One World Observatory made its debut to the public in May 2015. It was the first time that guests could walk into the highly anticipated One World Trade Center, a project that took millions of man hours, a multitude of materials and nine years to complete since groundbreaking began in 2006.
The building itself is a symbol of renewal, resilience, and – as its Freedom Tower nickname denotes – freedom. As the slogan of One World Observatory perfectly encompasses, here New Yorkers and tourists alike are invited to “Start at One.” On floor 100 of the building’s 104 floors, the magnificent 360-degree panoramic view of New York City (and beyond) is, in more ways than one, a new beginning after the September 11 terrorist attacks destroyed the iconic Twin Towers in 2001.
We sent our videographer to capture what it’s like up there. Read on to check out the view and learn what the observatory has to offer.
One World Trade Center
At the very top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, you can say it feels like standing on top of the world.
Exactly how tall is One World Trade Center? From the tip of its spire, it’s 1,776 feet tall – a symbolic number that represents the year the Declaration of Independence was signed.
Aside from being one of the world’s tallest buildings, it’s also one of the safest, most technologically advanced and most expensive. Some of its high-profile tenants include Conde Nast, CBS, NBC Universal and PBS.
The building was built on ancient bedrock, hundreds of millions of years old, which you can learn about at the observatory’s “Foundations” exhibit. The “Voices” exhibit, meanwhile, tells the story of the men and women who constructed the skyscraper.
The One World Observatory experience
(Video: Yu Ting Huang, AAA)
On average, the observatory welcomes thousands of visitors daily. Everyone is greeted at the Global Welcome Center with a world map and video display of salutations from around the world.
Guests are then taken on a journey – albeit a quick one – on the Sky Pod elevators where they are catapulted to the 100th and 102nd floors (1,250 feet) in less than 60 seconds! While ascending, a virtual time-lapse of the New York city skyline from the 1500s to the present day is shown on floor-to-ceiling LED screens.
From the observatory windows, visitors can see all of New York City and the surrounding area and waterways. On a clear day, visibility reaches up to 50 miles away – the distance to Princeton, N.J. For an extra fee, you can use a souped-up iPad to see the histories and stories behind the city’s landmarks in more detail.
The Sky Portal – a 14-foot wide circular disc, above, fitted with screens that display real-time, high-definition views of the streets below – makes you feel like you’re walking on glass over the city. And at City Pulse, an interactive concierge provides up-close views and recommendations of the landmarks and neighborhoods below via a ring of gesture-recognizing video monitors.
If you’re hungry – or simply can’t resist having a drink with an awesome view – there are three eateries available. For grab-and-go fare there’s One Cafe, while One Mix serves small plate and cocktails. The most formal of the three (though still casual) is One Dine, a sit-down restaurant on the 101st floor that overlooks the main observation floor.
Also in the area
For the many of us who were familiar with the skyline before September 11, it’s still hard to get used to the view without the Twin Towers. Something will always be missing. And although One World Trade Center will never replace that view, it is a great way to honor it.
Directly below One World Trade, the National September 11 Memorial Museum reflecting pools sit within the footprints of where the Twin Towers once stood. Each pool is nearly an acre in size, with the largest man-made waterfalls in North America. They’re surrounded by bronze walls inscribed with the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died September 11 at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pa., and the six victims of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
The museum tells the story of September 11’s tragic events and includes photos, artifacts and expressions of tribute and remembrance.
A few steps away, the recently opened WTC Transportation Hub, with its striking “Oculus” centerpiece, links 11 different subway lines, PATH, Battery Park City Ferry Terminal, World Trade Center Memorial site, the World Financial Center and the Winter Garden.
For more information about One World Observatory and to buy tickets, visit OneWorldObservatory.com.
Find savings on tours, museums, attractions and more at AAA.com/Discounts.