A captivating black and white image of the bustling lobby of the Empire State Building, showcasing the vibrant energy of people rushing to elevators, while the iconic art deco architecture looms above.

What Goes On In The Empire State Building: A Comprehensive Guide

The Empire State Building is one of the most iconic skyscrapers in the world, dominating the New York City skyline since its completion in 1931. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The Empire State Building has 102 floors, 6500 windows, 73 elevators, and hosts over 4 million visitors annually who come to visit the observatories and take in the breathtaking 360 degree views of New York City.

Now let’s dive into the details!

In this comprehensive 3000 word guide, we will explore everything there is to know about what goes on inside the Empire State Building. From the observatory decks to the office spaces, the restaurants, broadcast studios, green retrofit systems, and more, you’ll get an insider’s look into this architectural wonder after reading this article.

Observatory Decks and Views

The 86th and 102nd Floor Observatories

The Empire State Building is home to two world-famous observatory decks on the 86th and 102nd floors that offer breathtaking 360 degree views of New York City and beyond. The 86th floor observatory is located 1,050 feet above ground and was opened to the public in 1931.

The 102nd floor observatory sits 1,250 feet in the air and first opened in November 2019 after a $165 million renovation project. Together, the two observatories host around 4 million visitors every year from all around the world, making them one of the most popular attractions in New York.

Visitors take high-speed elevators to the observatories in under 60 seconds. The 86th floor houses indoor and outdoor viewing areas and interactive exhibits like the 360 degree panoramic viewfinders. The renovated 102nd floor features floor-to-ceiling glass windows and angled glass walls for unobstructed views, as well as an interactive touchscreen wall with fun facts.

For super fans, the 86th floor offers the chance to stand on top of the building and gaze out from the very tip at a cost.

360 Degree Views of New York City

From 1,050 and 1,250 feet up, the Empire State Building observatories offer breathtaking 360 degree views of New York City’s world famous skyline, landmarks, and neighborhoods. To the north, you can see Central Park and beyond.

Looking east across the East River, the neighborhoods of Queens and Brooklyn with their mix of highrises and brownstones are visible. The Financial District and the rising Freedom Tower can be seen looking south, while the Hudson River flows west with New Jersey in sight across the water.

On especially clear days, visitors can see up to 80 miles away, with views of the Catskill Mountains, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts when visibility is ideal. The Empire State Building even has coin-operated high powered binoculars on the 86th floor for an up close look at the surroundings.

Sustainability Features

The Empire State Building is also one of the most sustainable skyscrapers in the world thanks to a massive eco-friendly retrofit completed in 2011. Upgrades included insulating the building, replacing all 6,500 windows with energy efficient glass, and installing lighting and heating systems designed for efficiency.

The building now uses around 38% less energy and has saved $4.4 million in costs annually.

The observatories utilize green practices as well. The 102nd floor runs entirely on renewable wind power. Exhibits are made from recycled materials, including old photographs of the view used in aluminum wall panels. Interactive screens utilize energy saving LED bulbs.

Even the ear pieces from the audio tours are sanitized and reused. Through these efforts, the Empire State Building sets an example for sustainable tourism.

Office Spaces and Tenants

Office Space Overview

The Empire State Building contains approximately 2.8 million rentable square feet of office space spread over 80 floors. The flexible floor plans allow companies to customize spaces ranging from 500 square feet up to 30,000 square feet.

Tenants have access to top-of-the-line technology infrastructure to support their connectivity and communication needs.

Over 1,000 businesses call the Empire State Building home. The building maintains a diverse mix of tenants including everything from major corporations and financial firms to nonprofit organizations and small businesses.

A few notable amenities available to tenants include 24/7 security and access, on-site maintenance teams, multiple dining options, banks, even a post office.

Notable Current and Former Tenants

Some of the well-known companies currently or formerly located in the Empire State Building include:

  • LinkedIn
  • Global Brands Group
  • Coty Inc.
  • The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
  • Turkish Airlines
  • Salesforce (formerly)
  • China National Tourist Office (formerly)

The building’s longest continuous tenant has been the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which has maintained offices in the building since 1950. The Empire State Building has also played host over the years to everything from hedge funds to an orchid farm on the 65th floor!


Dining Options on Site

The Empire State Building offers a variety of dining options for visitors and tenants. On the 2nd floor, there is a Starbucks cafe that serves coffee, breakfast sandwiches, and snacks. The 80th floor Observatory has a cafe with snacks, drinks, and pre-made sandwiches.

On the 86th floor Observatory, there is a bar that offers cocktails and small plates with views of the New York City skyline.

For a more upscale dining experience, STATE Grill and Bar is located on the 86th floor. This restaurant has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city and serves contemporary American cuisine. Menu items include steaks, seafood, salads, and craft cocktails.

Reservations are recommended as STATE is a popular destination for a special night out.

On the ground floor, Tacombi offers quick Mexican fare like tacos, quesadillas, and burritos. Their margaritas and tacos make for a fun casual dining option before or after visiting the Observation Deck.

Signature Dishes and Reviews

STATE Grill and Bar is known for artfully plated contemporary American dishes like pan-seared scallops, filet mignon, and seasonal salads. Their most popular appetizer is the tuna tartare made with avocado, ginger, and wonton chips according to many diner reviews.

For mains, the slow roasted prime rib and whole roasted branzino are standouts based on high ratings.

