NEW YORK: EAT SEE PLAY SHOP SLEEP TIPS OUT OF TOWN

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Empire State Building

Empire State Building 1 - Babyccino NYC Guide Empire State Building 2 - Babyccino NYC Guide Empire State Building 3 - Babyccino NYC Guide Empire State Building 4 - Babyccino NYC GuideAside from the Statue of Liberty, there is hardly a more recognizable New York landmark than the Empire State Building. Since its completion in 1931, at which point it was the tallest building in the world, its presence has dominated the New York skyline. I clearly remember visiting the observatory as a child on a trip to New York: the gilded main lobby, my ears popping as the elevator ascended to the 80th and then 86th floor, and the pure magic of stepping out onto the observation deck, the summer breeze ruffling my hair and lights twinkling all around me far, far below. Before moving to Brooklyn I lived for nearly 5 years just a few blocks away, walking past the building twice a day every weekday on my commute to work, and singling its silhouette out as a beacon of home when approaching the city by car or plane. But as with so many iconic New York attractions, it’s entirely possible to live in the city for many years without making a visit, and my husband is a perfect example of this: he lived in the apartment where I eventually joined him for 10 years, never once making the trip to the top of the Empire State Building. Now that our daughter can identify the building in the skyline, pointing it out whenever it comes into view, it seemed a good time to play tourist for the morning and see our city from a different vantage point.

Empire State Building 5 - Babyccino NYC Guide Empire State Building 6 - Babyccino NYC Guide Empire State Building 7 - Babyccino NYC Guide

Arriving a few minutes after the observation decks opened for the day, we had a relatively smooth journey to the 86th floor and the benefit of enjoying the views without too much competition for a spot along the perimeter. We enjoyed locating and identifying a number of other New York landmarks: the Statue of Liberty, the Flatiron Building, the Chrysler Building, the various bridges crossing the East River, and One World Trade Center. By far my daughter’s favorite sight was the seasonal ice rink in Bryant Park, where we could make out minuscule little skaters circling. From this perspective, much of the occasional craziness of the city fades, leaving you with stunning views of perfect-looking buildings and a flawlessly-gridded array of streets. Really wrapping your head around the magnitude of New York often requires getting some distance from it, and aside from taking to the Hudson or East Rivers on a ferry, I can’t think of a better way to accomplish this than to gaze down on it from a great height.

Empire State Building 8 - Babyccino NYC Guide Empire State Building 9 - Babyccino NYC Guide

The Empire State Building’s extreme popularity means you’d do well to plan a bit ahead if you’re hoping to visit. One way to save a bit of time queuing is to purchase your tickets ahead of time online. When we went we opted for the standard pass to the main deck, knowing we aimed to be there right at opening and hoping not too many others had the same idea. Even still we had a bit of waiting to do, especially at the metal detectors everyone must pass though. If you’re planning to visit later in the day I’ve heard the lines can become quite long, and while I hesitate to recommend the VIP Express Pass given its price, I’d probably consider it, especially knowing how difficult extended queueing can sometimes be for small children.

A few additional notes:

  • When purchasing tickets, note that children under 6 are free – a nice perk!
  • You can purchase tickets that allow entry on the 102nd floor in addition to the main observatory on the 86th floor. The 102nd floor is much smaller and fully enclosed. I’ve read that photos are much better when taken from the open-air deck on the 86th floor.
  • The observation deck is windy, and quite a bit cooler than the street below. Bundle up outside of the summer months.
  • Access to several exhibits is included the ticket price: a look at the building’s recent renovation aimed at increasing its sustainability can help pass time while in the 2nd floor queue, and on the 80th floor the Dare to Dream exhibit covers the building’s history, engineering, and construction.
  • The binoculars on the main observation deck cost $0.50 and take only quarters. I didn’t notice a machine to make change, so perhaps best to bring quarters with you if you’re hoping to use them.

 


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