Review: One World Observatory in New York

he metal still gleaming and the paint freshly dried a mere 13 days after its grand opening, I found myself at the observation deck known as the One World Observatory at One World Trade Center in New York, which is the tallest building in the western hemisphere and currently the fourth tallest building in the world.

The last time I was on the observation deck of a building known as part of the World Trade Center — also known as the South Tower whose address was officially Two World Trade Center — was on September 12, 1998. That was one day shy of exactly three years before the horrific terrorist attacks brought both twin towers to their untimely demise on an ironically beautiful morning which will never be forgotten…

…so I felt that I needed to explore the observation deck of the new tower. In my own quiet and defiant way, it was a part of my message — equivalent to showing seven fingers, which is a week’s worth of raising one middle finger — to any terrorist to back off of my country and the city where I was born and raised.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Probably because it has not grown on me yet, I was not initially impressed with the design of the new building. I am still not impressed. Maybe it was because it is still relatively brand new. Perhaps it was because I just returned to the United States from the Middle East, where there are some interesting designs for buildings in such countries as Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates — and I intend to post photographs of some of those buildings in a future article. Sure, I will be the first to admit that the design of the original Twin Towers was not exactly exciting; but they grew on me; and — save for the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, to which I have been several years ago — nowhere else in the world was there a skyline with twin towers which were as prominent…

…or maybe it is because I have always believed that if a new tower were to be constructed, it should have helped New York reclaim the title of having by far the the tallest building in the world — even if only for symbolic reasons. Forget 1,776 feet in height which includes the mast. Go for broke. Turn it into a city of its own which includes office space, condominiums and apartments, shopping, hotel rooms, theaters for both movies and live stage performances, several observation decks, restaurants of different varieties from low-end to high-end, and other uses.

Cost. Yeah, I know — but that has not stopped mankind before from encountering massive projects which became successful symbols of achievement to be marveled and enjoyed.

I had been on both the rooftop and indoor observation decks in the original World Trade Center; so you can imagine my initial disappointment when I realized that there was no outdoor observation deck in the new building. Fine — I can live with that.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The admission fee to go to the observation deck was significantly more expensive than for the original World Trade Center. Ticket prices start at $32.00 for visitors 13 years of age and older — which means that it will cost you a small fortune to bring a family of four to the observation deck. Although expected, the cost of the tickets was another disappointment — although sadly, it is not out of line when compared to typical admission fees for other observation decks around the world.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The line was not long at all — perhaps because word is not fully out yet that the observation deck was open; or maybe because it was after 10:00 in the morning on a Thursday during the work week. Either way, that was perfect — although the weather was hazy, which was another disappointment. The weather was certainly not the fault of anyone with any relation to the One World Observatory — but I was hoping that an early June day in New York would still yield a clearer sky.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

I walked into the building; and the ticket was purchased almost immediately. There was no need to consider paying an extra $22.00 for priority admission where I would not have to deal with long lines — not that that was a thought in my mind anyway.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

A huge curved screen — with a dynamically generated map of the world — and information known as the Global Welcome Center awaited me, where you are asked from where you are visiting so that that location can be placed on the map…

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

…and the fact that only — or already, depending on how you look at it — 113,942 people have visited One World Trade Center; and that number will surely grow significantly. What will that number be when you visit One World Trade Center?

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

On the way to the bank of elevators, I passed a number of monitors displaying images and videos — along with information on the walls pertaining to One World Trade Center. This exhibit is known as Voices and Foundations. Voices relates the personal stories of the men and women who built One World Trade Center; while Foundations provides a view close up of the very bedrock on which the building stands.

I spent very little time on Voices and Foundations.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

I then arrived at the bank of elevators — called Sky Pod elevators — whose shiny metal doors were flanked by illuminated panels.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

All four walls inside the elevator from the floor to the ceiling are comprised of light emitting diode technology which emulate windows out to a semi-fictitious world with videos of the peripheral views of New York surrounding One World Trade Center as well as other videos — such as the one shown above of a swampy area supposedly at the site of One World Trade Center from the year 1538 — and superimposed on the image is a diagram of the building itself with an indicator as to how far up in height the elevator is off of the ground level.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

