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You've Never Seen it Like This Before: The Newly Reimagined Empire State Building Experience

Calling all time travelers! The Empire State Building’s newly reimagined visitor experience lets guests hopscotch through the decades, reliving noteworthy moments in the history of the world’s most famous building. These new experiences come courtesy of a four-year, $165 million redevelopment and refurbishment project that was completed in November 2019.

When it debuted as the world’s tallest building in 1931, the Empire State Building immediately captured the world’s attention. Modern and stylish with art deco details, this 1,454-foot Manhattan landmark drew visitors from around the globe, most making a pilgrimage to the observation decks to drink in breathtaking 360-degree skyline views from the very heart of New York City. And although newer construction projects have long since stripped the Empire State Building of its “world’s tallest” title, this iconic tower’s romantic glamour and architectural beauty have never dimmed. Four million guests—more than half of them international travelers—flock here every year.

Empire State Building/><p>You can now relive the Empire State Building’s storied history through a variety of Instagram-friendly exhibit galleries and experiences. Your journey through time begins as you ascend a grand staircase that splits around a two-story architectural model of the Empire State Building. Then you’re off to…</p><h2>Construction (2nd Floor)</h2><p>Inspired by the photography of Lewis Hine, the Construction gallery transports visitors back to 1930, when steel beams flew overhead and hot rivets were fusing together the frame of what would soon become the world’s tallest building. Surround-sound envelops guests in the bustling hum of the city, while four life-sized sculptures of construction workers invite visitors to sit and take a selfie.</p><p><img src=

Otis Elevators (2nd Floor)

Otis Elevator Company delivered the groundbreaking technology that made the Empire State Building’s towering height possible. In a dedicated exhibit, Otis showcases not only how the original elevators operated, but introduces visitors to the latest technology installed in the newest lifts, which transport more than 10 million tenants and observatory guests each year. Visitors will also walk through a simulation of an actual elevator shaft and feel the energy created by the movement of the cars up close. 


The World’s Most Famous Building (2nd Floor)

Set to an original musical score commissioned for this exhibit, more than 70 screens display highlights of the Empire State Building’s starring role in pop culture over the decades, from its appearance in the original King Kong (1933) and an Affair to Remember (1957) to Sleepless in Seattle (1993) and Elf (2003). Oh, and speaking of Kong…

King Kong (2nd Floor)

Step into the grasp of Kong… if you dare. One of the most Instagrammable exhibits is a seemingly unremarkable 1930’s office made extraordinary by the fact that the giant ape’s massive fingers have pierced the office walls. Intrepid guests can take photos of themselves in the grip of one of those hands. Through the office “window” a video screen depicts the face of Kong as he clings to the exterior of the building.

King Kong Exhibit

Celebrity (2nd Floor)

Over the years, it seems like everyone who’s anyone has been to the Empire State Building. This exhibit features many of the famous athletes, actors and musicians with their images and signed memorabilia. Celebrity Hall is on the path to the elevators that carry guests to their next stop: the 80th floor and NYC: Above & Beyond.

NYC: Above & Beyond (80th Floor)

In partnership with NYC & Company, the official visitors bureau for New York City and its five boroughs (yep, there’s more to New York City than just Manhattan), the Empire State Building has launched a brand-new interactive experience designed to provide personalized travel recommendations. Using an array of engaging questions about visitors’ interests and their length of stay, a comprehensive list of recommendations for exploring Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island will be displayed. Visitors then choose their favorites, which are emailed or beamed directly to their mobile device. Voila!

86th Floor Observatory

The only 360-degree outdoor observation deck in New York City, the 86th Floor Observatory provides spectacular views from the center of Manhattan. Although it still looks much like it did in that final heartwarming Sleepless in Seattle scene, in which Meg Ryan’s lovelorn Annie finally connects with Sam, beautifully played by Tom Hanks, the observation deck does boast one new addition: radiant heaters! These new heat lamps make the outdoor observation area much more comfortable for winter visitors.

86th Floor Observatory

102nd Floor Observatory (2nd Floor)

You’ll experience your first “wow” moment when you enter an all-glass elevator on the 86th floor. As you travel 16 stories through a newly renovated glass shaft, you’ll be treated to a never-before-seen look at the inside of the tower’s mast (originally designed—but never used—as a mooring for dirigible airships) and a glimpse of its world-famous tower lights. Then, stepping out onto the 102nd floor, you’re met by an unparalleled panorama. Comprised of 24 crystal-clear, 8-foot-high windows, the 102nd floor is an enclosed, climate-controlled, all-weather observation deck allowing one-of-a-kind views of the city and beyond. Note: There is an additional fee to visit the 102nd-floor observatory.

102nd Floor Observatory

If you think the list above is impressive, it’s merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of all of the improvements, additions and enhancements made to the The Empire State Building in recent years. If you’ve never been, now is the best time ever to visit this iconic landmark. And if you’ve been before, you need to go back. You’ll be convinced that this glorious grande dame of towers has made the most graceful of transitions from 1930 to the present day.

Photos Courtesy Empire State Building