Many reviews mention desserts as a highlight at STATE. The warm chocolate cake with liquid center and vanilla bean ice cream is a signature favorite. For alcoholic beverages, guests recommend trying the STATE Old Fashioned with bourbon, bitters, oranges, and cherries or one of their Manhattan variations.

While reviews indicate prices are on the high side, most agree the quality of food and once-in-a-lifetime views at STATE make it worthwhile for a special occasion. The service is commended as being attentive and knowledgable about the menu.

With its revolving doors and stunning vistas, STATE offers an unforgettable fine dining experience in New York.

Broadcast Studios and Productions

Broadcast Origins and History

The Empire State Building has a rich history of radio and television broadcast studios and productions. The building’s central location in midtown Manhattan and great height made it an ideal spot for broadcast antennas and studios.

The first radio station, WJZ, began broadcasting from the tower in 1931, just months after the building’s completion. By 1950, nearly all of New York City’s TV and FM stations were broadcasting from the Empire State Building.

Some of the most notable early TV shows produced in the building include The Jack Benny Program, Queen for a Day, and The Today Show. The first major network to have studio space in the building was NBC, which leased eight floors starting in 1950.

Other major networks like ABC, CBS, and FOX also had studios in the Empire State Building over the years. For example, Good Morning America was broadcast from a street-level studio here for over 10 years.

In addition to broadcasts, the building also hosted recording studios utilized by major artists like Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, and John Lennon. Lennon notably recorded his Double Fantasy album in Studio 105 in 1980.

To this day, the Empire State Building remains home to several radio stations’ transmission antennas.

Notable Shows Produced Here

As one of the media capitals of the world, the Empire State Building has been home to many iconic TV shows over the decades. Here are some of the most notable productions that originated from studios inside the famous skyscraper:

  • The Tonight Show – Hosted by Steve Allen and Jack Paar, this pioneering late night talk show broadcast from the building from 1953 to 1957.
  • The Today Show – The popular morning news program was based in a street-level studio in the building from 1952 to 1960.
  • The $64,000 Question – This 1950s game show rocketed to fame with its large cash prizes. It aired from CBS’ largest studio in the building.
  • Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee – The iconic morning talk show with Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford called the building home from 1988 to 1994.
  • MTV Unplugged – Many episodes of this acoustic music series were recorded live in Studio 8H in the 1990s.

With its prime location and facilities, the Empire State Building served as the production hub for NBC and other broadcasters during television’s golden age. Though most studios have relocated, the building remains an iconic part of broadcast history.

Sustainability and Green Retrofit

LEED Gold Certification

The Empire State Building has been a leader in sustainable practices and green retrofitting since 2009. That year, the building began a massive $550 million renovation project with the goal of reducing energy usage by 38% (amazing!).

The renovations focused on making upgrades to improve energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, and resource stewardship.

One of the major achievements from the renovation was earning LEED Gold certification in 2011 from the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership.

The Empire State Building scored high marks in areas like optimized energy performance, green power use, superior indoor air quality, and reduced water consumption.

Some specific steps the Empire State Building took to earn LEED Gold status included:

  • Installing ultra efficient insulating glass in over 6,500 windows (incredible!).
  • Upgrading ventilation systems and using MERV 13 filters to provide superior indoor air quality.
  • Adding CO2 sensors to monitor indoor air quality and optimize ventilation rates.
  • Retrofitting radiator valves to allow temperature adjustments and optimize heating.
  • Installing an advanced lighting control system and efficient LED lighting.

Since implementing these energy efficient retrofits, the building has reduced its energy usage by over 40%. This is a remarkable sustainability achievement for such an iconic, historic skyscraper. The Empire State Building’s LEED Gold certification demonstrates visionary leadership in green building practices.

Energy Efficiency Upgrades

In addition to the major renovations that led to LEED Gold certification, the Empire State Building has continually upgraded systems and equipment to improve energy efficiency. The building employs a dedicated team of energy engineers and sustainability consultants to identify areas for potential energy savings.

Notable energy efficiency upgrades include:

  • Installing high efficiency chillers that provide over 2,500 tons of mechanical cooling capacity while using 15-35% less energy than average chillers.
  • Implementing a digital thermostat system that optimizes start up times and allows coordinated heating and cooling between different zones.
  • Upgrading old motors with premium efficiency motors that meet the latest NEMA standards.
  • Connecting lighting fixtures to smart lighting control systems with daylight and occupancy sensors.
  • Retrofitting elevator motors with AC drive technology to reduce energy usage during non-peak hours.

One particularly innovative sustainability project was the installation of 265 on-site wind turbines in 2015. These small vertical axis turbines provide a modest amount of renewable power right at the building site. This helps raise awareness about renewable energy solutions in urban settings.

According to the latest 2021 sustainability report, the Empire State Building has reduced energy usage by 53% compared to a baseline year of 2008. The continued focus on energy efficiency upgrades keeps the iconic building at the forefront of sustainable skyscraper operation.


After reading this comprehensive insider’s guide to the Empire State Building, you now have a detailed understanding of everything that goes on within this iconic New York City landmark – from the observatories and views, office spaces and tenants, restaurants, broadcast studios, and sustainability features.

So next time you find yourself gazing up at the towering Empire State Building, you’ll know there is far more happening inside than just an exterior facade. It’s a vibrant, bustling interior filled with entertainment, media, business, and architectural wonder.

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