As the elevator quickly ascends, you watch a time lapse video of the development of the skyline of New York as the years pass — up to the present day by the time the elevator reaches the 102nd floor in fewer than 60 seconds. That was pretty cool.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The photographs immediately above and below shows that the monitors display the inside of the elevator shaft in which the elevator sped through when reaching the 102nd floor.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Upon exiting the elevator, visitors enter near darkness, with only the illuminated panels flanking the elevator doors and few other sources providing scant light.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The lights are turned on as images and videos of New York appear — with loud audio — for several minutes on an array of multiple screens before the visitors.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Honestly, I thought this was unnecessary. It reminded me of the gaudy light show and garish presentation at Ruby Falls in the Chattanooga area of Tennessee before finally revealing with lights inside of a cave what amounted to little more than a steady stream of water dripping from the ceiling. I would have preferred to immediately step out onto the observation deck from the elevators.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Then the presentation stopped and the array of screens rose, revealing the real views of New York…

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

…and only then were visitors invited to enjoy the observation deck — which was two floors below, on the 100th floor. That seemed rather bizarre to me.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

On the 102nd floor is an experience called One World Explorer, where you can rent a tablet for an extra $15.00 to take with you for a tour while on the observation deck. I passed on this.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The 101st floor features three dining options, of which I use the marketing descriptions as I did not dine in any of them and therefore cannot impart to you the costs as well as the quality of food:

  • One Café — Fresh and savory fare with a modern sensibility. Serving up a selection of handcrafted, made-to-order menu items to fuel any appetite. Choose from decadent pastries and baked goods, quality meats and cheeses; with soups, salads and sandwiches made fresh daily.
  • One Mix — Handcrafted small plates and cocktails celebrating New York. Celebrate the city and enjoy New York’s premier artisanal food, wine and spirits. Delivering distinctive small plates inspired by the five boroughs, for an authentic taste of New York. From the chefs, wine connoisseurs and mixologists who call this city home.
  • One Dine — Extraordinary food, wine, and skyline views. Experience premier dining high above Manhattan’s spectacular skyline. Featuring a diverse and seasonally inspired menu and signature dishes; including a nightly array of premium meats and fresh caught seafood. Reservations are taken for this dining experience.

 

Although it was not exactly the best restaurant in New York, I did enjoy the few times I dined at Windows on the World — day and night — in the original World Trade Center; and it was not unusual for the bill to exceed $100.00…

…and as for celebrating the artisanal cuisine of New York, I think I would prefer to go to their origins within the city; as well as indulge in classic New York food such as Kosher delicatessen, bialys, pizza — and, of course, the water.

I finally arrived on the 100th floor, which is the actual observation deck and also home to such experiences as SkyPortal, where everyone is invited to step onto a circular disc 14 feet wide which delivers an “unforgettable” view, using real-time, high-definition footage of the streets below.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

While others were enthralled and amazed with it, I stood there scratching my head wondering what was the big deal about this experience — but who am I to judge? Unfortunately, I found the view forgettable.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

CityPulse is an interactive skyline concierge which allows you to “deeply connect with the landmarks and neighborhoods” you observe from above; and employees known as global ambassadors are stationed under a ring of high-definition video monitors and “outfitted in gesture recognition technology, summoning imagery to the screens” and providing you with close-up views and personalized recommendations.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

I had a “face palm” moment when one global ambassador spoke about Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn while he simultaneously pointed towards New Jersey.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

CityPulse has potential to be valuable to visitors; but I found it to be virtually useless — probably because of my personal knowledge of New York; although I am always learning new things about my former home town.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Of course, there is the obligatory gift shop where a T-shirt will set you back $35.00 and a polo shirt could cost you as much as $75.00.

There is one major flaw which I cannot believe was approved: the markers built into the floor of the observation deck are not only inaccurate; but they are also incorrect.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The North marker points directly towards the Empire State Building and the rest of midtown Manhattan, which is actually north-northeast — not due north — of the tower. The Hudson River and the city of West New York, New Jersey are actually north of the tower.

Friday, May 29, 2015 was another milestone in the history of One World Trade Center in New York when the observation deck known as the One World Observatory opened to visitors, as I first wrote in this article on that same day.

With its 104 stories and symbolic 1,776 feet in height piercing into the sky above New York while thumbing its proverbial nose at terrorists around the world, One World Trade Center has just about completed the almost 14 years of recovering from that dark day of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, when the United States was impacted by a major terrorist attack which hopefully will never be repeated. A total of 2,977 people died on that day as a direct result of the attacks.

Summary

I believe that everyone should visit One World Observatory at least once; and while I did enjoy my experience overall, there were some disappointments which I already expressed in this article. I suppose my expectations were set a little too high — but do not let that stop you from visiting this observation deck. Go solely for the views from the observation deck and not for any of the ancillary — and, in my opinion, mostly unnecessary and superfluous — “experiences” included in the ticket price, as their descriptions sound better than actually experiencing them.

