At as Much as $460.06, Is the Empire State Building Worth Visiting?

For decades, the world-famous Empire State Building — which was designated as a National Historic Landmark in the United States on Saturday, June 14, 1986 — has been one of the top destinations in New York, attracting millions of visitors every year. I have visited the top deck on the 102nd floor a number of times over the years, as it was always a good deal…

At as Much as $460.06, Is the Empire State Building Worth Visiting?

…but when I recently checked the official Internet web site of the iconic building, I saw that the prices had increased significantly since the last time I checked — including an all-access tour which costs $460.06.

I am not sure why the ticket price was not rounded down to exclude that extra six cents; but what exactly is included in the All-Access Tour?

The following text comprises the entire official description of what you get in return for that $460.00 — and six cents:

Ever wondered how the celebrities experience the Empire State Building? Live the red-carpet lifestyle with our most luxe package: The All-Access Tour.

Receive the star treatment with the ultimate ESB experience. Step through the building’s private entrance into our celebrity green room – the exclusive space where we welcome the building’s most famous guests. Enjoy snacks and a beverage, check out photos and memorabilia from former celebrity visitors, or just lounge in style and celebrate with a bottle of champagne.

When you’re ready to experience the magic of the building, you’ll enjoy a private, guided tour, skipping the lines on your way to the top to soak up New York’s most famous view. When you want to live like NYC royalty, this is the way to go.

This exclusive tour is limited to parties of up to six.

What exactly is a “former celebrity visitor”? Is that a visitor who was once a celebrity; a celebrity who was once a visitor; or a person who was once both a celebrity and a visitor but is neither today?

Before you decide as to whether the All-Access Tour is a good value, consider this: you can save $298.51 by instead embarking on what is called the Premium Experience for “only” $161.55:

Get an insider’s look at this iconic landmark. Limited to groups of seven, our Premium Experience partners you with an Empire State Building Ambassador for a 90-minute VIP tour of the world’s most famous building.

Discover even more of the Empire State Building with the intimate Premium Experience. Enjoy a guided 90-minute tour that includes the building’s lovingly restored Art Deco lobby on 5th Avenue, the Celebrity Walk, and exhibits that celebrate the building’s history and heritage. Each tour is led by an Empire State Building Ambassador ready to customize the tour to your interests and surprise you with little-known facts and trivia.

You’ll enjoy priority access throughout the building, including skip-the-line privileges up to the 86th floor observatory, before you’re whisked up to the Top Deck to take in the unbeatable views from the 102nd floor.

Finally, commemorate your visit with a complimentary souvenir photograph – one of many memories you’ll take home from your time at the Empire State Building. This exclusive tour is limited to parties of up to seven.

If I understand correctly, the ability to walk through a private entrance, sit in a room where famous people have been, view photographs and memorabilia from former celebrity visitors, lounge with a bottle of champagne, enjoy snacks and a beverage — none of which were given an accurate amount or were described more specifically — and a private tour versus a tour of 90 minutes which is supposedly not so private is worth an additional $298.51 per person?

Does a visitor get a complimentary souvenir photograph with the All-Access Tour?

“Sticker Shock”

In this article — which I wrote back on Tuesday, December 11, 2012 — I wrote that I received “sticker shock” when I contemplated the journey up to the top deck yet again. The costs were as follows — along with the current prices for comparison purposes:

  • Adult $42.00now $72.00, or an increase of almost 72 percent
  • Senior ages 62 and older $39.00 — now $70.00, or an increase of almost 80 percent
  • Child ages 6-12 $36.00 — now $66.00, or an increase of greater than 83 percent
Empire State Building New York

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

I asked back then if they were serious about those admission prices. I wish they were joking today.

Yes, I get the argument that people will pay for tickets to the top deck despite their cost. If they can charge those rates and people will pay them, why not? The classic economic laws of supply and demand come into play here, right? After all, this is the one and only Empire State Building — there is no other structure quite like it…

…but if a family of four with two children wants to visit the top deck, they must shell out $276.00 for the privilege of a view from the top deck?

If that family of four would rather not wait in line, the cost — at $103.00 per person — skyrockets to $412.00.

Four hundred and twelve dollars for a view from the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building.

What if the weather is foggy, rainy or humid? Sorry — no discount; and no refunds either once the ticket is purchased.

