Day 5 – The Empire State

Written by  //  August 5, 2011  //  Media & Popular Culture  //  2 Comments

American states all have nicknames. Some are descriptive (West Virginia is the “Mountain State”), some are unintentionally witty (Arkansas is the “Natural State”), and some are just odd (Missouri is the “Show-me State”). The Empire State Building is aptly named after the Empire State of New York. It’s a very nice part of the New York skyline – probably the most distinctive – and has sadly been immortalized in pop-culture with an ape on top of it. If you’re in New York for 90 days, you would probably visit the ESB at some point.

 Visiting the ESB is not fun at all, I found it distinctly un-enjoyable. Ideally, you should buy your tickets online. It’s $ 20 for a view from the 86th floor and $ 37 for a view from the 102nd floor (cheaper if you’re a student). Having bought both these tickets several times, I can assure you that there really isn’t any difference between the views. You can get in cheaper if you buy some version of the New York Pass, which gets you discounted entry into a whole bunch of New York’s tourist attractions. The Pass itself isn’t cheap, but if you plan to visit everything included in it, I guess it is a great deal. 

There is usually a long line to get into the ESB. Somewhere inside the building itself, the line forces you to go through a booth that takes a very cheesy picture of you with a mock-ESB in the background. Of course, you can buy this at a very unreasonable price if you want to. There is a bar on the 86th floor, also exorbitantly priced. Getting to the top is quite the anti-climax: you wait for a long while to get in, you look, and then its time to get back down. The best part of the ESB for me was the guy who was manning the elevator (it’s America and I’m being authentic, so I’m not going to say lift). He spent the elevator ride up to the 86th floor guessing where each person was from, and then greeting them very inappropriately in what he considered a native language. So I was greeted in “Indian” with a “namaste” and my Pakistani friend was told “arabs like salaam”. We smiled politely. Many people, I’ve realized, assume all Indians speak Indian.   

The ESB is located very close to shopping-friendly areas of New York, for those interested. Korea Town is also close-by, where you can access all form of Korean food and entertainment. In summers, it’s a nice place to munch on NY’s street food offerings. On my first visit to New York, my friends insisted I eat a pretzel. A pretzel is … well … it is odd tasting, salty bread. And there is limit to how good that can taste. But if you eat meat, New York street food has a lot more to offer – hot dogs, knishes, chicken on rice. People take street food quite seriously, and track the trucks that serve the best food. See And it’s all cheap. In my first week here, I bought ice-cream from a truck very close to the ESB. I was there with friends, and we asked the ice-cream man for a recommendation.

 He said “It will depend on where you’re from. Different races have different preferences”.

 “Races?” we asked.

 “Oh yes,” he said “You – you are Indian”. I nodded. “You will like the choco-nut ice-cream”. He pointed to a vile looking ice-cream that was doused in copious amounts of chocolate sauce and nuts.

“And you” he said, “You are Chinese?” “Umm no, Korean” said my friend. “Aah yes, of course, good. Koreans like everything. You will like everything”.

 “And what about me?” asked my third friend, “I’m Croatian”. “Croatians like the rainbow split” he was told. The Rainbow Split is a multi-colored, radio-active-looking ice-cream. It looked a little poisonous.

 Much to the ice-cream man’s disappointment, we ordered two vanillas.

 I personally find looking at the ESB more fun than looking at New York from on top of it. It lights up in different colors everyday. Its red and green on Christmas; blue on the day of Columbia’s graduation and purple on the day of NYU’s graduation; on the day of Pride, it is rainbow colored; red on Chinese New Year … you get the general idea. On their website, they post a list of all the colors for the month, if you want to keep a look out. On August 15th, they make it tri-colored. It is really quite lovely! And if you really like great views of New York, you can visit any number of nice roof-top bars where you get similar views. The view from the top of the Metropolitan Museum is spectacular as well, far better than anything from the ESB.

2 Comments on "Day 5 – The Empire State"

  1. Danish Sheikh August 9, 2011 at 6:47 am ·

    I’m having a lot of fun reading these entries – and can’t wait to get to NYC at some point in the near future. Cheers!

  2. Sanhita August 9, 2011 at 9:18 pm ·

    Thank you 🙂

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