It’s here. For the first time in nearly 14 years, visitors can look over the city from a skyscraper in downtown Manhattan again. And not just any skyscraper – the tallest one in the entire Western Hemisphere.
Finally, the One World Observatory is open – and of course, it’s incredible.
I went on opening day about 10 days ago and the crowds were unbelievable. For two hours, we queued in the sizzling heat – made all the worse by the whopping shiny building right next to us. I’m sure the lines aren’t quite so long now – or at least I hope they’ve built some sort of shade and figured out how to better manage the swell of visitors.
But once we were inside, everything was forgiven.
We zipped through airport-like security before meandering through corridors lined with videos narrated by proud construction workers (‘I can tell my kids, “Daddy made that”,’ one said through tears) and rocks depicting Manhattan’s foundations.
Next we took the elevator. As we soared from the ground to the 102nd floor in just 47 seconds – our ears popping along the way – we watched a high-definition video showing the development of the city from swampland in the 1500s to the skyline of today. (You can see the elevator ride on this New York Times video – isn’t the whole idea and its execution just genius?)
Once up on the 102nd floor, there was one more room to walk through before they let us see the view. There, a video montage about New York life played – and, right at the end, the screen slowly lifted up to reveal a window… and the city.
I’m gonna stop writing now and just let the views speak for themselves…
You have to book a time slot but you can spend as much time as you like up there. To help you take in the views, there are iPads that you point at landmarks to describe what you’re looking at. There are also presentations from staff and there’s a platform that shows a real-time video of the street below. It’s surprisingly scary, seeing as you’re just standing on a screen.
Still, I liked how the emphasis was far less on stuff to do up there and far more on the view.
And this is going to sound silly, but the observatory is really, really high (1,250ft in fact). Every day I look out my office window and see One World Trade Center high above any other building and it really was something to be the other way around – way up there and looking down on my office and the rest of the city. It was so high that it was hard to comprehend what I was seeing beneath me.
This is one mighty building with one mighty message and it’s definitely a new must-do here in New York – just pick a clear day and be prepared to join the long queue!
One World Observatory is open seven days a week from 9am to midnight (the last ticket sold is at 11.15pm) until September, when it’ll close at 8pm. You can grab tickets online (with a time slot) or buy tickets there, but I’d recommend getting them ahead of time. It costs $32 ($30 for seniors, $26 for kids under 12, free for kids under five).