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Top of the Empire State Building Ready for its Close-Up

The 80th floor is open again after a four-year, $165 million lift

The Empire State Building Observatory atop what is possibly the world’s most famed sky-scraper has complete of the redevelopment of its 80th floor, through which more than 3.5 million visitors a year will walk, on their way to the elevators leading upward. The final component of the four-year, $165 million project to reimagine the iconic experience adds engaging and informative exhibits to orient visitors on their visit to New York City and showcases the building’s colored history.

New on the 80th floor is an exclusive, interactive partnership with NYC & Company, the Big Apple’s marketing, tourism and partnership bureau, with five interactive video blades that allow visitors to design itineraries for their visit using a massive inventory of destinations in all five boroughs. The itineraries automatically download to a visitor’s phone with the use of a QR Code reader or can be sent via e-mail. Research shows the Empire State Building Observatory is often the first destination attraction targeted by visitors to New York City.

Interactive, augmented reality scenes from New York City, housed inside classic binoculars, bring visitors directly to the sights and sounds of popular local destinations. Meanwhile, a new video starring Tony, Grammy, Emmy, and Pulitzer-Prize winning composer, lyricist, and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda is set to be featured in a new music-to-light show.

80th Floor Exhibits Include:

NYC: Above and Beyond: This exhibit encourages visitors to create a personalized trip itinerary from the top of the Empire State Building – often their first stop in New York City. After answering questions about their interests and the length of their stay, they can assemble a personalized list of recommendations for attractions and sites  throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Guests can then obtain their customized itinerary via e-mail or scanned by QR code directly to the visitors’ handheld devices for future reference.

Artistry in Light: Ever wonder how the Empire State Building’s music-to-light shows are created? The Artistry in Light exhibit features a short film narrated by world-renowned lighting designer Marc Brickman, a master of light creation. The film features highlights from his designs, such as the first-ever music-to-light show with Alicia Keys in 2012, and a holiday light show synced to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

Stephen Wiltshire’s Drawing: In 2017, famed British artist Stephen Wiltshire took a 45-minute helicopter ride above Manhattan. He then drew an incredibly detailed landscape drawing of New York City, while in residence on the 80th floor of the Empire State Building, completely from memory. A three-minute film documents his process, from the 45-minute helicopter ride to the four days in which he created the original piece of art.

Scenes of NYC: Through Empire State Building’s classic viewfinders, visitors can check out panoramic views of nine different famed New York locations from the 80th floor. From Times Square to Coney Island, visitors get an up-close look (and even a glance inside) at places they can spot from the building’s 86th and 102nd floor observation decks.

Showtime Pictures: The photos taken in front of the green screen on the 2nd floor are captured from 25 different angles utilizing 25 different HD cameras to create an immersive experience to tell a visual narrative. The new location for pick up has been redesigned with facial recognition technology, to speed the retrieval and purchase process through self-service kiosks.

“What began with the new Observatory entrance opening in August 2018 is now a fully educational and immersive journey that connects visitors from around the world to New York and helps them design their entire visit to New York City from the center of it all. At 88 years young, the Empire State Building remains the icon of innovation, aspirations, and dreams, and is the vibrant ancestor of all tall buildings around the world,” said Anthony E. Malkin, Chairman and CEO of Empire State Realty Trust.

Tickets to the 86th Floor Observatory start at $38 with tickets to the 102nd Floor Observatory available for an additional $20. Tickets can be pre-purchased online at or in real time on-site at kiosks located on the second and 86th floor.