With its stunning views of New York City, a visit to the Observation Decks of the iconic Empire State Building is a must for any first-time visitor. But should you splurge on tickets to the famous open-air 86th floor Top Deck or opt for the cheaper Main Deck on the 80th floor?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The Top Deck offers completely unobstructed 360-degree views and is much less crowded than the Main Deck. It’s absolutely worth paying extra for access.

In this detailed 3000 word guide, we will compare every aspect of the Empire State Building’s Top Deck vs. Main Deck including views, ticket prices, crowds, accessibility, and more. You’ll find out exactly what to expect on each deck so you can decide which option is better suited for your visit.

Views and Observation Experience

When it comes to the Empire State Building, the views and observation experience are truly unparalleled. Whether you choose to visit the Top Deck or the Main Deck, you are in for a treat. Both decks offer breathtaking panoramic views of the New York City skyline, allowing visitors to take in the iconic landmarks and bustling city below.

Top Deck views

The Top Deck of the Empire State Building provides a truly awe-inspiring experience. Located on the 102nd floor, this deck offers unobstructed 360-degree views of the city. From here, you can see famous landmarks such as Central Park, Times Square, and the Statue of Liberty.

The high altitude and clear glass windows allow for a birds-eye view of the city, making it a favorite choice for many visitors.

Main Deck views

The Main Deck, located on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building, also offers stunning views of New York City. With its open-air observatory, visitors can enjoy the fresh air as they take in the sights.

From this deck, you can see landmarks like the Chrysler Building, Brooklyn Bridge, and the Hudson River. The Main Deck is a popular choice for those who prefer to have the outdoor experience while enjoying the incredible views.

Outdoor spaces

Both the Top Deck and the Main Deck have outdoor spaces where visitors can step outside and feel the breeze as they admire the cityscape. The Top Deck has a small outdoor platform, while the Main Deck has a spacious open-air observatory.

These outdoor spaces provide a unique opportunity to capture stunning photos and fully immerse yourself in the beauty of New York City.

Best times for views

To make the most of your visit to the Empire State Building, it is essential to choose the best time for views. The observation decks are open from morning until late at night, allowing visitors to experience different lighting conditions.

For photographers and those seeking a quieter experience, early morning or late evening visits are recommended. The sunset and nighttime views are particularly breathtaking.

Photography tips

For those looking to capture amazing photographs from the Empire State Building, here are a few tips. First, consider bringing a tripod to ensure steady shots, especially in low-light conditions. Second, experiment with different angles and perspectives to create unique compositions.

Lastly, don’t forget to take advantage of the outdoor spaces for the best vantage points. Remember, the Empire State Building offers an incredible backdrop for your photography adventures.

Tickets and Prices

Top Deck ticket options

The Empire State Building offers several ticket options for visitors who want to experience the breathtaking views from the Top Deck. The standard Top Deck ticket provides access to the 86th floor observation deck, where you can enjoy panoramic views of New York City.

For those looking for a more exclusive experience, there is also the Sunrise/Sunset ticket, which allows you to witness the city’s stunning skyline during the golden hours of the day. Additionally, the VIP Express Pass grants you skip-the-line access, saving you valuable time.

Main Deck ticket options

If you prefer to explore the Main Deck of the Empire State Building, there are also ticket options available for this level. The Main Deck ticket provides access to the 80th floor, where you can still enjoy breathtaking views of the city.

This option is a great choice for those who want to experience the Empire State Building at a slightly lower price point.

Discounts and deals

The Empire State Building often offers discounts and deals on tickets, especially during off-peak seasons or special occasions. It’s always a good idea to check their official website or other trusted sources for any ongoing promotions.

Additionally, purchasing tickets online in advance can sometimes save you money compared to buying them at the ticket counter on the day of your visit.

Adding on extras like multimedia exhibits

When purchasing your tickets, you may also have the option to add on extras like multimedia exhibits. These exhibits provide a deeper understanding of the history and significance of the Empire State Building.

They offer a unique and educational experience that complements your visit to the observation decks. It’s worth considering adding these extras to enhance your overall visit.

Crowds and Accessibility

Crowd levels on each deck

When it comes to visiting the Empire State Building, crowd levels can greatly impact your experience. The Top Deck and Main Deck both attract a large number of visitors, especially during peak tourist seasons. However, there is a noticeable difference in crowd levels between the two decks.

The Main Deck, located on the 86th floor, tends to be more crowded as it is the most popular deck for visitors. It offers stunning views of the city skyline and iconic landmarks, which is why it attracts a larger number of people.

