Features NY Life — 04 January 2012
The Empire State Bulding Observatory: Unparalleled Views of Manhattan

Blog: Empire State Building Observatory

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Perched high above the hustle and bustle of our thriving Metropolis sits the iconic Empire State Building, long a symbol that embodies Manhattan’s greatness. Perhaps our city’s most sought after tourist attraction in a square mile radius that’s rife with them, the 1,250 foot landmark is the main attraction of a picturesque New York City skyline. And after years of living here, the spawn of 2012 would encourage us to head upstairs and take in the magnificent views of our city at sundown for the very first time.

We’ve all walked past the historic building time and time again. We’ve ignored the verbose street hustlers trying to sign us up for tours, and maybe even grabbed a latte at the nearby Starbucks, always overrun with tourists who seemingly left their manners back home. The surrounding streets around the Empire State Building are always busier than most, which is unsurprising considering the building is open daily until 2am. Before winter approached unbearable levels of coldness, we wanted to make sure we got upstairs to the Observatory.

The 86th Floor sits 1,050 feet above street level and attracts an estimated 3.8 million visitors each year, with panoramic views 360 degrees around the building. On the walk toward the outdoor deck, the Observatory sports a small makeshift gallery which pays homage to the efforts undertaken to build the Empire State Building in 1931. Built in just over a year with a group of some 3,000 men, the architects worked tirelessly to assemble an estimated four stories per week. The display shows off the building’s earliest construction structures, actual working men on the job, and it’s comparisons in height to the other incredible buildings of that era.

Once upstairs, we were ready to brave the colder elements and stepped out for our first magical views at the city landscape below us. From the incredible 34th Street vantage point, the sightlines were unparalleled with views of everything from the George Washington Bridge to the Statue of Liberty, New Jersey to Queens, and literally everywhere between and beyond. Coincidentally we hopped on line at about 3:15pm, meaning we’d get upstairs just in time to watch the sunset- a breathtaking view to say the least, as the reddish-orange sun faded below the clouds. Had we stayed another half hour, we could have also taken in the cityscape at dusk, but as temperatures began to drop, twenty minutes upstairs was all we were willing to handle. At least now, we are left with an excuse for a return visit. The incredible views and the memorable experience of visiting the history of the Empire State Building for the first time almost demand you come back again.

The tour does shuffle you through their kitschy gift shop on the way out, but the lengthy lines and peddling of food and t-shirts does nothing to detract from what the Empire State Building really is- a badge that represents the strength and stability of New York City that shows off the grandiosity of something that is bigger than each of us. From the familiar lobby that we’ve seen in countless films to the larger than life experience of being a thousand feet overhead, $22 is a small price to pay for an unforgettable and authentic New York City experience. And one that each of us seemingly takes for granted.

For more information on the Empire State Building, the Observatories, and it’s illustrious history in New York City, check out ESBNYC.com.

- Jane Van Arsdale

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(1) Reader Comment

  1. Enlightening experience, have lived in New York for over 60 years, believe I visited the Empire State bldg only once as a boy . Magical insight into one of the manyn wonders of manhattan