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The 102-story landmark Empire State Building in New York. (Giovanni Gagliardi/Dreamstime/TNS)

The COVID-19 pandemic’s travel shutdown in 2020 impacted New York as much as any global city relative to tourism. Fortunately, the continuing distribution of coronavirus-fighting vaccines has dramatically improved the Big Apple’s opportunity to again welcome crowds of international visitors to its iconic attractions in 2021.

As in prepandemic times, the Empire State Building is likely at the top of many visitors’ lists. The landmark skyscraper this year celebrates its ninth decade as an innovative architectural achievement and a symbol of the city’s grace, strength and perseverance.

The 90-year-old art deco masterpiece remains a dominant centerpiece of Manhattan’s steel and glass landscape in good times and bad and has returned from its pandemic-driven closure with an array of new interactive features, amenities and attractions.

“Over the past 90 years, the Empire State Building has been the undisputed landmark of the New York City skyline, with its iconic tower lights that shine as a symbol of hope, strength and perseverance,” said Anthony E. Malkin, chairman, president and CEO of Empire State Realty Trust (ESRT).

The building is poised to resume its status as a can’t-miss New York attraction with New York attractions poised to reopen this summer.

“With New York reopened as of July 1, we look forward to visits from our fans near and far who can safely travel to celebrate this important anniversary,” added Jean-Yves Ghazi, president of the Empire State Building Observatory.

Here are a few of the new features visitors to the iconic monument will find in 2021:

A view from the top: A five-year, $165 million overhaul of the visitor journey to the Empire State Building’s 86th Floor Observatory was completed in 2019. The renovation added an immersive 10,000 square foot museum utilizing a stunning mixture of modern technology and digital media to tell the story of the building’s Depression-era roots and extraordinary history.

Visitors can now access the building via a new dedicated entrance on 34th Street. Also new are additional exhibits on the redesigned 80th floor and a new 102nd-floor Observatory featuring floor-to-ceiling windows. The building’s operators sought to improve indoor air quality throughout the building and the Observatory via air-purifying MERV 13 filters and AtmosAir bi-polar ionization air filtration technology.

History up high: The new “90 in 90 Tour” takes guests on a 90-year journey through the landmark tower’s construction in 90 minutes. Guests receive VIP treatment including a personal Empire State Building “ambassador,” who introduces visitors to the building’s insider information and behind-the-scenes areas.

Art deco redux: While it likely went unnoticed by even native New Yorkers, the Empire State Building’s iconic silhouette was restored to the original design with the removal of various antennas and a new coat of silver waterproof paint. This restoration follows the 2009 renovation of celestial ceiling mural in the Fifth Avenue Lobby, during which artisans applying aluminum leaf and 23-karat gold, the same materials utilized in 1931. The renovation took more than 20,000 man-hours.

Environmental excellence: Over the last 10 years, the building’s operators have implemented an “energy and efficiency retrofit” via a $550 million program designed to transform the structure into one of the country’s most energy-efficient historic landmarks.

The building is now ranked among the top 20 percent of all Class A commercial assets in the nation. The designation has earned ESRT Green Star recognition for sustainability performance in real estate, said company officials. The Empire State Building is also the first U.S. building in the country to achieve the WELL Health-Safety Rating for its procedures and protocols in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, said officials.

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