It’s worth noting that the Main Deck can get quite crowded, especially during weekends and holidays when tourist traffic is at its peak.

On the other hand, the Top Deck, situated on the 102nd floor, offers a more exclusive experience with fewer crowds. While it still attracts visitors, the higher elevation and limited capacity make it a less crowded option.

This allows visitors to enjoy the breathtaking views in a more serene and relaxed atmosphere.

If you prefer a less crowded experience, especially if you’re looking to capture the perfect photo or simply enjoy the view without feeling overwhelmed by the crowds, the Top Deck might be the better choice for you.

Accessibility for strollers and wheelchairs

The Empire State Building strives to provide accessibility for all visitors, including those with strollers and wheelchairs. Both the Top Deck and Main Deck are wheelchair accessible, ensuring that everyone can enjoy the incredible views.

The Main Deck offers ramp access and elevators for wheelchairs, making it easy for visitors with mobility challenges to navigate the deck. Strollers are also allowed, but it’s important to keep in mind that the Main Deck can get crowded, so maneuvering a stroller may be a bit more challenging.

On the other hand, the Top Deck has elevator access but does not have ramp access. However, there are staff members available to assist visitors with strollers and wheelchairs in navigating the elevators and reaching the Top Deck.

It’s recommended to inform the staff in advance to ensure a smooth and hassle-free experience.

For more information on accessibility and crowd levels, you can visit the official website of the Empire State Building.

Hours and Security

Opening hours

The Empire State Building is open to visitors 365 days a year, including holidays. However, the opening hours may vary depending on the season and special events. Generally, the building opens at 8:00 am and closes at 2:00 am.

It’s important to note that the last elevator to the observation decks departs at 1:15 am. So, if you want to catch a breathtaking view of New York City from the top, make sure to plan your visit accordingly.

Security screening process

Ensuring the safety of all visitors is a top priority at the Empire State Building. To maintain a secure environment, a thorough security screening process is in place. Visitors are required to go through a metal detector and have their bags screened by X-ray machines.

This process is similar to airport security measures and is carried out by trained professionals.

Are there any restrictions on what you can bring inside?

Yes, there are certain items that are not allowed inside the Empire State Building for security reasons. These items include weapons, sharp objects, flammable materials, and large bags or backpacks. It’s recommended to check the official website of the Empire State Building for a complete list of prohibited items before your visit.

Are there any additional security measures in place?

Yes, in addition to the security screening process, the Empire State Building has a dedicated security team that monitors the premises at all times. They are trained to respond to any potential threats and ensure the safety of all visitors.

The building also has CCTV cameras installed throughout the premises for surveillance purposes.

Where can I find more information about the security procedures?

If you would like to learn more about the security procedures at the Empire State Building or have any specific concerns, it’s best to visit their official website at www.esbnyc.com. The website provides detailed information about the security measures in place and can help address any queries or concerns you may have.

Other Facilities on Each Deck


Both the Top Deck and Main Deck of the Empire State Building offer restroom facilities for visitors’ convenience. The restrooms on both decks are well-maintained and clean, ensuring a pleasant experience for everyone.

Whether you’re enjoying the breathtaking views from the Top Deck or exploring the exhibits on the Main Deck, you won’t have to worry about finding a restroom when nature calls.

Gift shops

When it comes to shopping for souvenirs, both decks of the Empire State Building have you covered. The Top Deck and Main Deck feature gift shops where you can find a wide variety of merchandise, including t-shirts, magnets, keychains, and more.

These gift shops offer a great opportunity to take home a memento of your visit to one of the most iconic landmarks in the world.


The Empire State Building is not just a place for sightseeing, it also offers dining options for hungry visitors. On the Main Deck, you can find the State Grill and Bar, a full-service restaurant that serves delicious meals with a stunning view of the city.

The Top Deck, on the other hand, offers the Cloud Nine Café, a casual dining spot where you can grab a quick bite to eat while taking in the incredible panoramic views. Both restaurants provide a unique dining experience that combines great food with unparalleled vistas.


We hope this detailed guide to the Top Deck vs. Main Deck has helped you decide which option is best for your Empire State Building visit. With its open-air design and completely unobstructed views, the Top Deck offers an unforgettable New York skyline experience.

But if you’re looking to save money or don’t mind more limited views, the Main Deck is a solid option too. Either way, a trip to this iconic skyscraper promises stunning views and lifelong memories.

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