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One World, New York: First Visit To The Observatory

23rd August 2015

Manhattan has missed this particular view for far too long. This isn’t to say that it loves what brought it back.

“The New York skyline doesn’t exist without Tower One now,” says one of the earnest, uniformed LED-wall Voices at the entrance to the new One World Observatory. True enough, but One World Trade Center doesn’t have the Modernist beauty of Minoru Yamasaki’s twin towers, and locals have little affection for it. Their emotional focus will forever be at the Memorial at ground level.

 The September 11 memorial holds a special place in New Yorkers' hearts. Picture: Getty Images

But there’s a lot to love about the new 100th-102nd floor public viewing levels of the building, offering a clean, fresh, wraparound perspective on the city from the southern end of the island. In comparison with the cage-like 86th floor Observation Deck of the Empire State in Midtown, these floor-to-ceiling glass spaces feel like the future. The marketing sell is 'See forever' (or See Forever™, to be accurate), and on a clear day, it feels like you can.

The only way is up

Entry to the attraction is through the Foundations basement level of the building, via a wave of airport-level security that will also scan your ticket ($US32/$A43 for adults, $US30/$A41 for seniors, $US26/$A35 for children) and register your home country, adding it to the numbers being crunched on a vast video screen. Visitors walk to the fastest elevators in the world through a corridor of Disney-fake hollow grey rock: the sole misstep in an otherwise super-slick concept.

 One World Trade Center towers above Manhattan. Picture: Getty Images

The Sky Pod lifts are worth the price of admission alone. The mechanics make the actual elevation process and accompanying speed nearly imperceptible. There are no windows but surrounding video screens immerse you in a dazzling virtual thrill-ride showing New York’s rapidly changing cityscape from 1500 to today; as the lift travels higher and higher, bridges are built and buildings rise below you.

Up on the 102nd floor, where you arrive, there’s more state-of-the-art LED action: a See Forever™ video wall, arranged across different depths to echo skyscraper silhouettes, shows a breathless, brightly coloured, multi-layered film montage of city life, before the screen literally rises for the big reveal: Actual Manhattan. This, as it turns out, is just a taster. The main feature is two floors down, through various opportunities to spend.


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Food with a view

Eyebrows have been raised that diners in the high-end steakhouse at the Observatory will have to pay general admission, and there’s been understandable disappointment that much loved NYC restaurateur Danny Meyer wasn’t awarded the contract for all of the operations on the 101st floor. But the fine dining element of One World, while certainly attractive, replete with cosy burgundy booths, seems an afterthought. The ONE CAFE and bar, ONE MIX, take up most of the real estate, and on reflection $US4 ($A5) for a coffee doesn’t represent the wallet-rinsing many feared.

 Nothing can compete with the view from One World Trade Center. Picture: Getty Images

The main action is on the 100th floor. While your ticket specifies timed entry, you could easily stay here all day and evening. You’ll certainly want to experience sunset. There’s the mildly diverting Sky Portal sideshow – a live feed from the street below, broadcast within the platform beneath you, so you can magically walk over it – and the somewhat peculiar City Pulse attraction, a ring of giant screens at whose centre stands a 'skyline concierge' who changes, using a wristband he wears, what’s being displayed, providing a video-enhanced and personally narrated look at some of New York’s attractions.

Flash indeed. But gimmickry can’t compete with the point of being up here: that view. And what a view: how wonderful to be able to be this high and look north again, to all that peerless 1920s and '30s architecture, to look down at the Woolworth Building, or south to the Statue of Liberty, and all across Brooklyn to the east. And when you’ve taken it all in, there’s one more view to experience – after the gift shop, of course – via a very different Sky Pod thrill ride on the way down. But let’s leave that as a surprise.


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This article was written by Mark C. O’Flaherty from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.