Windows on a New World: Touring One World Observatory

One World Observatory offers a thrilling experience for New York City visitors as NYC editor Lois Levine discovered.

I had been wanting to experience One World Observatory atop One World Trade Center from the moment the building went under construction. It was a sentimental journey not only for me, a native New Yorker, but for everyone involved with the conception of this building, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. Arriving at the gleaming centerpiece of Lower Manhattan, you can't help but feel a myriad of emotion: I thought not only about the sweat and grit of the tireless workers who spent almost a decade building the Center, but also about what will go down in history as one of the city's proudest architectural achievements, the glorious conclusion of something born of tragedy (9/11), exemplifying a triumphant renewal for a city that has proven itself undefeatable. 

And so, with great anticipation, I took a trip downtown with my executive editor for the experience. First impression: As soon as we walked through security, we were greeted with a huge electronic map. The map displays the hometowns of visitors in real time as they come through security clearance. We watched as London, San Francisco and Tokyo lit up in geo-positional data, a thrilling reminder of the international flavor of this town and the global interest in the observatory. Next, a main video wall of 144 individual monitors showed a continuous video loop, 25 hours of interviews with 48 people who worked on the building, many proud union workers, several who mentioned their fathers had worked on the original World Trade Centers.  

And then the real fun began. After a short wait, a "sky pod" whisked us up to the 102nd floor in a heart-stopping 47 seconds. While traveling skyward, a virtual time-lapse video recreates the development of the Manhattan skyline, starting in the 1500s to present day.

Once you "land" in the observatory, you next experience the "See Forever" film. A true love letter to New York, the film is scored to a tempo based on pedometer data of the average New Yorker and highlights various city scenes and venues (including the subways), with the finale being the curtain opening to the actual view from the top. After that, it's all about the views and interactive skyline "concierges," individual stations under a ring of HD video monitors where you can access imagery and recommendations to various neighborhoods and attractions around the city. You are free to wander around as long as you like, drinking in the views of Brooklyn, New Jersey and the East and Hudson Rivers.

Food options include a casual restaurant, a bar/lounge and an intimate fine dining option, and there is, of course, a gift shop to bring home your own One World Observatory tee-shirts, golf balls, key chains, jackets and the like.

>> One World Observatory, 285 Fulton St., New York, 844.696.1776