I was one of the first people to view New York City from 1,250 feet in the third phase of the Empire State Building’s $165 million renovation. Here's what it was like.

Libertina Brandt/Business InsiderA view of New York City from the top floor of the Empire State Building.
  • The Empire State Building has just revealed its newly renovated observation deck on the top floor.
  • The floor will be open to the public on October 12, 2019.
  • The renovation is the third phase of a four-phase, $US165 million renovation project.
  • The views from the top are stunning – but it will cost you $US58 to see them. Here’s what the experience is like.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

I was one of the first people to travel up to the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building to view the newly renovated observation deck.

The 102nd-floor observatory is the third phase of a four-phase, $US165 million renovation project. The renovated space boasts 24 floor-to-ceiling windows that show off what New York City looks from above.

Read more: I spent 2 days at the Monaco Yacht Show, and never in my entire life have I felt so out of place

Along with the newest phase, which will open to the public on October 12, there is a second-floor museum and a main observation deck on the 86th floor.

The Empire State Building welcomes around 3.5 million visitors each year. Along with its floors of attractions, the building is also home to tenants like LinkedIn and Walgreens.

My journey to the renovated observatory began on a 7:30 a.m. train in Long Island and ended over 1,200 above the ground with views of New York City that, up until now, I’d only seen on television.

Keep reading to see what it was like.


My trip to the Empire State Building’s 102nd-floor observatory began at 7:30 a.m. on the Long Island Rail Road.

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As Business Insider’s real estate reporter, I was able to get media access to the observatory two days before it opened to the public. The Empire State Building has long been considered as having one of the best aerial views of the city, so I was excited to see it for myself.


After a roughly 40-minute ride from Mineola, New York, I arrived in Penn Station.

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Penn Station is a transit hub located underneath Madison Square Garden in the heart of Manhattan. Along with its many subway stops and train connections, Penn Station also boasts a variety of restaurants and shops including Pret A Manger, my go-to place for a morning coffee.

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Luckily, the Empire State Building is just an eight-minute walk from Penn Station, so there was no need to add a subway ride to my commute.

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In fact, it’s so close that as soon as I walked out of the station, the building was directly in my line of view.

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The GPS took me straight down 34th Street, which is home to some of Manhattan’s most iconic destinations — like the Macy’s flagship store.

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After a quick walk, I was greeted by a sign that pointed me to the observatory entrance.

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A doorman outside waved hello to guests as they walked through.

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Even though it was just 9 a.m., the lobby was already flooded with visitors.

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My journey to the 102nd floor began here, in front of a model of the Empire State Building that took 110 days to build.

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My first stop was the second floor, which is full of interactive exhibits that tell the story of the Empire State Building, starting from its inception.

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A notable part of my second-floor experience was that there were no queues.

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There’s a room that plays a short clip of all 188 movies, commercials, games, and print publications that have featured the Empire State Building in them.

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Another exhibit gives visitors an inside look at what life is like for the Empire State Building’s tenants. By looking through the hole, I was shown a peek of different office spaces in the building.


Even the elevator is interactive. On my way up to the 79th floor, the transition floor, a video of the construction of the building played above me.

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On the 79th floor, I was guided to a glass-enclosed elevator that led me up to the newly renovated 102nd-floor observatory.

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As soon as I stepped off the elevator, I was greeted by 24 floor-to-ceiling windows that display a 360-degree view of New York City and beyond.

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The renovated 102nd-floor observatory is the third and newest phase of the Empire State Building’s four-phase, $US165 million upgrade.

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The interior of the renovated floor took around four months to complete.

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Before the 102nd-floor observatory was renovated, the windows were half as tall as they are now.

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Now, there’s a clear view all the way uptown …

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… and all the way downtown.

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And, of course, the in between.

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Central Park was clearly visible to the north, along with the supertall, super-skinny luxury buildings that mark Billionaires’ Row.

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Read more: I spent a day on NYC’s Billionaires’ Row. Here’s your ultimate guide to one of the city’s glitziest streets, which borders Central Park and is home to the most expensive apartment ever sold in the US.


From 1,250 feet off the ground, I watched city life continue as usual.

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The 102nd floor will be open to the public on October 12, 2019. It will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily.

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Visiting the second-floor museum, the main deck on the 86th floor, and the 102nd-floor observatory will cost adults $US58. That’s steep — but it seems to be on par with the going rate for views from supertall buildings in NYC.

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Business Insider’s Katie Warren visited One World Trade Centre’s 102nd-floor observatory deck in December; tickets there cost between $US34 and $US54.

Though I work close to One World Trade Centre, I’ve never been to the top. Having spent about two hours at the Empire State Building, I can safely say that the views are stunning, even to a native New Yorker like myself.

Ultimately, though, the price of going to the top of the Empire State Building is comparable to a dinner out in the city – and I don’t see myself ever paying that much just for a view.

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