You would think that being born and raised in NY has given me the opportunity to experience all that there is to see, eat, and do in this thrilling, action-packed, and wild city, when in reality I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface. NYC is home to some of the most renowned and recognizable attractions in the world. Growing up I never truly appreciated the privilege of living in one of the greatest cities on this planet.
When you think of New York what is the first thing that pops into your head? To me, the Empire State Building (ESB) is what immediately comes to mind. The legendary building is currently the tallest building in NYC standing at 102 stories and 1,454 feet. It has graced New York City’s skyline since 1931 and has appeared in countless of films and television shows such as King Kong, Superman, Elf, An Affair To Remember, and Sleepless in Seattle.
I have visited the ESB once during a school field trip when I was in elementary school and vaguely remember the experience since it was many years ago. I was personally given the opportunity to experience the building’s newly renovated observatory deck on the 102nd floor for the first time and let me tell you it was pure epicness at its core! I was granted an All Access Tour which included some of my friends and family – ultimately making the experience that more special!
What is an All Access Tour?
Ever wondered how the celebrities experience the Empire State Building (ESB)? Well, the All Access Tour is your key to bringing that fantasy to life! It’s a premium ticket offering that includes a private guided tour of the iconic landmark, featuring areas that are normally off-limits to general ticket holders, and skipping the lines to the top to soak up New York’s most famous view. The total value for such an experience is $460.06 per person (before you roll your eyes, let me just say that you only live once so why not treat yourself to an unforgettable experience full of awe and excitement – you deserve it!).
Now, getting to experience something like this was such a rare treat for all of us and we’re forever grateful for the opportunity. I want to begin by praising our tour guide, Gerardo as his wisdom of the building and personality made our experience that more enjoyable! You begin your tour, at the 34th street entrance of the building. There are multiple entrances but you’re looking for the one that has’ Observation Deck’ in big letters. I initially made the mistake of entering an entrance that is actually considered an emergency exit (how did that happen? I don’t know but it was an honest mistake lol).
Once you check-in at the Observation Deck front desk you’ll be greeted by your tour guide. They initially take you through a private VIP entrance where all of the celebrities enter when they first arrive. Your first stop before the tour begins is the celebrity green room which is an exclusive space where you can just lounge in style while enjoying some snacks and drinks. We popped a bottle of champagne and celebrated the exciting moment. The room is decked out with comfy furniture, a flat-screen TV, photo booth, makeup room, restroom, and beautiful photos and memorabilia from former celebrity visitors – the signed tennis ball from Serena Williams was my favorite!
When you’ve decided to begin the journey to the top of the building you’re guided through a hallway full of photos of even more cool celebrity visitors such as Ariana Grande, Rihanna, Zendaya, Zac Efron, Mariah Carey, Justin Bieber, etc. You’re given a fascinating history lesson about how the building was made and learn some surprising facts along the way.
Some facts about the ESB that stood out to me:
- It took only one year and 45 days to build.
- A total of 3,000 workers took part in the construction.
- A B-25 bomber accidentally crashed into the Empire State Building in 1945.
- The Empire State Building is home to so many businesses that it has its own ZIP code: 10118.
- There is a secret 103rd floor that is only open to VIPs.
- There is a lightning rod at the very top of the building’s antenna that takes about 25-100 strikes of lightning per year. The rod protects the iconic structure itself, as well as the people inside, from the threat of fire and electrocution.
- Since 2012, the building has used a state-of-the-art LED lighting system, capable of displaying more than 16 million colors to celebrate holidays or special events.
- The 102nd Floor Observatory was originally planned as a check-in area for airships docked at the tower.
- On a clear day, visitors to the Empire State Building’s observation decks can see five states: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.
After taking some time to see some of the cool photos of celebrities that have visited, you’re whisked away into a private glass elevator to the 102nd floor observation deck (also known as the Top Deck) – which literally takes about 45 seconds. As you rise up to the top floor, you’re distracted with a very cool CGI animation of the Empire State building being built while staring at the roof of the elevator. By the end of it, you’ve finally made it to the top and are presented with (24-8 foot) floor to ceilings glass windows, and an impressive/unobstructed 360-degree view of NYC. The floor is styled elegantly with Art Deco decorative details. You’re given the freedom to soak up the view and take as many pictures as you like.
After soaking up the views at the climate-controlled observation deck, you’re transported to the 86th floor (also known as the Main Deck) where you’re presented with a 360-degree fenced view on an open-air viewing platform (during the winter they have radiant heaters to keep you warm). You’ll encounter some viewfinders to help you get a close-up look at the beautiful cityscape but unfortunately at the moment, they’re covered up for sanitary reasons.
You’re then whisked away once again to the second-floor gallery to experience some really cool immersive and interactive exhibits. There are nine exhibits in total. The King Kong exhibit was standout to me! You’re immediately transported into an office from the 1930s where the Kong’s hands have penetrated the walls and feel them vibrate as he growls, huffs and puffs in frustration and anger. Watching him dangle from the building and dodging vintage fighter planes was pretty epic. Make sure to snap some humorous photos of you being clenched by Kong’s hands.
And there you have it, the All Access Tour from my point of you. I’m curious to know how many of you would be interested in joining a tour like this. Sound off on the comments below. ESB has plenty of other tours to fit what you’re looking for and your budget.
The “All Access Tour” is available five times each day, Monday – Sunday, and costs $460.06 per person. Reservations are available now at ESBNYC.com.
How did I shoot all of these photos? Check out this blog post where I share all of the camera gear I use on my travel adventures.