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Fastest way to see the Observation deck of the ESB

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1. Posted by sandy456 (Full Member 213 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Fastest way to see the 102nd floor Observation deck of the ESB?

I know there are lineups, and it's possible to purchase tickets online, but there appears to be two decks (86th floor, and 102nd). Is 102nd the roof? If so, I prefer to see that. What is the best/fastest way to get up to the highest area of the Empire state building by 8pm. That would be an ideal time as the sun is setting then, and nightfall is only an hour away. Perfect for photography.

Also, please help me answer this question in regards to the TOP of the ROCK observation deck as well.

2. Posted by S_Paradise (Full Member 65 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Here is the pertinent info from the ESB webpage. You can purchase tickets for the 86th floor and print them online, but for the 102nd floor, they have to be purchased on the Observatory ticket office on the 2nd floor. There also is an additional $15.

86th Floor Observatory:
The 86th floor Observatory, 1,050 feet (320 meters), reached by high speed, automatic elevators, has both a glass-enclosed area, which is heated in winter and cooled in summer, and spacious outdoor promenades on all four sides of the Building. High powered binoculars are available on the promenades for the convenience of visitors at a minimal cost. Souvenir counters are also located in the 86th floor observatory. The 86th floor observatory is handicap accessible.

102nd Floor Observatory:
The 102nd floor Observatory has reopened as of November 1, 2005.
Admission tickets are only sold at the Observatory ticket office, located on the 2nd floor of the building, at a cost of $15.00 in addition to regular admission tickets.
Observatory Hours:
Open daily 365 days a year.
8:00am to 2:00am 7 days a week. Last elevators go up at 1:15am.

For Rockefeller Center, o can purchase your tickets online as well at

For the ESB there is an "Express Pass" at $45. From ESB webpage:
"ESB Express Pass:
The lines at the Empire State Building Observatory are as legendary as the building itself. The line actually consists of 3 different lines. The first one is the security line that everyone must go through. Next comes the ticket line. Visitors with pre-purchased tickets can skip this line which can save a considerable amount of time during our busiest times. The 3rd and last line is for the elevators that take you to the Observatory.

While we have been told that anything this good is worth the wait, we have also heard laments that some people missed out on being able to visit the Empire State Building Observatory because they just didn’t have enough time to see and do everything while in NYC. Now you can. By purchasing an Express Pass you will automatically be moved to the front of each and every line. "

3. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

102nd is the top floor. I believe that if you want to go to the 102nd floor, you need to purchase your tickets at the ESB. Online tickets, including the ESB Express pass (which allows you to skip the lines) only provide access to the 86th floor. What I am not sure is if you can buy the ESB Express Pass (which allows you to skip the lines, and therefore the fastest) online, and then purchase the 102nd floor ticket in addition to that. Either way, you'll have to purchase at least part of the ticket at the ESB.

Top of the Rock you can purchase tickets online with a specific time, which minimizes the wait. My biggest issue with Top of the Rock was that it's all surrounded by glass, which means you can get glare off the glass when trying to take pictures.