 86th Floor. Limited to 40 people, the $120 session is available a few days out of the week from 5:15 to 8 a.m., offering guests breathtaking sunrise views over the city.

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