Ironically, the topmost observation deck of the Empire State Building — which once held the title of the tallest building of the world for many years — is on the 102nd floor and not on the 100th floor as it is in the World Trade Center. However, be prepared for “sticker shock”: since I wrote this article pertaining to the cost of visiting the Empire State Building back on Tuesday, December 11, 2012, ticket prices have increased. For example, visiting the top observation deck increased ten dollars across the board, as it will now cost you $52.00 to go up to the 102nd floor.

Then again, the World Trade Center has supposedly been fraught with controversy — including cost overruns and blatant political maneuvers — as recounted in this interesting but very long article written by Scott Rabb of Esquire. I recommend reading it.

As for the views itself from the One World Observatory, I took plenty of photographs which I intend to post in a future article.

Photographs ©2015 by Brian Cohen.


Information

One World Observatory
One World Trade Center
285 Fulton Street
New York, New York 10007
Enter on West Street at Corner of Vesey Street
1-844-OWO-1776 or 1-844-696-1776

Parking is not provided by One World Observatory. Use of public transportation is highly recommended; and I can tell you that it is only a short walk from a couple of subway stations to the entrance when I rode on the E train to the World Trade Center station, which is the last stop on that line. You can also take the R train to Cortlandt Street; the A and C trains to Chambers Street; or the 2 and 3 trains to Park Place. You can also take the 1, 2 or 3 trains to Chambers Street as well. If you do not mind a longer walk, you can also take the 4, 5, 6, J and Z trains — as well as the other aforementioned subway lines — to stations within lower Manhattan.

There are no lockers or storage facilities at One World Observatory; so do not bring any baggage if you just arrived from the airport, as you will need to find a place to store your belongings. You might want to check into your hotel first and store your baggage there before visiting One World Observatory.

Ticket Prices

  • Standard admission for adults and children between 13 and 64 years of age is $32.00
  • Standard admission for senior citizens 65 years of age or older is $30.00
  • Standard admission for youth between six and 12 years of age is $26.00; but the purchase of at least one adult or senior citizen ticket is required
  • Admission for children 5 years of age or younger is complimentary; but the purchase of at least one adult or senior citizen ticket is required
  • Priority access of express and expedited entry is $54.00 per person
  • Day Flex Priority Admission — which grants one-time access at any time on a selected date — is $65.00 per person
  • Weekday Flex Admission — which grants one-time access at any time Monday through Friday — is $85.00 per person
  • Weekend Flex Admission — which grants one-time access at any time Saturday through Sunday — is $90.00 per person

 

Additional ticket packages and add-on experiences — such as One World Explorer and SEE FOREVER Imaging — are available for an additional fee.

Rates for groups of 20 people or greater are available; and space can be rented out for private events.

Prices include New York State tax.

Timed Entry Admission tickets

All tickets are timed entry and available in 15-minute intervals. You must be at least 17 years of age or be escorted by an adult.

Timed entry admission tickets include:

  • Access to all three floors of One World Observatory — Levels 100, 101 and 102
  • Arrival ascent via The Sky Pod elevators — amongst the fastest in the world
  • Exciting New York City film presentation in the SEE FOREVER Theater
  • Expansive and panoramic 360 degree views of the skyline of Manhattan and beyond
  • Special features, including City Pulse, the interactive concierge of One World Observatory, and step out onto the Sky Portal for a direct view down to the city streets below
  • Access to curated eateries from casual café fare to seated fine-dining at ONE

 

Priority and Express Admission includes:

  • VIP Expedited entry
  • Admission to One World Observatory

 

Day Flex Priority Admission ticket includes:

  • Flexible anytime admission on the specific day of your choosing during regular operating hours
  • Priority VIP Expedited entry
  • Admission to One World Observatory

 

Weekday Flex Priority Admission ticket includes:

  • Flexible anytime admission Monday through Friday on specific date range of your choosing
  • Priority VIP Expedited entry
  • Admission to One World Observatory

 

Weekend Flex Priority Admission ticket includes:

  • Flexible anytime admission Saturday or Sunday on specific weekend date range of your choosing
  • Priority VIP Expedited entry
  • Admission to One World Observatory

 

One World Observatory will offer complimentary admission to family members of the September 11 tragedy and the rescue and recovery workers who responded on 9/11 and in the months after. Admission will be administered by the 9/11 Tribute Center — which is a project of the September 11th Families’ Association that brings together those who want to learn about September 11 with those who experienced it.

