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Guide To Visiting One World Observatory In New York City

Guide To Visiting One World Observatory In New York City

The One World Observatory is popular three story observation deck located within the One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. It’s home to the SkyPod elevator which transports visitors 1,268 feet (386 m) to the highest indoor vantage point in New York. This observation deck is open everyday with tickets starting at $39 for adults.

In this guide, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know for visiting the One World Tower Observatory including tips we learned during our trip.

Our NYC Experience

Man and woman pointing to the State of Liberty from a New York observation deck
Mark and Kristen pointing to the Statue of Liberty from the top of One World Observatory

Kristen is a New York state native and we lived in NYC for a few months in 2021. We chose to move to the city so we could create the best possible content because you can’t just visit New York City for a weekend and claim to be an expert. Read more about us.

While we no longer live here, we still travel to the city every year because it’s one of the best places to visit in the USAWe’ve visited the One World Observatory multiple times over the years. It’s the tallest observation deck in New York and the only one in Lower Manhattan which makes it unique.

What Is One World Observatory?

Aerial view of One World Trade Center
Aerial view of the One World Trade Center in Manhattan

The One World Trade Center is the tallest building in New York City. It’s also the tallest building in the western hemisphere and the 7th tallest building in the world right after the Lotte World Tower. This structure was built on the original 6 World Trade Center after the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks.

One World Trade Center stands at an impressive 1,776 ft (541m) which pays tribute to the birth of the United States and the spire pushes the structure another 1,792 ft (546m) in height. The One World Observatory is located at 1,268ft (386m) making it the highest indoor observation deck in the city.

It officially opened on November 3rd, 2014 and the One World Observatory opened to the public in May of 2015. This was the third observation deck in the city after the Top of the Rock and Empire State Building.

In the observation deck, you’ll be able to see sweeping views of Lower Manhattan, the East River and the Brooklyn Bridge. You’ll also find a concourse with parking, storage, shopping and an extensive railway network underneath the building.

Further Reading: Sunrise walk across the Brooklyn Bridge


Lower Manhattan skyline with the famous Brooklyn Bridge
Lower Manhattan skyline view with the Brooklyn Bridge

The One World Observatory is located in the heart of Lower Manhattan inside the One World Trade Center at the corner of West and Vesey Streets.

You’ll find access to the building on West Street. It’s open everyday from 10:00am to 7:00pm, but hours change seasonally. Visit the official page here for exact times.

  • Address: 117 West St, New York, NY 10006
  • Location: Google Maps

You can get to the One World observation deck in many different ways including subway and bus. The use of public transportation is highly recommended because there is no on site parking and on-street parking is extremely limited.

Here are subway options:

  • A and C line: Take train to Chambers St.
  • E line: Take train to World Trade Center.
  • 1 line: Take train to WTC Cortlandt St.
  • 2, 3, 4 and 5 line: Take train to Fulton St.
  • R and W line: Take train to Cortland St.

Here are bus options:

  • M20 (South Ferry): Take the bus to Vesey St and North End Ave.
  • M55 (South Ferry): Take the bus to Broadway St and Cortland St.

The nearest parking garage is located at Brookfield Place shopping center operated by SP+ Parking. Click here for discounted visitor parking. You can also arrive by Uber, Lyft or taxi but this might not be the most cost effective option.


One World Observatory Tickets

Ticketing entrance at One World Observatory
Line for tickets at One World Observatory

You’ll need a ticket to visit One World Observatory. There are four main ticket options and unlike many other NYC observation decks, there is no additional fee to visit during sunset. If you purchase your tickets online in advance on the official website, you’ll also receive a $5.00 discount.

The standard experience is a general admission ticket and grants you access to all 3 levels of the observation deck as well as 360° panoramic views of lower Manhattan. There is also no time limit so you can use this to your advantage.

Here are the four ticket options with the $5.00 discount for purchasing early. We highly recommend you book online in advance to get the best price and secure your spot. Children ages 5 and under can visit for free. Seniors aged 62+ will also receive a small discount.

