One World Observatory opened on May 29th 2015. This date coincided with my 7th year anniversary in New York City. I had to go up my gleaming NYC counterpart on this special day for both of us. I bought tickets the day they went on sale.
My Experience Visiting One World Observatory
It was a zoo. An absolute zoo. Crowds around the block, tourists of every shape and size, lines upon lines, and waiting for every small step along the way. It was kind of awful. But it was also kind of great. Which describes the experience of living in New York to a T.
The views were of course amazing. Staring out at the expanse of the whole city, I got that breath-taking feeling every New Yorker knows. This is my home. I fucking live here. I am so goddamn lucky. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
But UGH! TOURISTS!
It’s quite the experience, one quite catered to tourists. After going through an intense security check, we began below ground. Videos played on the walls featuring talking heads- many of individuals who actually worked with their hands on the building. Sporting hard hats and even Brooklyn accents, I did enjoy this showcase that called to mind the iconic “Lunch atop a Skyscraper“. Human beings build this city and I’m glad when we’re prodded to remember that.
One World Trade features the fastest elevators in the world. It takes 60 seconds to get to the top. The walls of the elevator change as you ascend, a virtual reality mimicking glass. You start with bedrock, rise to street level, rush up between the buildings, and end above everything with a simulated view. It’s cool I guess, but I just wanted the real view!
Before the real view, we had to stand and watch the most New York Cliché film ever created. Times Square! Taxis! Subways! Statue of Liberty! Pedestrians! I almost yelled out, “HASHTAG #NEWYORKCLICHE!” to all those snapping pictures. But I resisted. #MarketingFail
As the film ended, the viewing screen rose to reveal the actual view! Hooray!
As soon as the screen reached the top, it came right back down. AW MAN! We all filed out of the darkened room to find the actual view. We were finally there, right??
Each window was covered with people, like pigeons on spilled white rice. You basically had to wait in line again, for a turn to see out any of them. Some direction had much less of a wait, like New Jersey to the west. Even with the sunset!
No one cared that you could see Governor’s Island except me (you know how I love Governor’s Island).
Even the Statue of Liberty windows were relatively empty. She’s hard to see from a distance.
But the iconic views of the Empire State Building and the Bridges? Fuhgeddaboudit.
Worth it? Yes. I mean, the view speak for itself! That said, I would never go back on a Friday night. I would avoid any weekend if at all humanly possible. But as the first public day and my NYversary: yes, absolutely worth it. You could spot the other locals, the other New Yorkers who love their city so much they almost want to wear I HEART NY shirts. (But can’t because they’d sooner die than be mistaken for tourists.) Locals who remember the Twin Towers, who experienced 9/11, who literally watched One World emerge from ashes. Locals who never talk to each other on the subway but when they find each other smooshed by crowds, waiting to get the best view of their town, they’ll have a friendly chat.
I went at sunset and saw both views: daylight and after dark, as you can see. This was probably another reason for the maddening crowds. Once it got dark, the reflections in the windows became more intense. The whole observatory is through windows, there is no part that is outside. I would recommend going during the day, ideally a sunny weekday.
I have never been to Top of the Rock and I was 13 the last time I was at the top of the Empire State Building, so I don’t exactly have anything to compare my viewing experience with. After going up One World Observatory, I want to change that! This summer I intend to make it up Top of the Rock AND the Empire State, returning with a full report on which is my favorite! (I definitely need a better camera before embarking on this journey.) If you’ve been up any of them- let me know your thoughts!
My pretty, pretty city.
Tickets for the observatory are $32 and you can purchase them and learn more at https://oneworldobservatory.com/