The Empire State Building: Is it Worth It?

While it is one of the most iconic buildings in the world and an integral part of the NYC skyline, The Empire State Building is a tourist attraction that comes with a hefty price tag. During our brief visit to New York City, we got a chance to visit the Empire State Building, courtesy of our friend who worked in the building, for free. (Thanks Raza!) But is it worth the visit for regular admission? Here are some pros and cons to decide if the Empire State Building should be on your NYC itinerary.


  • Museum exhibits included
  • Fun photo stops along the way
  • Iconic part of New York City skyline
  • Views are great (if the weather is good!)


  • Expensive for length of activity
  • Views are weather reliant
  • Photos wont include iconic Empire State Building (because you’re inside it!)
  • No food/drink options

What’s Included:

Your ticket to the Empire State Building includes access to the museum showing the history of the tower and New York City itself. The museum provides information on how it was conceived and built, photos of the views of yesteryear, and an exhibit that shows all the movies and TV featuring the Empire State Building.

There are also fun photo stops along the way. One features false windows that project a giant King Kong climbing up the Empire State Building!

The Views:

Once you finally climb to the first viewpoint on the 86th floor you’ll be treated to inside and outdoor viewpoints. On a clear day you can see all around the city, including views of all 5 burrows!

This is where the attraction can be not-so-worth-it. If you don’t happen to catch it on a clear day it’s essentially $44 for a long elevator ride up to look at some clouds.

When we visited during the winter it was a rainy and foggy day, so we didn’t get the most amazing views. Since we got in for free it didn’t bother us at all. However, if we had paid the $44-$79 a person it would’ve definitely been a dud.

If the weather is bad, it’s especially not worth it to get the more expensive ticket to the 102nd floor. The height can be really cool on a clear day, but if it’s rainy or cloudy you will essentially get the same view but with more fog.

Let’s talk Price:

  • 86th Floor: $44
  • 102nd Floor: $79

Tickets for the Empire State Building cost around $44 for adults to get to the 86th floor look-out tower. However, if you want to get to the tippity-top 102nd floor, or the “needle” of the building, it’ll cost $79 for adults. There are also bundle-packages available if you plan to see more of the sights in the city.

Overall, the experience of visiting the museum and viewpoints of both the 86th and 102nd floor only takes about 1 to 3 hours. In my opinion $79 a person for a 3-hour experience is not quite worth the price tag.

We overhead a family saying they spent nearly $500 to visit the top of the tower. On one hand, the kids said it was one of the coolest things they had ever done. On the other, you can take a family to the Magic Kingdom in Disney World for a full 10 to 12-hour day for $500.

How Does it Compare to Similar Attractions?

Something that we found disappointing about the Empire State Building is that once you get to the very top there’s not much else to do but take pictures and start the trek back down. Comparatively, other towers have more of an event or activities once you reach the top.

  • The Space Needle in Seattle, Washington has a bar and snacks for purchase and features much more interesting glass window-ed floors and walls.
  • Skylon Tower in Ontario, Canada features a rotating fine-dining restaurant 520 ft (160 meters) up in the air.

All these towers feature similar heights but with activities and dining options so that you can spend more time once you finally reach the top.

But you’re in New York City and must get that perfect high-up skyline picture! In this case, as my friend from New York wisely admitted, there are so many other roof-top bars and lookouts that are a better bang for your buck. And, with an alternate option like a rooftop bar, you get a view of the Empire State Building in your perfect skyline pic, plus: a drink!

230 Fifth Rooftop Bar, Spyglass Rooftop Bar, and Top of the Strand Rooftop Bar are just a few of the many with great views of the Empire State Building.

My Opinion: Probably Not Worth It

For us, the Empire State Building didn’t measure up to its price tag, especially if that weather is not ideal. If you can get in for free, have it as part of a multi-attraction pass, or if it’s something that has been a long-time member of your bucket list then go for it! Otherwise, there are plenty of other attractions and events to see in the great city of New York.

For more on our NYC adventures checkout Part 1 of our road trip articles, and checkout more on travel now!


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