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Empire State Building

Click here to listen to our radio interview with Lydia Ruth from the Empre State.

Gracing the front cover of so many picture books of the 20th century, encyclopedias, reference books and all, are the faces and most recognizable structures and places in the world. How often have you picked up a large volume in a bookshop, only to see the likes of Marilyn Monroe or Mahatma Gandhi, The Sydney Opera House, Taj Mahal or Empire State Building? It occupies a special place in the affections of the American people, even though it's long since been overtaken by taller monstrosities. Apart from perhaps, the Statue of Liberty, it is the most recognizable American structure, alongside the Hollywood sign, the Golden Gate Bridge and the White House.

Built in 1931, the Empire State Building was the world's tallest building for almost half a century until the 1970's. It took only a year and 5 days to construct and was originally put up as an office block and not, ironically, as a tourist attraction. Office space was extremely difficult to let so soon after the Wall Street crash and it was only the building's immediate popularity as an observation deck, that saved it from financial collapse. The only clue nowadays that anything else goes on inside, apart from catering for millions of tourists each year, is the impressively long list of businesses listed in the entrance hall, like a sort of store guide that goes on and on...

The Empire State Building has two observation decks. The 86th floor observatory is the biggest and most popular, allowing visitors to walk around in the open air, eat and purchase souvenirs. The building's Midtown location allows unique views of most of the city. Be sure to look downtown to the Twin Towers and across to the Chrysler Building with its magnificent art deco peak. At street level, the shape of Broadway, ripping diagonally through the City's grid of North/South or East/West routes, becomes much clearer.

A mid - to late evening visit to the 86th floor is also a must. The view of Manhattan lit up from that viewpoint is breathtaking. The top 30 floors are floodlit in either white or an appropriate color to commemorate special events.

Remember, though, that in the summer, the lines for the observation decks can be intolerable. People who recommend a visit to the Eiffel Tower in Paris would give you the same advice and that is: ARRIVE EARLY, to avoid a long wait to buy tickets and ride in the elevators to the 86th floor.

But what if you don't like heights? The site of the Empire State from the ground is enough to take most people's breath away. If you're determined to keep your feet on the ground, make sure you take a trip inside to the grand hallway and main elevator area for an admiring glance at the Art Deco.

There are plenty of other attractions, such as the thrilling New York Skyride, an independently owned and operated attraction on the 2nd floor, and, in the lobby, the ''Eight Wonders of the World'' art exhibition, featuring eight paintings by artist Roy Sparkia and his wife Renee Nemerov, which were unveiled in 1963. As far back as 1955, the American Society of Civil Engineers honored the Empire State as one of the seven modern wonders of the Western Hemisphere. Few who've seen it for themselves could disagree with that.

Situated on Fifth Avenue at 34th Street, Mid Town, Manhattan, the world's most famous building, made of Indiana limestone and granite, trimmed with stainless steel, glistens magnificently in the sunshine or moonlight. Tickets for the observatories are sold from 9:30am to 11:30pm every day. It's only a few blocks away from Grand Central Terminal. Nearest subway stop is 34th street and it's also very close to Penn Station and the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

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