  • Standard – General Admission. Online tickets begin at $39 for adults and $33 for children (ages 6-12).
  • Combination – General Admission + Priority Entry + One World Explorer + $5 to shop, drink or eat. Online tickets begin at $49 for adults and $43 for children (ages 6-12).
  • All-Inclusive – General Admission + Priority Entry + One World Explorer + Flexible Arrival + $15 to shop, eat or drink. Online tickets begin at $59 for adults and $53 for children (ages 6-12).
  • VIP Tour – General Admission + Priority Entry + 60 minute guided tour + Escorted entry + $15 to shop, eat or drink. Online tickets begin at $69 for adults and $63 for children (ages 6-12).

Travel Tip: If you book this observation deck in advance, it’s one of the the cheapest options in New York City starting at $39 for adults. Edge at Hudson Yards is cheaper at $36, but you’ll pay more for sunset.

Where To Purchase Tickets

Perspective photo of One World Trade Center from the street looking up
One World Trade Center street view

There are many ways to purchase One World Observation deck tickets. You can buy directly from the official website here or onsite at bottom floor. You can also purchase an entry ticket through:

Travel Tip: If you book with the official website, you’ll pay $3.46 for tax and a $5.00 processing fee. Click on the orange links to compare prices and reviews to see if you can beat it.

If you plan to visit several of New York City’s top attractions, we recommend you consider purchasing an attraction pass. We used a NY Sightseeing Pass to visit this observation deck, but it’s included on most pass options.

We recommend the NY Sightseeing Pass because it’s extremely easy to use while offering both flexibility and big savings. The One World Observatory is included with this pass and we have an exclusive 5-10% discount just for our readers.

Want To Save Money In NYC?

Use the button below to claim 5-10% off any NY Sightseeing Pass.

You can also read our detailed NY pass comparison to help you decide which New York pass you should purchase for your visit.

One World Observatory Walkthrough

Two skypod passes to the observation deck in the One World Trade Center
Our two Skypod passes for the observatory

At the One World Observatory, you’ll experience two different levels of observation decks and learn many interesting facts about what it took to build this impressive structure. It’s a one-way system so once you leave a room, you won’t be allowed to go back.

If you have a sunset ticket, keep an eye on your timing. This way you experience the best areas while the sun is in prime position.

In this next section, we’re going to give you a detailed walkthrough including the best things to do at the One World Observatory and exactly what you can expect.

1. Global Welcome Center

Woman standing in line at an observation deck in New York City
Kristen waiting in line at main entrance

Before visiting be sure to check the operating hours because it varies by season and holidays. After showing your tickets at the main entrance, you’ll be led through security and the experience will begin with the chance to pose for photos which you can purchase later if you want.

If you don’t want your picture taken, just politely tell the staff and they will let you through. Head towards the massive LED display looming directly in front of you. This is the largest curved LED in the world and it can make for great social media content.

2. Horizon Grid

Various tv screens featuring the Horizon Grid exhibit
Multiple screens featuring the Horizon Grid

Next, you’ll continue past the Horizon Grid which showcases important and historic events from New York City across 145 screens in a film called Voices.

The entire video is 14 minutes long and includes interviews from construction workers of One World Trade Center. There are many screens to look at, but it’s worth stopping at if you have the time.

3. The Foundations Room

Man reading a sign in the Foundations Room
Mark walking through the Foundations Room

As you continue walking, the next exhibit will be the Foundations room. It’s meant to resemble the bedrock that most of New York City and One World Trade Center is built on top of.

The room is dark and dimly lit, but it makes for a cool ambiance because most of the area resembles a cave. Don’t miss the interesting facts about New York City projected onto the walls.

Need help organizing your visit to NYC?

Our popular 50+ page New York City Guidebook can help you with planning every aspect of your trip.

4. Skypod Elevator

Historic elevator ride at One World Trade Center
Panels showcasing the history of NYC in the elevator

We can tell you from experience, the elevator ride at One World Observatory is the best out of all New York City’s observation decks. The SkyPod elevator will whisk you up to the 102nd floor in just 47 seconds which is one of the fastest in the western hemisphere.

But that’s not all. As the elevator ride begins, you’re rewarded with an exciting visual history lesson originating with New York’s wetlands followed by the slow building of the NYC skyline over 300 years as you climb elevation.

The ride finally terminates on top of the modern day building we know as the One World Trade Center. We think this is the most interactive elevator experience so get your cameras ready before you begin the ride.

Travel Tip: Without giving much away, the elevator ride down is just as good as the ride up. You’ll descend down from the outside of the World Trade Center both during the day and night.

