Travel review: One World Observatory

After a brief break, I’m resuming my review of dad’s, ‘future mum’s’ and my trip to the USA last summer

In my and dad’s lifetime, the attacks on New York on 9/11 were one of the ‘where were you you’ moments. The collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Centre and surrounding buildings left a huge gaping scar in the middle of lower Manhattan

There have been many arguments as to how to redevelop this site and the resulting delays have left a hole in the heart of the city though interestingly, many images on things like postcards have continued to carry the Twin Towers on them since the attack

Finally, things are moving and the first tall building to emerge has been the Freedom Tower, built to an exacting 1776 feet to reflect the USA’s year of independence

Dad, ‘future mom’ and I first caught a glimpse of the Freedom Tower as we walked across Brooklyn Bridge. Looking west from the bridge, you’ll see the distinctive shape of the tower with its tall spire at the top

Once you get to the western end of Brooklyn Bridge, it’s another 15 minutes walk to the base. We saw the rest of the Twin Towers site still being developed and eventually there will be quite a few buildings occupying the site. The dinosaur bones outline of the new transport hub was distinctive and the station has now opened since our visit last summer. If you’re interested in the tragic events of 9/11, the museum on this site is well worth a visit and the memorial fountains make a poignant focus for reflection

We had come to the Freedom Tower to visit the newly opened One World Observatory at the top and we were lucky to be one of the first to go up. Dad had seen it just before our trip and booked tickets. There are a bewildering number of queues at the entrance – just find the one corresponding to your time slot and follow it. It’s definitely worth pre-booking tickets to avoid the long walk in line

Check in was efficient and after a short security check, we were at one of the high speed lifts that whisk you to the top in less than 60 seconds. Along the wait to get in, you have big screens reeling the story of those who have helped to build the tower and you get to see the actual foundations of the building

At this point, I have to warn readers about spoilers. Yes, spoilers for an observatory! We’ve been up a few observatories and the One World Observatory is the most innovative. So, if you’re going to visit and don’t want to spoil the surprise, skip down to the last paragraph

The five Sky Pod lifts have floor to ceiling LED screens on each wall. When you enter the lift, you’re virtually surrounded by a view of New York in the 1500s. As the lift ascends, the city changes in time lapse fashion until it’s in its present day configuration as you arrive at the 102nd floor. Really amazing

 You’re then ushered into the See Forever Theatre with a long horizontal screen where you’ll watch a 2 minute video about New York. Then, at the end of the video, the screen lifts to dramatically hit you with a view of the city. Very cleverly done

You then go down a couple of floors to the main observation deck on the 100th floor for a panoramic view of the five boroughs, New York bay and New Jersey. Being located in Lower Manhattan, it’s a different view than the one you get from the Empire State Building or the Rockefeller Centre


Dad’s scared of heights and is always scared of walking on the ‘glass floor on high buildings’ experiences. This building has the perfect solution – set in the floor is the 14 foot Sky Portal, which appears to be a glass floor but it’s just a real time, high resolution camera projection of the streets below

 For extra money, you can buy an interactive iPad commentary of the things you’ll see and you can have an official photo taken. There’s also a gift shop at the bottom. The lifts show you a different movie on the way down

This is the most innovative observation tower that we’ve been to. The new technology will surprise you in a good way and bring a big smile to your face. You get a sense of history here after those awful events of 9/11. It’s highly recommended if you visit New York

One World Observatory
One World Trade Centre, 285 Fulton Street, New York


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