I realize it has been years since I paid fewer than ten dollars to visit the top deck of the Empire State Building, but $72.00 per adult? Since when did the Empire State Building — which is privately owned — become a luxury and not simply a reasonably priced landmark? Is this a result of corporate greed?

There are ways around the high ticket costs of the Empire State Building, such as with packages, city passes and group fares — but realize that those packages may not include a visit to the top deck on the 102nd floor. Visiting the main deck on the 86th floor brings the ticket prices down as follows:

  • Adult $25.00 in 2012 — now $42.00, or an increase of 68 percent
  • Senior ages 62 and older $22.00 in 2012 — now $40.00, or an increase of almost 82 percent
  • Child ages 6-12 $19.00 in 2012 — now $36.00, or an increase of almost 90 percent
New York skyline

Photograph ©2007 by Brian Cohen.

Those prices are less expensive, but still not reasonable, in my opinion. In fact, they are almost identical to the prices to visit the top deck on the 102nd floor back in 2012.

You could perhaps visit a different building for the view, such as Top of the Rock which — among other things — offers a view of the Empire State Building. FlyerTalk members compare the Empire State Building to Top of the Rock in this discussion. You can also visit the observation area of One World Trade Center, of which I impart my experience in this article.

Costs are not disclosed; but did you know that you can submit a request for customizing the lighting of the Empire State Building for a night? You can view the schedule for the lighting of the Empire State Building here.

Summary

At least 48 freestanding structures in the world are currently taller than the Empire State Building — seven of them are in New York — with more on the way; and the Empire State Building once again lost its title as the tallest building in New York to One World Trade Center in 2014.

While I have always enjoyed the amazing views from the Empire State Building — few other observation platforms worldwide has anything even comparable, in my opinion — the actual experience had gradually deteriorated with the long lines and the length of time it takes to get to the top deck, among other things. If you have never been to the top deck of the Empire State Building, definitely do it — but be sure you have an absolutely clear day for the money you would spend and not a day where the view will be diminished by significant humidity or smog. Otherwise, giving my six cents pertaining to my sixth sense about the six cents, I would generally not recommend the experience, as the ticket prices are way too steep — and you will likely not get value for your money, in my opinion.

Due to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic, admission to the Empire State Building is currently by appointment only; and the hours of 8:00 in the morning though 2:00 in the morning daily have been decreased to closing at 11:00 in the evening in July and September of 2020; and at midnight in August of 2020. The number of people who can visit at any given time has been reduced to increase distancing; but that may also mean that securing tickets may be more difficult to do.

Covering your face is required; and a face covering or mask is not included in the admission price — so you must bring your own face covering or mask.

No fewer than 18 subway lines — whose trains stop at three different subway stations, which include Grand Central Terminal — are within a walk of approximately ten minutes from the Empire State Building. At least a dozen bus routes have stops which are also located within a walk of approximately ten minutes.

Empire State Building
20 West 34 Street
New York, New York 10001
United States of America
1-212-736-3100

In the meantime, here are articles in which I impart my experiences at other observation areas around the world:

All photographs ©2007 and ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

5 thoughts on “At as Much as $460.06, Is the Empire State Building Worth Visiting?”

  1. John Turus says:

    Stand on top of the Empire State Building for 5 minutes or take the same family of 4 for a day at Disney World – that’s crazy-

  2. tom says:

    Went to the top in 1999, then went to top of WTC. No comparison. WTC was 10x bettter.
    Really hard to justify these prices, when its now just another tall building. Would not pay more than $30 to visit

  3. Pat says:

    They know NYC attracts some tourists who have more money than they know what to do with, have a fairy tale vision of what the USA is like, and are suckers for the letters “VIP” (think Qatari, Emerati, Saudi, etc). The tour operator is just looking to exploit that opportunity.

    And maybe, just maybe, there are some American guys willing to spend that kind of money for getting engaged. In which case, they should offer an “engagement package”, which is the same experience in reverse (go to the top, picture, champagne in a fancy room – I pray to god the room is actually fancy).

  4. Pat says:

    According to this article, the champagne isn’t even included in the All Access tour. The $500 package just gives you the *opportunity* to purchase it, and nowhere in the official description does it say the champagne is complimentary.

    There’s also a picture of the green room, and it basically looks like a small Amex Lounge (nothing romantic, historic or unique):
    https://attractionsmagazine.com/empire-state-building-tour/

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