5. See Forever Theater

Taxi cab driving through the streets of New York City
Taxi cab on the See Forever Theater

After the SkyPod elevator ride, you’ll immediately step out onto the 102nd floor. This is where you’ll watch another short time-lapse video in the See Forever Theater. The two minute video is meant to enhance your first glimpse of the famous NYC skyline.

But the real crescendo comes when the backdrop rises and you get your first glimpse of New York City from 102 stories high. Extra points to One World Observatory for a creative big reveal!

6. 100th Floor

A cafe at an observation deck in NYC
Illy Caffe located on the 101st floor

Once the video is complete, you’re lead down two flights of stairs to the 100th floor via a combination of stairs or an escalator to the Discovery Level which is filled with numerous exhibits.

Take a moment to soak in the views through the 30 ft high windows stretching the entire floor. Before you visit any other exhibits on this floor, we recommend you head straight to the windows and enjoy the view of the NYC skyline.

Here are the iconic sites you can expect to see from the top:

  • Empire State Building
  • Statue of Liberty and Governor’s Island
  • Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridge
  • New York State and New Jersey
  • Memorial pools in tribute to 9/11 directly below

Further Reading: How to walk across the Manhattan Bridge

7. Sky Portal

Views of Lower Manhattan from the Sky Portal
View of cars driving through Lower Manhattan from the Sky Portal

One of the popular exhibits on the 100th floor is the Sky Portal. This is a large window embedded in the floor measuring 14 ft in diameter. As you stand on the Sky Portal, you’ll be rewarded with a live stream of footage to the streets of Lower Manhattan 100 stories directly below.

This is a unique perspective of New York City and one the kids will certainly love. But some visitors have reported a nauseous feeling when looking down. It took us minute to get used to the view and if you have a fear of heights, this is not for you.

8. One World Explorer

Depending on the ticket you purchase, you’ll have access to One World Explorer. This is an interactive guide displayed on an iPad which can help you identify famous landmarks within New York City. As you move towards the window, the screen moves with you.

If this is your first time to NYC or you’re visiting with kids, you may want to consider renting One World Explorer to help them get acclimated. It features fun facts and information about what you see below or right in front of you.

Travel Tip: If you haven’t purchased One World Explorer with your original ticket, you can upgrade for an additional $10.

9. City Pulse

The City Pulse exhibit featuring mirrors that light up
City Pulse exhibit with next showtime displayed

The City Pulse exhibit is led by ambassadors who give interactive presentations about the city, landmarks, history and more. You can see show times posted near the exhibit or ask a staff member when the next show is scheduled.

Photography Tip: It’s also a great photo opportunity for those who want a unique perspective.

Restaurant Options

Empty seats at One Dine in New York
Empty seats and tables in One Dine restaurant

If you want to grab something to eat and drink at the observation deck, you have three options. But the dining level on the 101st floor is only accessible to visitors who have One World Observatory tickets.

  • One Dine – A first class service featuring gourmet cuisine with a seasonally inspired menu including prime cuts of meat and fresh seafood. Reservations can be made here and it’s open from 11:30am to 8:00pm.
  • Illy Caffe – A small cafe serving Italian coffee, tea, cold brew and a delicious selection of small treats. This is a great stop for a quick bite.
  • One Mix – If you’re in the mood for a cocktail, this is the perfect option. Enjoy views of the city skyline while sipping on a tasty drink. Seating at the bar is walk up only and space may be limited.

Best Time To Visit

Manhattan street view from One World Observatory
Clouds and fog enveloping Manhattan in spring

The best time to visit One World Observatory is one hour before sunset. This is the perfect time of day because you’ll be able to see the skyline in the daytime, while the sun sets and at night. Golden hour offers the softest light which is the best time of day to take photos.

We like this observation deck because it does not charge an extra fee to visit at sunset. If you’re lucky enough to get a good sunset, you’ll be able to watch a gorgeous hue of colors settle over the Manhattan skyline.

If you have enough time in your NYC itinerary, we recommend you wait for the sun to fully set and enjoy the nighttime views as well. However, the observation deck is quite small so it can get very crowded in the peak months of summer.

We’ve visited multiple times of day including sunset, night and early morning around 9:00am. The crowds were much smaller in the early morning and during the day, you can see about 45 miles in the distance if the sky is clear.

At night, you won’t be able to see as far, but you’ll be able witness the Manhattan skyline light up in the dark. There is no outdoor viewing platform so your photos may have a lot of glare due to the large windows if you visit at night.

