Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products and services; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
Best Overall: Buy Exclusive Empire State Experience and Dinner Tickets with Viator "Includes admission to both ESB observation decks, an interactive multimedia tour, and dinner at lobby restaurant STATE Grill and Bar."
Best Standard: Buy Empire State Building Observatory Tickets with Viator "An excellent option for those who simply want to visit the Empire State Building without any additional frills."
Best Exclusive: Buy Empire State Building Sunrise Tickets with Viator "Ascend to the 86th floor in time to watch the golden dawn spread across the city."
Best VIP: Buy Empire State Building Premium VIP Tour Tickets with Viator "Priority, skip-the-line access all the way up to the 86th-floor observation deck."
Best Dual Entry: Buy Empire State Building Day and Night Tickets with Viator "Allows you to enter the building twice ... to see the views during the day and at night."
Best Aerial: Buy New York Helicopter Tour Tickets with Viator "Takes place at night so you can view New York’s landmarks in all their illuminated glory."
Best Day Tour: Buy Full-Day NYC Tour Tickets with Viator "If the ESB is just one of the landmarks you’d like to visit while in New York, you can tick a lot off your bucket list on this full-day guided tour."
Best City Pass: Buy New York CityPASS Tickets with Viator "A great option for those who want to see six, top New York attractions at their own pace."
Best Overall: Viator Exclusive Empire State Building Experience with Express Admission and Dinner
Available exclusively on Viator, this ticket includes express admission to both Empire State Building observation decks, an interactive multimedia tour, and dinner at lobby restaurant STATE Grill and Bar. Your day begins with skipping the queues on your way up to the Main Deck on the 86th floor. New York’s highest open-air, 360-degree viewing platform boasts mesmerizing views of the city, with high-powered binoculars providing a closer look at iconic landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty.
Next, continue up another 16 stories to the 102nd floor. On a clear day, this deck offers a stunning 80 miles of visibility, allowing you to see Central Park in its entirety. Once you’ve had your fill of these amazing views, ride the elevator back down to the building’s Art Deco lobby for a three-course, prix fixe dinner at STATE Grill and Bar. Known for its steak and seafood, the restaurant receives rave reviews on TripAdvisor. Unlimited soft drinks, tea, and coffee are included, while adults 21 years or older are entitled to a complimentary glass of wine or beer.
Best Standard: Empire State Building Tickets – Observatory and Optional Skip-the-Line
This tour is an excellent option for those who simply want to visit the Empire State Building without any additional frills. Your experience starts in the Art Deco lobby, with its famous mural of the building. After passing through the security checkpoint, travel up to the 80th floor where the Dare to Dream exhibit tells the story of the building’s history, engineering, and construction with the help of original photographs and architectural sketches. Then, after another elevator ride to the 86th floor, discover New York’s highest open-air observatory.
Use the binoculars to scan the city skyline or to get a closer look at landmarks like the Chrysler Building, Times Square, and Central Park. The tour includes a free multimedia app (available for download via Google Play and the Apple Store), which will explain exactly what you’re looking at. It also offers the option to upgrade to the VIP Express Experience, which affords skip-the-line privileges and is especially worthwhile in peak summer or the holiday season. A flexible redemption policy means you can use your ticket on any day within a year of the date of purchase.
Best Exclusive: Empire State Building Sunrise Experience
The Empire State Building is one of the Big Apple’s most popular sights and as such, it can be crowded. For a more exclusive visit, choose this ticket, which entitles you to enter the building before it opens to the public at 8 a.m. With only 100 spaces available, you won’t have to jostle for the best vantage points on the observation deck and your selfies won’t have strangers photobombing in the background. Best of all, the tour starts 15 minutes before sunrise, allowing you to ascend to the 86th floor in time to watch the golden dawn spread across the city.
After the sun has risen, you can stay on the observation deck for as long as you like before descending again at your own leisure. The early start means you should have plenty of time to explore the rest of New York’s sights – making this a great option for those who only have a day in the city. However, if you do have a little more flexibility, make sure to check the weather forecast carefully before booking your ticket.
See more of the city with our guide to the best New York City tours.
