Explore New York City

Empire State Building Tours & History in New York City

Visiting one of the world’s most famous landmarks is a fun and educational experience for the whole family. 

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When you think of New York City, chances are one of the first images that come to mind is the Empire State Building—one of the world’s most famous and recognizable buildings. In 2010, the Empire State Building was ranked number one on the AIA’s List of America’s Favorite Architecture. 

Empire State Building at Night New York | WHERE Traveler®
Empire State Building at Night (©Joshua Newton)

The History of the Empire State Building

This world-famous landmark has been an icon of the NYC skyline since it was completed in 1931. But what’s the story behind this steel behemoth? Let’s take a quick trip through history to find out.

Construction on the Empire State Building began in March 1930 and was completed in just one year and 45 days. That’s an average of 4.5 stories per day! The building was designed by William F. Lamb from the architectural firm Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon Associates. Initially, the building was supposed to have a spire that would make it 1,050 feet tall, but due to concerns about wind resistance, that idea was scrapped, and the building stopped at its current height of 1,250 feet. 

The Empire State Building has been featured in tons of movies and TV shows over the years—so many, in fact, that it has its own IMDB page with a list of over 300 credits! Some notable examples include "King Kong: (1933), "An Affair to Remember" (1957), "Sleepless in Seattle" (1993), "Elf" (2003), and Enchanted (2007). In 2009, the Empire State Building even made a cameo appearance in an episode of "The Simpsons! " 

Empire State Building View From Below New York | WHERE Traveler®
Empire State Building View From Below (©Kevin utz)

These days, the Empire State Building is more than just a tourist destination; it’s also a symbol of hope and resilience. In 2001, the world watched in horror as terrorists crashed two planes into the World Trade Center towers. As people around the globe looked for a sign of hope amidst all the destruction, they found it in the image of two beams of light shining up into the night sky from where the Twin Towers once stood. These lights were created using searchlights placed atop the Empire State Building, and they served as a reminder that no matter how dark things seem, there’s always light to be found. 

The next time you’re looking at pictures of New York City or watching your favorite movie set in The Big Apple, take a moment to appreciate all that the Empire State Building has to offer. This world-famous landmark is more than just steel and stone—it’s a symbol of hope, resilience, and American innovation. If you’re looking to visit the Empire State Building, these three tours provide unique ways to experience one of the world’s most famous structures. 

Empire State Building View New York | WHERE Traveler®
Empire State Building View (©Aaron Burson)

Empire State Building Tours & Experiences

102nd Floor Top Deck & 86th Floor Observatory

The Empire State Building is more than just an iconic piece of architecture – it offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in history and take in stunning views from the observation deck. With tickets to both the 86th and 102nd-floor observatories, you can witness the city skyline and beyond from two different perspectives. And with interactive exhibits on the ground floor, you can learn about the people and events that shaped this famous building. It’s truly a unique experience that should not be missed. 

Empire State Building Observation Deck New York | WHERE Traveler®
Empire State Building Observation Deck (©Rafael Leao)

Sunrise Experience

Standing at the top of the Empire State Building as the sun rises over New York City is truly a breathtaking experience. The city comes alive below, with honking taxi cabs and bustling streets, while iconic landmarks like Central Park and the Statue of Liberty stand out in the morning light. The limited number of visitors each day only adds to the specialness of witnessing this moment from such a legendary skyscraper. It’s an unforgettable way to start the day and truly appreciate the energy and beauty of this vibrant city. 

Empire State Building Sunrise New York | WHERE Traveler®
Empire State Building Sunrise (©Miltiadis Fragkidis)

Empire State Building All-Access Tour

This all-access tour of the Empire State Building gives guests VIP treatment, starting with a private entrance and access to the celebrity green room. Guests can snack, drink, and admire memorabilia from famous past visitors before heading on a private guided tour of the iconic building. As an added bonus, guests also receive a limited-edition 90th-anniversary tote bag. This tour offers the ultimate experience for those looking to feel like celebrities themselves while taking in the stunning views of New York City from the top of the Empire State Building. The tour is limited to small groups of up to four people for the ultimate experience. 

Looking Up at the Empire State Building New York | WHERE Traveler®
Looking Up at the Empire State Building (©Lo Sarno)