Is One World Trade Center Worth Visiting?

I was clear about it in my previous post: the One World Observatory in One World Trade Center is an absolute must-see and must-do for any visitor to New York City.

Having opened only a couple of months ago, it was the only major attraction in Manhattan that Caroline and I hadn’t done before.

It was nothing less than jaw-dropping, breathtaking, mind-blowing and all other cliché superlatives you can think of. I mean that. It was one of the most spectacular tourist attractions—because, let me be clear, that’s what it is, after all—I have seen in the past few years.

One World Trade Center from Staten Island Ferry
One World Trade Center seen from the Staten Island Ferry

Let me start with some introductory facts before I get into the actual experience.

One World Trade Center: The Facts

One World Trade Center is New York City’s (and America’s) answer to the horrific 9/11 attacks, now almost fourteen years ago. It is located in Lower Manhattan in the northwest corner of the World Trade Center site, a 16-acre (6.5-hectare) site that will eventually consist of seven new World Trade Center buildings. Three have been finished at this point: One World Trade Center, Four World Trade Center and Seven World Trade Center.

The site where the original Twin Towers, then officially known as One and Two World Trade Center, stood lies a stone’s throw away, as does the humbling and moving National September 11 Memorial Museum.

The new One World Trade Center is exactly 1,776 feet (541 meters) high, a deliberately chosen height that refers to the year when the United States became an independent country. The tower is 104 stories high, but consists ‘only’ of 94 actual stories. It’s the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and the fourth-tallest on Earth.

World Trade Center, New York City
World Trade Center towers above all surrounding buildings

It is also supposedly the safest building ever constructed. It’s made up of high-strength concrete (seven times more pressure-proof than normal concrete), reinforced steel bars and extremely dense fireproofing. Additionally, it’s a green building too, a massively important feature in these times of global warming. One World Trade Center is constructed from recycled debris and generates its own power. Water used for cooling down the building, watering the plants at the plaza and running the fountains is collected from rain by the building itself.

It’s fair to say that New York City has built a cutting-edge structure, a model skyscraper that will inspire forward-thinking architects all over the world.

‘Enough dry facts already!’, I can see you think.

And you’re totally right. Let’s cut to the chase.

One World Observatory: The Experience

If you’re in Manhattan, or anywhere else in New York City for that matter, I strongly recommended that you head to One World Trade Center for one of the most impressive travel experiences in your life.

Panorama of New York City seen from the top of One World Trade Center
Panorama of New York City seen from the top of One World Trade Center

After having purchased your timed ticket and having entered One World Trade Center, you find yourself in a walkway flanked by large video screens showing testimonials of the people who built the skyscraper. Up next is a short section that showcases the granite bedrock that supports this massive building (and pretty much all the rest of Manhattan as well).

The elevators—among the fastest in the world—bring you to the top of the building in less than a minute. The skyward elevator ride is enlivened by a magnificent floor-to-ceiling LED time-lapse display that, as you go up, shows you how New York City developed from a rural settlement in the 16th century to the metropolis that it is today. The elevator ride, short as it may be, is an attraction in its own right.

After stepping out of the elevator, you are pointed toward a long three-dimensional screen. Now, you get to see a two-minute presentation of life in New York City, featuring scenes of day-to-day life and typical iconic images such as yellow cabs, Broadway and the subway. It’s a rather overwhelming—and, I do have to say, also a bit self-promotional and possibly even slightly propagandist—presentation on the greatness of New York City. I love the city as it is, so I didn’t mind that at all. There’s no denying that it is, in fact, a great city. The best part of the screening is the end. That’s all I’m going to say about it.

Then, it’s time to enter the actual One World Observatory on the 100th floor, a large circular room offering spectacular, almost surreal, 360-degree views of New York City, the rivers and beyond. There’s also a restaurant and a souvenir shop—again, it’s a tourist attraction.

Brooklyn Bridge Seen from One World Observatory
Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges seen from One World Observatory

The views are phenomenal and pictures can only show so much. Seeing the actual bird’s-eye views in real life is an extraordinary experience.

Manhattan Seen from One World Observatory, One World Trade Center
Manhattan in its sprawling glory, seen from One World Observatory

The beauty of it all is that you can stay up there as long as you want. We were there late in the afternoon, but I’m sure the views must have been marvelous later at night as well when all buildings are lit.

Caroline Looking Out Over the Hudson River, One World Trade Center
Caroline looking out over the Hudson River

For more background and practical information, I would like to refer to the official One World Observatory website.

Have you visited One World Trade Center yet? If so, were you as impressed as I was?

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