When and Where to Capture the Empire State Building Illuminated Blue for Columbia Grads in 2024

The night of May 15, the Empire State Building will glow blue for Columbia grads. Here’s where to capture the best photos with it.

May 08, 2024

It’s a Columbia tradition not to be missed: On the night of May 15, from sunset until 2:00 a.m. (EDT), the top of New York’s iconic Empire State Building will light up in blue to honor Columbia’s graduates. 

But where best to capture photos of and with the Empire State building? We asked the experts: University Photographer Eileen Barroso, who has been taking pictures of Columbia grads with the building for years and years, and previous grads about their favorite spots.

And don’t forget! If you aren’t able to get out and about to take your Empire State Building pictures, you can always observe the celebration of our grads on the Empire State Building Live Stream.

Over the years, we've found a handful of great spots to take your photos the night of Commencement:

34th Street and 7th Avenue

A group of friends poses at 34th Street and 7th Avenue with the Empire State Building.
parents take photos of two friends

36th Street and 5th Avenue

36th St. and Fifth Avenue with grads and the empire state building

Summit One Vanderbilt

The Empire State Building as viewed from Summit One Vanderbilt.

Bryant Park

Bryant park view of the Empire State Building.

Gilded Lady Mural, 236 Fifth Avenue

Painted Lady Mural with Empire State Building

230 Fifth Rooftop, 1150 Broadway

Two students stand in front of the Empire State Building

DUMBO, Water & Washington Streets, Brooklyn

A view of the Empire State Building through the Manhattan Bridge.

Weehawken, NJ Boulevard East

The New York City skyline as seen from New Jersey with the Empire State Building lit blue.

The Empire State Building image ® is a registered trademark of ESRT Empire State Building, L.L.C. and is used with permission.

Before you go, don't forget to check out these other stories in preparation for graduation season.