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The Empire State Building Is Back as New York’s Number One Attraction

by: Billy Shillinglaw

For years travelers have visited New York’s Empire State Building as one of the top attractions in the city. But over the years, many visitors opted for other tourist sites, such as the World Travel Center and other attractions. But now at least one major travel source has put the Empire State Building back in the number one spot, after a recent $165 million renovation of its Observatory floors. The recently released second edition of Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel List has ranked the Empire State Building as New York City’s number one attraction to visit, even during the pandemic (and yes, it’s open).

“The Empire State Building is thrilled to be included on this important list of incredible destinations,” said Jean-Yves Ghazi, president of the Observatory. “Our recent renovation, with an all-new Observatory experience, has state-of-the art Indoor Environmental Quality so our visitors can learn about all aspects of the iconic building—from the moment it was built to its place in pop culture today.”

Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel List is the second edition of the travel guide’s bestseller coffee table book. It’s a wish-list of the 500 most thrilling, memorable and interesting travel experiences in the world. The second edition adds more than 200 new destinations. The experiences and destinations selected by Lonely Planet are a mix of knock-out new openings, sights that have upped their game, or places more relevant to the way we travel now.

“We also changed the way we calculated the list,” says Piers Pickard, Lonely Planet’s vice president of publishing. “For this edition, we awarded extra points to destinations and attractions that are managing tourism sustainability.”

Empire State Building officials point out that the building has been a leader in sustainability for a decade. It has led the industry in energy efficiency, waste redirection, water conservation, and most importantly in today’s world, indoor environmental quality (IEQ). The building has slashed carbon emissions from operations by 40 percent. The improvements have included: elevators that generate energy as they move, windowpanes that were refurbished to make them ultra-insulated and the now efficient LED multicolored lights that flash across the city.

The Observatory’s recent renovation included the addition of a MERV 13 filtration device, which uses a bipolar ionization air purification system that is proven to neutralize 99.92 percent of COVID-19 particles in the air. The Empire State Building is also the first building in the country to achieve the WELL Health-Safety Rating, an evidence-based, third-party verified rating for all facility types, focused on operational policies, maintenance protocols, emergency plans and stakeholder education to address a COVID-19 environment now and broader health and safety-related issues into the future.

In addition to a renovation in sustainability, the Empire State Building Observatory Experience recently underwent a four-year $165 million transformation. Now, when visitors enter through a dedicated lobby, they are met with exhibits that engage and orient them on their visit to New York City. From the 10,000-square-foot museum on the second floor to the views through the floor-to-ceiling windows on the 102nd Floor Observatory, the Empire State Building is now a must-see attraction in Midtown Manhattan.

“With our reduced capacity, this is the perfect time to avoid the crowds. Visitors will need to purchase timed tickets in advance. “Our complete reopening program is available on to give our visitors confidence in our safety protocols, and to help guide other attractions in best practices” stated Jean-Yves Ghazi, President of the Observatory. “The Empire State Building will always view the health and wellness of our visitors and employees as our top priority.”

Lonely Planet 500 best places in the world were compiled from all the highlights found in every Lonely Planet guidebook over the years. Each attraction and sight recommended by Lonely Planet authors was included, before being whittled down to a shortlist. Everyone in the Lonely Planet community was then asked to vote on their 20 top travel experiences. With hundreds of votes cast, Lonely Planet ended up with a score for each entry and a definitive ranked list of the top 500 places to see around the world.

Soaring 1,454 feet above Midtown Manhattan (from base to antenna top), the Empire State Building, owned by Empire State Realty Trust, Inc., is recognized as the “World’s Most Famous Building.” Next year the building will celebrate its 90th anniversary as an iconic landmark in the heart of New York City.

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