Best VIP: Empire State Building Premium VIP Tour
For those who are willing to pay extra for a little celebrity treatment, this VIP tour is the best fit. For starters, you’ll be given priority, skip-the-line access all the way up to the 86th-floor observation deck (an advantage during public holidays). You’ll also be accompanied by an official Empire State Building Observatory Ambassador, whose job is to regale you with behind-the-scenes stories and fascinating facts about the tower’s history. Your guide will also point out iconic landmarks and lesser-known points of interest once you reach the breathtaking Main Deck.
The tour lasts for 90 minutes and is limited to just seven people. This ensures that you receive personal service while being able to hear everything your guide says. Reviewers are enthusiastic about the ambassadors, praising their passion, friendliness, and in-depth knowledge. The tour also includes a commemorative photograph for capturing the viewing deck’s panoramic splendor. With a choice of five daily departure times (Monday through Friday), you can book the one that best fits in with your busy sightseeing schedule.
Best Dual Entry: Empire State Building Day and Night Admission Ticket
The Empire State Building is open every day from 8 to 2 a.m., and visitors are welcome to stay as long as they like. However, general tickets are only valid for a single admission – meaning that if you want to see the views during the day and at night, you’ll have to spend a very long time there. Alternatively, this dual-entry ticket allows you to enter the building twice – once between 8 a.m. and 8:59 p.m., and again between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. Both tickets give you access to the 86th-floor observation deck.
During the day, increased visibility makes it easy to spot New York icons like the Statue of Liberty, the Chrysler Building, and Central Park. And at night, the city is lit by millions of multi-colored lights, creating a majestic spectacle for anyone enjoying the aerial view from the 86th floor. Tickets are valid for use on the same calendar day by the same customer. To beat the crowds during the day, try to visit as early as possible. At night, note that the last elevator ascends at 1:15 a.m.
Best Aerial: New York Helicopter Tour City Lights Skyline Experience
Of course, there are more ways to see the Empire State Building than from the inside. Those with cash to spare should consider splurging on a New York City helicopter tour like this one, which includes a fly-by of the city’s most famous skyscraper. The flight, which lasts approximately 30 minutes, takes place at night so you can view iconic landmarks in all their illuminated glory. Live commentary from the guide is transmitted through complimentary headsets, so you know exactly what you’re looking at through the window.
In addition to the Empire State Building, you’ll get an unforgettable aerial view of the Statue of Liberty, the Rockefeller Center, and the bright neon lights of Times Square. The artfully lit outlines of the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg Bridges are particularly beautiful against the inky blackness of the Hudson River. The flight departs from Linden Municipal Airport in New Jersey, which is easily accessible via train from Pennsylvania Station. A complimentary shuttle also takes you to and from Linden Station. Departure times are available from 7 to 10 p.m.
Interested in more options? Check out some of the best NYC helicopter tours.
Best Day Tour: Full-Day NYC Tour with Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty Tickets
If the Empire State Building is just one of several landmarks that you’d like to visit while in New York, you can tick a lot off your bucket list on this full-day guided tour. The day starts at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and then heads to Little Italy, where you’ll have the opportunity to eat lunch at a local restaurant. Afterward, the order of events varies but includes a skip-the-line visit to the Empire State Building. Here, incredible views await at the open-air observatory on the 86th floor.
You’ll receive the same priority treatment at the Statue of Liberty, with a skip-the-line audio tour of the monument’s pedestal. Your guide will also take you on a walking tour of Wall Street with stops at Federal Hall and Trinity Church, before dropping you off in Times Square at the end of the day. From here, you can find your own way back to your hotel or make a night of it with a Broadway show. Plus, the bus that transports you between stops is air-conditioned and equipped with live commentary.
Take a look at other alternatives with our favorite NYC walking tours.
Best City Pass: New York CityPASS
The New York CityPASS is a great option for those who want to see six, top New York attractions at their own pace. You’ll pay one price and receive admission to the Empire State Building, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. You’ll also get to choose between a visit to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck or the Guggenheim Museum; ferry access to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island or a Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise; and the 9/11 Memorial & Museum or the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.
At the Empire State Building, your CityPASS includes admission to the Main Deck, an audio tour, and bonus same-night admission so you can return to see the view after dark. In total, you will receive savings of around 44 percent on the combined ticket prices of all six attractions. When you purchase the pass, you will be sent a voucher that must be exchanged for a CityPASS booklet at the first attraction. Once you have your booklet, most places will allow you to skip the ticket line. The pass is valid for nine consecutive days.