New York City Public Observatory Deck – the Empire State Building

The name of the Empire State Building is derived from the nickname of New York – The Empire State. It was named as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. With 102 floors and 1,454 feet in height, the Empire State Building kept the world record for 40 years after its completion in 1931 until the topping out of the original World Trade Center’s North Tower in late 1970.

It is interesting to mention that, claimed to be a building to dock airship, the true reason behind was to compete with Chrysler Building nearby, which was under construction at that moment, to be the worlds’ tallest building. The building’s Art Deco spire, designed to be a mooring mast and depot for airship, added 200 feet extra height.

The building’s art deco design bears the cultural and artistic marks in early 20th centaury. It is also a popular landmark in numeric movies such as King Kong, Sleepless Seattle, Independence Day…

Location: 350 5th Ave, New York, NY 10118
GPS: 40°44’53.80″N  73°59’8.73″W
Waiting time to reach the deck: 1-2 hours
Recommendation: 4.5 stars out of 5

The Empire State Building has one of the most popular outdoor observatories in the world. You can pay extra fee to access 102nd floor. The space is compact without impressive view through the glass window full of stains. I would suggest to stay with the regular admission without pay extra money.

The observation deck has several features any photographer dreams of:
Outdoors: Long focus length is possible to photograph landmark buildings in far distance without degradation of image details. You may also use wide-angle lens without worrying about glass reflections.
360 degree non-obstructed view: Good view of locations such as Times Square, Brooklyn, downtown financial district, 34th street, 5th Avenue, East River, Hudson River.
Couple of drawbacks to be noticed:
No tripod: The security will keep your tripod till you finish your trip. I would suggest carrying bean bag instead to get nice shot at night.
Too many tourists: Budget 2 hours waiting time to access the deck.
Can’t see Empire State Building itself.
Strong wind: Be well prepared for wind and cold temperature. Dress in layers. You can stay indoors if the weather is challenging.

Midtown skyscrapers featured with Times Square

Buildings are nicely lit at night, especially Times Square and 42nd street.

The shadow of the Empire State Building

Rooftop view from above. Good to shoot tilt-shift miniature effect.

Crowded skyscrapers and the 5th Avenue

Panoramic view of East River and Brooklyn

A beautiful view of the Chrysler Building. This is the one I talked about in competition with the Empire State Building for the tallest building in the world. Not only the famous landmark in New York City, but also a master piece art deco skyscraper.

The skyscrapers of financial district in far distance featured by the new One World Trade Center. East River on left and Hudson River on right.

You have good view of another iconic skyscraper – The Flatiron Building. One of the world’s most iconic skyscrapers.

Business office buildings near the Flatiron Building, including New York Life Building (Tower on left) and Metlife Building (bell tower on right)

New Jersey State and Hudson River in far. 34th street and transportation hub, Pennsylvania Station close by.


For more beautiful cityscape photos of New York City, please check the Full Collection.

Songquan Photography is the author of this article and reserve full rights. You are welcome to repost. Please credit the author.


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2 Responses

  1. Crystal Paul

    That photo of the Chrysler Building with the golden sunset glow is WOW!

    • Songquan Photography

      Thank you Crystal. Very happy you like it.