One of the New York skyline’s most famous landmarks, probably the most recognisable building in the USA and a tourist trap – the Empire State Building and I loved it. Once the world’s tallest building, it just has a certain je ne sais quoi – the height, the lines, the spire, those 102 storeys that rose from the ground over the course of barely more than a year – we just had to visit. The numbers are staggering – 1,450 feet high, 60,000 tonnes of steel and 6,500 windows (which somebody has to wash), the skyscraper was built in 410 days at a cost of $40 million during the Depression. I always think of it as the vertical perch from which King Kong was knocked! Some say the Chrysler Building is the most beautiful skyscraper in the city – maybe so, but this is the most iconic. By day impressive, by night stunning bathed in lighting to reflect the season or holiday.
We bought our tickets in advance online, well worth doing as it saved 50 minutes queuing to buy them on the day. We did still encounter the lines going through security and waiting for the lifts but avoiding at least one queue, well that makes you feel slightly better.
The gift shop and photo exhibit marking the construction of the building in 1931 are worth browsing in, but here it’s all about the views. We emerged onto the outdoor observation deck on the 86th floor to have our breath taken away…. by the crowds. Unbelievably jammed with people, be prepared to push, be pushed and get crushed all at the same time. Our visit was early on a Friday morning – I assume there is never a “good time” to come here. Still, when we did manage to bag a spot at the edge we were rewarded with jaw dropping views of Manhattan. On a clear day apparently you can see for up to 80 miles – as far as Connecticut and Pennsylvania – we were not blessed with a clear day. Still those views of Manhattan and the skyscrapers below are none too shabby. No sign of King Kong but we might just have found the spot where Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan met in Sleepless in Seattle.
Back down to earth again and time to take in the building a little bit more. The marble lobby is wonderful and the features of the building are so striking. I came away convinced the interior is every bit as good as the views – maybe better. The striking features and beautiful spaces make you feel you are somewhere special. For me this was the highlight – more so than the exterior and even that view.
Just a short walk from the Empire State Building is the New York Public Library – 2 blocks long with more than 2 million books inside, heaven to me. This time I had to content myself with looking from the outside. Son, hungry and ready for lunch quite liked the two majestic stone lions out front – Patience and Fortitude, decked out for Christmas in holly garlands. Patience was in short supply from our youngest family member though – until lunch in the form of the biggest pretzel ever arrived.