For 4 million people every year heading up to the top of the Empire State Building is a must-do activity. Situated on the 86th floor it offers stunning views out over the concrete canyons of manhattan. But did you know there is another higher Observations Deck, situated on the 102nd Floor and over 1224 feet above the streets, this small deck is located high in the Empire State Building Spire and offers 360° views out over the City.
This deck has not had great reviews in the past and was even shut down due to being so unpopular, however, the deck has recently been refurbished and re-imagined so we took a trip up to the (not-so) Secret Deck to see if the new experience is any good and if the Empire State Building 102nd Floor Worth It? Find out in our Empire State Building 102nd Floor Review
- Height: 102nd Floor – 1224 Feet (373m)
- Cost: Adults: $77 Seniors (62+): $75 Children (6-12): $71
- Upgrade: from $34-$38
- Location: Midtown, 5th Avenue 34th Street MAP
- Prominent Landmarks: Downtown Manhattan, Chrysler Building.
- Indoor or out: Indoor
What is the 102nd Floor Of The Empire State Building
The main Observation Deck of the Empire State Building is the open-air deck on the 86th floor. When most people go to the Top of The Empire Statebulidng this is where they go. It is a fantastic Deck, with stunning views and sits at a whopping 1050 Feet above ground level, and has a really central vantage point with very few tall buildings nearby giving it brilliant prominence.
For most people this is more than enough, however, there is a taller deck: another 200ish feet higher offering more expansive views and an even greater vantage point.
However, the 102nd floor is quite different from the 86th floor. It’s small, it’s enclosed and it’s not far off twice the price so…
Is the Empire State Building’s 102nd Floor Worth It?
Honestly, we don’t really think so. It falls into what we call FOMO experiences. Most people visit because it’s there and they are scared they are missing out on something. Whereas really you are not. It’s certainly a worthwhile addition. It feels great to be up in the actual spire and the 360° floor-to-ceiling windows are great. But is it worth the extra $29-$38?
We just struggle to justify that. That is almost enough to head up the Top Of The Rock, The Edge, One World Trade, or the Summit. That is a much better use of the extra cash and would provide a whole new perspective on the City. You could even pay for a Day and Night Empire State Building Ticket and come back up at night for another dazzling take on the City.
However, we know that Fear Of Missing Out can be strong, and the 102nd is not a bad experience. It really suits those who need to have ticked every box or who have done nearly everything in the city and want a new experience (That would be us) or those that cave to the FOMO instinct.
One thing we should point out is the entire deck has been fully re-imagined. You will hear some opinions and read some reviews that really beat on the 102nd floor. And these were justified as the old experience was terrible! It was a huge letdown. But these are now out of date and the new experience is MUCH improved!
How Much Does the Empire State Building 102nd Floor Cost?
The best way to secure the 102nd floor is with the Combo Ticket
With Standard Entry being $48 this means you are paying an extra $29 for the upgraded experience, which is quite a lot of money considering the short experience you are getting.
If you do have a basic ticket you can also upgrade, as we discuss later, but this is only really an option for those visiting the Deck with one of the City’s Attraction Passes.
What to Expect from Empire State Building’s 102nd Floor
The 102nd Floor is accessed from the 86th floor and can only be visited as part of the regular Empire State Building Experience. You need to either buy a Combo Ticket or upgrade when you are on the 80th/86th floor.
With your valid ticket, there is a separate elevator that whisks you up to the higher deck. It’s a short ride of only a few seconds and doesn’t have any video and just some basic effects. Once at the top you step out into a pretty small circular room, surrounded on all sides by floor-to-ceiling glass.
That is it, just this one small space offering 360° views from one of the highest vantage points in the City. We only spent around 10 mins up there getting our shots and taking in the view before heading down. There is a guide up there to help you understand what you are seeing and keep you safe.
One issue with the deck is the “stuff” that is up there. We kind of imagined a slick circular room with stunning views out of the floor-to-ceiling glass. However the architecture of the Spire runs through the middle of the deck and quite a lot of space is taken up by the elevator shaft, the emergency Stairwell, and the actually structural supports of the building.
It’s very cramped and does not feel as slick and modern as you are led to believe.
The elevators run every few minutes and as soon as you are ready to head down you will have a very short wait. This then deposits you back on the 86th floor where you can explore some more or head back down.
What is the View Like From the Empire State Building’s 102nd Floor?
The view is noticeably better from a higher vantage point. You can see quite a bit further and the extra height gets you above some of the taller buildings around, most notably you get better views of the Park.
However it doesn’t change the view, you are still getting the same vistas you were from the 86th, just from a touch higher up.
The big issue for us is the glass. While the installation of floor-to-ceiling glass is a huge improvement over the small, shabby, dirty, and scratched windows of the old deck, there is still a huge issue with reflections. This is less of an issue for most people, but for us, the reflections in our photos can really ruin them. We have to try hard to ensure there is very little reflecting on the glass or the shots are ruined.
As you can see from the Photos above all taken the same day in similar lighting the outdoor deck shots are all much clearer and brighter.
If you are just heading up to take in the views and grab your vacation selfies then the widows are fine but from a photography standpoint, it’s a nightmare. But again, the slightly improved vantage point would not justify the extra cost even without this issue, as we said a different deck would be much more exciting.
One thing to really consider is nighttime. The reflections at night would be enough to annoy even the least decerning photographer. Any shots you take are likely to be ruined by reflections and anyone viewing your photos at home would have a hard time recognizing where you were. We really would not recommend the 102nd floor at night.
Is the Empire State Building’s 102nd Floor Scary?
This is always going to be very subjective, however, we do not think the higher floor is really a lot scarier than any other deck out there. To be clear, it’s not scary at all, it’s enclosed sturdy and safe as houses, but if you are susceptible to height-induced phobias it could be an issue. The thing is to get to the 102nd floor you have to pass through the 80th floor and the 86th floor. These are just as likely to trigger any phobias you have, so your problems will start way before the 102nd.
This said the deck is smaller and noticeably higher. The lower decks feel like you are on top of a huge building, made of concrete and stone, safe, stable, and immovable. Up on the 102nd, it starts to feel more floaty. The large building seems to have fallen away and you are more suspended in a pod. We definitely felt less secure, so if the 86th floor is borderline for you, then the 102nd may tip you over!
Can I Upgrade My Ticket?
Many people visit the Empire State as part of an Attraction pass. We discuss if that is a good idea in our Pass Comparison Page (Spoiler…it is a good idea!) One issue with this is the 102d floor is not included. However, you can upgrade your ticket once you are at the attraction.
Dotted around the 80th floor and right outside the entrance to the 102nd-floor elevator are self-serve touch screens that can be used to buy tickets to the upper deck. These cost $34-38 depending on availability and can be very hard to actually get tickets out of.
We were there a good 30 mins waiting for availability yot appear, they only release so many tickets and if a time slot sells out through pre-booked ticket sales they will not release any. There are usually only a few tickets for each time slot (15 min intervals) released and you have to be on the machine refreshing it WHEN the release happens!
If the upper deck is important to you make sure you pre-book tickets. We are clearly not the biggest fans and only went to these lengths to get up there to see how the refurb had gone, we won’t be going up again until something changes!
Have Your Say
Have you been up to the 102nd Floor recently? What did you think of the experience? Was it good value for money or a bit of a rip-off, in your opinion? How did you find the views? and how did you handle the extra height? Whatever you have to say let us know in the comments below and if you have any questions just fire away.