Hours of Operation

Summer and Holiday Hours:
Friday, May 29, 2015 – Monday, September 7, 2015 on Labor Day
9:00 in the morning until midnight; with the last ticket being sold at 11:15 in the evening
Open seven days per week
Check on-line calendar for additional Holiday 2015 dates and extended hours.

Regular Hours:
Tuesday, September 8, 2015 – Thursday, May 5, 2016
9:00 in the morning until 8:00 in the evening; with the last ticket sold at 7:15 in the evening
Open seven days per week

Venue box office opens daily at 8:30 in the morning.

Box office located at:
One World Trade Center
285 Fulton Street
New York, New York 10007
Enter on West Street at Corner of Vesey Street
1-844-OWO-1776 or 1-844-696-1776

11 thoughts on “Review: One World Observatory in New York”

  1. Jason says:

    How much time would you block to see this? Thinking about exploring lower Manhattan and doing several things in a day and want to plan accordingly.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Give it at least an hour, Jason. I have no idea how long or time-consuming the lines can become; but when I went, I would say that it was fewer than fifteen minutes from the street to the observation deck.

      Of course, it also depends on how long you want to marvel at the view of New York, which I could do all day long.

      What I wanted to do — but could not due to time and scheduling constraints — is arrive in the late afternoon for the view in full daylight, watch the sun set over New Jersey in the west, and then see the city lit up at night. For that, I would slot at least three hours.

      Because One World Observatory opens at 9:00 in the morning, you can forget about watching the sun rise from there.

      Also be sure to give yourself some time for the 9/11 Memorial pools. It could take as few as ten minutes or as much as a couple of hours, depending on how introspective you want to get while visiting. I intend to write about that — as well as provide photographs — in a future article.

  2. Mike says:

    Brian,

    Thanks for the review and the complete set of information on cost/hours/dining etc.

    I too am disappointed by 1 WTC…not necessarily by the design – but by the fact that it is missing it’s twin sister. Until an equal is built @ #2 WTC there will be a void in the NY skyline and soul that we need to replace to somehow be made whole again.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      That is an interesting way of looking at it, Mike — and I can appreciate your perspective, as I had never thought of it that way.

      Thank you.

  3. Uri says:

    Been twice already. And i felt like the deck was at par with my expectations. Going outside would be fun but impossible with the way the tower is constructed, and that’s what the ESB and Rock Center are for.
    I would recommend going to the bar area and grab a drink while looking outside. Reasonable prices and great experience. On our first time we came an hour before sunset so by the time all of the presentations ended we had about 30 minutes of light and then stunning sunset views. Highly recommended.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Thank you for the recommendations, Uri — as well as relating your thoughts and experiences.

      Believe it or not, I have never been to Top of the Rock even though I have been to Rockefeller Center many times.

      It looks like a visit by me in the future is in order…

  4. Judy Mooney says:

    The wait was rediculous! Great view but two hours was insane, in and out of lines! The VIPs just took over several of the elevators while the rest of us waited for one! Too commercialized! Let it be what it was intended for! Out for the almighty buck!

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Wow — I had virtually no wait time when I visited, Judy Mooney.

      I am sorry you had to endure that experience — and thank you for giving a warning as to what other people may be in for when visiting One World Observatory.

  5. Brianna says:

    Hey Brian,
    Thanks for the review! I’ve been thinking of going and I wanted to know if you were allowed to stay as long as you want once you arrived inside. I enjoy marveling at the city for hours as well, and was just curious. Also, I would like to know how the check in process is, because I’m ordering tickets online and I don’t know if I need I.D. so they can check my age when I get there,etc. Thanks a bunch!

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I checked in with no problem and virtually no wait when I arrived there, Brianna — but please remember that I arrived not long after One World Trade Center officially opened; and I was there before the school year had finished for the summer in New York.

      I would advise arriving just prior to the entrance being open to the public in the morning, which worked well for me the last time I visited the Statue of Liberty several years ago. With popular tourist attractions, the “early bird” usually gets the worm. Arrive in the late morning or afternoon and you might be met with a line and a significant wait time.

      Have your identification with you, just in case. You never know when you will need it. Bring your camera, too. I have not posted my photographs of the views yet because I have too many to sort through!

      You can stay as long as you like once you are at the observatory.

      Please let me know if I can answer any other questions.

      Have fun and enjoy your visit, Brianna!

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