The best part about being midtown is escaping all this madness to enjoy the glorious Empire State building from one of the neighborhood's many rooftop bars.
What tourists don't realize is that paying $25+ to get to the top of the Empire State may afford a spectacular sprawling view, but one of the best parts of the skyline is missing. Now, convert that $25+ dollar entrance fee (and 2-4 hours of waiting in a painfully hot and crowded line) into, say, two cocktails, and we have a deal. Bonus: music instead versus the sound of crying babies and screaming children, table service versus being harassed by a dozen red-vest-wearing ticket vendors as you walk.
I just this week discovered my new favorite rooftop: "230 5th". Yes, the name is the address, so it helps cut out the "Wait, where is it again?" in the meet-you-at-the-bar exchange. I'm not quite sure how it took me so long to figure out this rooftop bar/lounge's existence, considering it offers two things that New Yorkers are constantly on the hunt for: a view and space. That's right folks, space, space and even more space. I arrived at around 7 on a Thursday and even with a few larger groups of after-work drinkers, the amount of SPACE was mind-blowing. The roof has a large tabled dining area, a sprawling cocktail area with seating and drink-tables and then a bench/lounge area perfect for larger parties. Not to mention that the roof also has palm trees, so your skyline picture can boast a touch of the tropics.
Moral of the story: next time your friends are visiting the big city and utter those terrifying words "Empire State Building" - suggest a better, more local way to see the sight. And don't forget to try the coconut martini!