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Tips for Visiting the Empire State Building With Kids

I have fond memories of visiting the Empire State Building as a kid, so on our recent trip to NYC, I knew I had to take my kids. We went early, midweek, and while it was still crowded, we were able to have a great time and see some beautiful views. If you go with your family, you’ll definitely want to have a plan. Here are my top tips for visiting the Empire State Building with kids.

Disclosure: We purchased our own Empire State Building tickets. This post contains affiliate links. Purchasing and/or clicking on some of the links may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own.

Headed to NYC? Our family always love to visit the Empire State Building. Here are some Empire State Building tips for visiting with kids and making the most of your trip.

Visiting the Empire State Building With Kids

Like with all popular tourist attractions, visiting the Empire State Building is best with a plan in mind. Learn all about it, and figure out exactly when you want to visit before you head out. This is especially important during the busy season, including weekends and holidays.

What is the Best Time to Go to the Empire State Building?

The Empire State Building is open 365 days a year from 8am to 2am, with the last elevator at 1:15am. For families, it’s best to visit early to beat the crowds. For attractions like this, I typically recommend as soon as opening as possible, especially when visiting with children. Late in the night can also be a good time to avoid crowds, but probably wouldn’t be a great experience with young kids.

You can definitely combine a trip to the Empire State Building with other attractions – it definitely won’t take all day. I’d recommend starting there and then going to the next place.

Can you go up to the Empire State Building for free? How much does it cost to go to the Empire State Building? What types of Empire State Building Tickets are offered?

There are several different Empire State Building ticket options available for purchase. Before buying them, make sure that you understand the pricing. You cannot go up to the Empire State Building for free unless you qualify for a free under 6 ticket.

We saw a few people that waited in line and then left once they discovered how much it will cost, which is a huge waste of time on your trip. Kids under 6 are free.

Ticket options include the following:

  • Main Deck (includes the 86th floor observatory) – prices start at $36 for adults, $31 for a child
  • Top & Main Deck (includes the 86th floor and the 102nd floor observatories) – prices start at $57 for adults and $51 for children

There are other tickets available. These include a premium experience with a 90 minute guided tour, a limited sunrise ticket (only 100 sold per day), and an AM/PM experience where you can visit twice.

If you want to skip the lines, there are VIP Express Passes available to purchase. There’s no reservation required for these, and they can be purchased online or at the Empire State Building. Skipping the ticket line can be a good idea if you have other plans for the day or if you are visiting during a busy time.

Tickets for the Empire State Building can be purchased in person, online, and through passes such as CityPASS. Buying tickets online will likely save you time because the lines to buy tickets at the ticket office can get pretty long.

Empire State Building With Kids

Wondering what Empire State Building tickets you should get?  We chose the 86th floor observation deck and still had a great experience. If you change your mind, you can pay the extra fee once you are up there.

CityPASS holders can also get a bonus second visit on the same day so they can see the views both in the daytime and at night. That can be a great deal if you are planning to do some of the other activities in NYC that are included in the pass.

Unlike the One World Observatory, Empire State Building tickets aren’t timed. So, once you get your ticket, you can arrive whenever you’d like. To avoid long lines, it’s best to get the “skip to the front” option on your tickets.

What’s Included with a Visit to the Empire State Building?

The Empire State Building is so much more than the observation deck. There’s a free app that you can download, as well as an audio tour. This multi-media audio tour is complimentary.

During your visit, you’ll start at the Visitor’s Center on 34th street, where you can get your tickets.

There’s the “Dare to Dream” exhibit that’s on the 80th floor which showcases the building of the Empire State Building. Once you go through that exhibit, you’ll head to the line for the elevators going to the 86th floor. The official gift shop is also located on the 80th floor.

The 86th floor includes the open-air observation deck, which offers stunning Panoramic views of New York City and midtown Manhattan. If your ticket offers 102nd floor access, you’ll take another elevator up to the open. That deck isn’t open air, however.

The Empire State Building also has several restaurants that are located on the ground level of the building.

Are Backpacks Allowed at the Empire State Building?

Bags are allowed, but should be “carry-on” size according to the website. Strollers are permitted, but they need to be folded on the decks. Tripods are also not allowed.

Other Tips for Visiting the Empire State Building With Kids

The Empire State Building website has lots of great information, including a calculator that shows how long you can expect to wait until you get to the top. You can also see a lighting calendar that shows what color the building will be lit each night. During our visit, it was red and blue for the Presidential Primary. For couples, you can enter to win a chance to get married at the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day.

Bring Your Patience

Regardless of when you go, you are still likely to face lines. Be sure to prepare your kids and make sure they aren’t hungry or thirsty before getting started.

Use the restrooms when you can because they may not be available in every location. There are some on the 2nd floor before heading into the first set of elevators. Even though my kids are older, I still make them use the restrooms in tourist attractions whenever we see them.

Don’t Wear Green

If you want to buy the picture they take of you, don’t wear green. The photo is taken in front of a green screen, and the photo will be messed up if anyone wears green (spoken from experience, as my son always wears green).

Are there restrooms at the Empire State Building?

The restrooms are located on the 86th floor at the top.

Should I visit the One World Observatory, the Top of the Rock, and the Empire State Building?

You definitely don’t need to visit all three in one visit. My family has been to all of them, but we’ve done it over several trips. I feel that the Empire State Building is so iconic that it’s definitely worth the visit.

We have a full comparison of the Empire State Building and the Top of the Rock here.

Are there restaurants in the Empire State Building?

There are no restaurants at the top, but there are restaurants at the bottom and all around the building.

Have you been to the Empire State Building? What tips works best for you?

See more things to do in NYC with kids here.

More resources: Read our New York City Travel Tips post here to read hotel, attraction, and restaurant reviews, tips, and ideas.

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