Think traffic’s bad on your commute?
Spare a thought for the visiting hordes battling a painful kind of gridlock most New Yorkers will never experience — waiting in line for some of the Big Apple’s top tourist attractions.
A new study found that seven of the 20 most complained-about queues in the United States were right here in Gotham, starting at number one with the Empire State Building.
The rankings were published by Hawaiianislands.com, where researchers analyzed 10,742,448 Tripadvisor reviews in English, sorting the attractions by the number of mentions of the phrase “long queue.”
Even if increasingly crowded out of the skyline by taller, more modern skyscrapers, the historic spire at Fifth Ave. and E. 34th St. attracts four million visitors per year.
And from the sound of it, plenty of them leave with mixed feelings, with a whopping 2,842 complaining commenters earning the ESB its dismal ranking.
“My only negative would be the long queues, cramped queues,” one reviewer wrote. “There’s about a 15/20 minute queue on the street, before another 10/15 minute queue to get through security and then another two 10/15 minute queues for the two sets of [elevators] to get up.”
Designed by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon and completed in 1931, the building was also named TripAdvisor’s #1 attraction in the United States in 2023 — for the second year in a row. Tickets for the observation decks begin at $44, with a host of special experiences available, including a $1,000-per-couple marriage proposal package.
Those looking to get high without having to cool their heels at ground level beforehand will be disappointed to learn that another iconic observation deck — Manhattan’s Top of the Rock, located on the 67th, 69th and 70th floors at Rockefeller Center — is the city’s second most crowded attraction, with 1,305 wait complaints logged by TripAdvisor.
“To get to the top level was a nightmare,” one visitor recounted. “The queues were so long going upstairs as people were coming down. It was packed.”
Other local culprits found on the naughty list of 20 U.S. attractions with long waits were the Statue of Liberty (#5), the One World Observatory (#7), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (#15), The Museum of Modern Art (#17) and Rockefeller Center (#18).
But no matter how slow things might move in New York, the city has nothing on Paris, where a shocking 4,799 complaints were culled from reviews for the Eiffel Tower — far more than any other tourist attraction in the world.
“Five stars for the Eiffel Tower,” one traveler wrote. “One star for the humongous crowds and long lines throughout. Be prepared.”
Another warns: “Book your tickets well in advance online to avoid the notoriously long queues. We opted for a guided tour with skip-the-line access, which I’d highly recommend.”
Avoiding the waits
With a whopping 69% of Americans reporting that waiting in line makes them feel boredom, frustration and impatience, having a strategy before you leave home can be helpful. Here, the experts at Hawaiianislands.com have shared their top tips for avoiding disappointment in popular destinations. They have been edited for length.
Research an attraction’s peak times… and avoid them
Always avoid peak times. For example, the Eiffel Tower is busiest between the end of June and the beginning of September and 11 am and 5 pm. Plan around those times, and you may find that the lines aren’t so long. If the attraction’s official website doesn’t have information about peak times, you could try contacting them directly or researching peak times on review websites like TripAdvisor.
Book ahead of time (and look for express or fast-track tickets)
Sometimes the longest lines at a tourist attraction are for the ticket booth. Check the attraction’s official website to see if you can book tickets ahead of time. They may even be cheaper than on-the-day prices. Usually, you can get an online ticket emailed to you that you can use to enter the attraction via an entrance reserved for pre-booked ticket holders. If more lines might await you inside the gates — like at a theme park — consider paying extra for fast-pass or express tickets that allow you to skip the lines.
Bring entertainment, food, drink and chairs for a long wait
When long lines can’t be avoided, the next best thing you can do is be prepared for a lengthy wait. Prepare for the weather; if it’s a hot day, be sure to wear light, airy clothing, a hat for some shade and keep water with you at all times. If it’s rainy and cold, dress for warmth and take along an umbrella. If you’ve got children with you, be sure to pack light snacks and small games to keep them (and yourself) entertained. A foldable camping chair is also a great way to take the weight off your feet.
empire state building
metropolitan museum of art
new york city
one world trade center
statue of liberty