The Best Time of Day to Visit the Empire State Building + Some Tips For When You Do

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I can be a complicated woman: I love to hit the tourist spots but I despise throngs of tourists. Typical, right? 😏So when I started planning my trip to the Big Apple, you can imagine my consternation. I needed to find the best time of day to visit the Empire State Building while avoiding, if at all possible, long lines and heaps of people.

No easy feat, to be sure. That place is, by all accounts, a nonstop hub of activity with both tourists and locals alike.

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I also needed to figure out which tickets were going to get me enough of the experience without missing some of the features of the iconic building.

I was determined, and set off into the world of the big wide web to search out some answers.

It turns out, few people could really opine on when the legit best time of day to visit the Empire State Building would be.

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So I did what any seasoned traveller (probably) does: I considered what the majority of people would do, and then I attempted to do the opposite.

That’s right. A little traveller’s tip from me to you there.

So, if we cut to the chase, what does all that mean?

It means, by my estimations, that the best time of day to visit the Empire State Building is first thing in the morning as they open. 

Or late late at night if you prefer to see the twinkly lights.

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But if it’s views of the surrounding landscape you’re after, then bright and early is your solution, friends!

Arrival 

The Empire State Building opens every day at 8am. It would seem that they also allow 100 people up early two days a week for the sunrise, so that’s an option if you have deep pockets ($100 a ticket, yikes!).

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As you’re walking in a line through the building and towards the elevators, note the many cordoned off sections - THOSE are the lines the suckers who show up later have to wait in. NO THANKS!

You’ll get into the elevators and then they’ll stop and let you out on a floor with a little museum. SKIP THIS. Head around and back to the elevators and get up to those views! You’ll be able see it on your way down should you choose, and now you have bought yourself a few minutes more than the masses.

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Once you’re up there

That first 30-45 minutes after they open is your best bet to get uninterrupted views without being jostled ad nauseum and spending all your time fighting others to get a semi-unobstructed view.

Believe me when I tell you that within an hour you’ll be ready to get out of there. Take your time to grab some photos immediately, even before enjoying the views! Normally not something I would suggest - seems backward - but you want to heed me this time.

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A few tips 

  • You’ll get a chance to stop into the gift shop at the end of your visit. It seemed to me to be mostly the same stuff every store on Broadway offered (but don’t let me stop you!).

  • Buy tickets in advance online - you’ll save time in the morning and ensure you’re front of the line and first up.

  • The website attempts to sell you all sorts of other things, including going up an additional 16 floors to the 102nd but I'll tell you that all of the research I did indicated that it wasn’t worth it. It’s glassed in, so your photos will be obstructed. I’d only recommend it if you’re someone who doesn’t care about photos or if open air heights make you scared to death.

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In other words...

The best time of day to visit the Empire State Building is the morning (for views) or the evening (for romance and twinkly lights). If you can’t be there first thing in the morning lining up, I would seriously consider an attempt during dinner or during lunch. Always consider when other people will be there - and then do the opposite!

Do you avoid tourist traps altogether or just find the best times to visit them like I do?

PS. 16 Amazing Places to Eat and Drink in NYC

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