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Empire State Building sparkles nightly with free light show

Between sunset and 2 a.m., the skyscraper's lights dance with the effects of its 16 million color combinations.

The Empire State Building's light shows can be seen from sidewalks and windows in midtown each night on the hour until 2 a.m. (Credit: Empire State Realty Trust)

New Yorkers seldom look to the sky as they walk the sidewalks, but a new nightly light show at the Empire State Building may inspire you to lift your eyes.

For five minutes on every hour between sunset and 2 a.m., the top of the iconic skyscraper will dance and sparkle with effects, like blinking lights, repeating shapes and movements — utilizing a slew of its 16 million possible colors.

The nightly show kicked off on March 11 when daylight saving time kicked in and is being done to celebrate warmer and sunnier days ahead, according to the Empire State Realty Trust.

The new tradition will be done in addition to lightings that celebrate events, charitable organizations and holidays, ESRT said. The Empire State Building will also continue its popular music-to-light shows – partnering with musical artists to sync its lights to their songs.

Anthony Malkin, the chairman and CEO of ESRT, said in a statement that the new sparkle effect will enhance the New York skyline permanently.

Already, the building has become a beacon of the city’s celebrations of big sports wins, anniversaries, holidays and even to mourn. In memory of those who lost their lives at the Parkland, Florida, shooting, the building’s top went completely dark, save for a rotating orange halo, on Feb. 21.

The tower’s lighting system was upgraded in 2012 from floodlights to LED tower lights with a huge palette of colors and “limitless” possible combinations and effects. Since then, it’s put on music-to-light shows designed by Marc Brickman, using music by Mariah Carey, Taylor Swift, Alicia Keys, and from Broadway’s “The Phantom of the Opera.”

You can find photos and videos of various shows on social media using #ESBsparkle.

If you’re around Times Square near midnight on any given night, you’ll find another light show of a different kind called “Midnight Moment.”

From 11:57 p.m. to midnight every night, numerous large billboard screens in Times Square display video art by a single artist. Different artists are featured each month, according to Times Square Arts.

In March, billboards showed aerial views of the natural traffic patterns of both pedestrians and birds with video taken in Istanbul’s Taksim Square by artist Erdal İnci.

So if you’re out late and want to catch some culture, hit up the city’s most iconic places for a show.


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