Tips For Visiting

We’ve covered everything you need to know in this guide, but here are a few important tips for your visit:

  • Purchase your tickets in advance – If you want to visit at sunset, you’ll need to purchase tickets online well in advance to secure your time slot.
  • Wear dark clothing – This will minimize the glare against the windows so you can take better photos. Brighter colored clothes will reflect more easily especially at night.
  • Early morning is less crowded – While sunset is the best time to visit for the views, it’s the worst time to visit for the crowds. If you want minimal crowds, visit early at 9:00am.
  • You can decline the posed photos – If you don’t want to purchase photos during your visit, feel free to politely decline any photos taken by staff at select locations.
  • Visit at both day and night – You can buy this ticket here to visit before 1:00pm and 5:00pm on the same day.
  • Visit out of season – If you want to avoid the crowds, don’t plan your trip in summer. Instead, consider visiting New York in April or experience New York in winter.

Pros And Cons

We personally enjoyed our visit to this observation deck, but there were a few negatives to visiting too. Here are a few pros and cons to help sway your decision:


  • Best elevator ride out of all 5 NYC observation decks
  • Best views of the Statue of Liberty, Governor’s Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridge
  • Decent views of Hudson River and New Jersey (but Edge is better)
  • Highest indoor observation deck in NYC
  • Only observation deck in Lower Manhattan
  • Emotional experience due to the history of the building
  • Modern day high tech experience
  • Does not charge an extra fee to visit at sunset


  • No outdoor viewing platform and all indoor views have glass panels so photos will have glare
  • Food and drinks are extremely expensive
  • Only a few exhibits to experience (far more at other observation decks)
  • Empire State Building is far away so the view is not great
  • Popular observation deck so you may experience long wait times

In Conclusion

One World Observatory jumbotron
A large jumbotron with weather and ticket information

We like this observation deck because it’s the only one located in Lower Manhattan and features the best elevator experience in the city. This building is also a symbol of strength and resilience because it stands as the tallest in the Western Hemisphere after heartbreak from terrorist attacks.

So is the One World Observatory worth it?

Yes, One World Observatory is worth it because it’s the highest indoor observation deck in New York. According to TripAdvisor, this this experience is consistently rated a 4.5/5.0 with thousands of positive reviews. We completely agree with these ratings, but it’s not our favorite observation deck.

One of the best parts about visiting One World Trade Center is the unique views because it’s very different from the other observation decks in the city due to it’s location. If you’re short on time, we’d say give it a miss and visit one of the other popular options in the city. But if you’re a returning visitor, this is a great option.

What Can I Do In Lower Manhattan?

After summiting One World Observatory, you should spend some time exploring Lower Manhattan. Our best recommendation is the 9/11 Memorial Museum. It’s one of the best museums we’ve ever visited in terms of information and experience.

If you don’t have much time, you can still visit the Memorial Pools which have been created from the foundations of the Twin Towers. You should also read about the best things to do in Lower Manhattan.

One World Observatory Photos

We took many photos at this observation deck because it’s such a fun experience. Here are a few of our favorite images to inspire your visit:

Woman looking out the window of One World Trade Center
Kristen looking out at the Brooklyn Bridge from the 100th floor
Fog and clouds covering the Manhattan skyline
Clouds and fog over Manhattan
State of the world and four fists on the streets in Manhattan
Symbols of strength at the street level entrance of the One World Trade Center
State of Liberty view from One World Observatory on a cloudy day
Statue of Liberty view from One World Observatory
Cloudy view of the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge from high in an New York observation deck
View of the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge
Memorial Pool and Oculus view from the top pf One World Trade Center
Aerial view of a Memorial Pool below
Sustainability exhibit at One World Observatory
Sustainability exhibit about water efficiency
Brooklyn Bridge view from One World Trade Center
Cloudy view of Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn
A colorful art installation at One World Trade Center
Colorful art exhibit at One World Trade Center

More NYC Observation Decks

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Want more New York content? Head over to our New York Travel Guides to explore the Finger Lakes, Adirondacks and the best of NYC.

We hope this guide to One World Trade Center Observatory helps with planning your visit to New York’s tallest building!

Please let us know if you have any questions about this observation deck or New York City in the comments below.

Happy Summiting,

Mark and Kristen

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