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How To Visit One World Observatory In One World Trade Center

How To Visit One World Observatory In One World Trade Center

The One World Observatory sits inside the top floors of One World Trade Center which officially opened to the public on November 3rd, 2014.

In May 2015, just a few months after One World Trade Center opened its doors, the One World Observatory officially became the third observation deck in New York City.

While the Empire State Building and the Top of the Rock stand as iconic originals built earlier in the 1930’s, the One World Trade Center surpassed the Empire State Building as the tallest structure in New York City at the time of completion.

So what can you expect at One World Trade Center and One World Observatory?

This guide will tell you everything you need to know for your visit to this record breaking structure that looms within the lower Manhattan skyline.

When we lived in New York City in 2021, we summited One World Observatory along with the four other popular observation decks in NYC for comparison purposes so you can consider us experts.

Here’s how we will help you plan your trip to One World Observatory:

  • What is One World Observatory and how to get there
  • One World Observatory ticket options
  • A photo walkthrough and detailed explanation for all 3 floors
  • Best time to visit and tips for your visit
  • Final thoughts with pros and cons

Now, let’s summit One World Observatory observation deck!

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What Is One World Observatory?

The observation deck at One World Observatory is located at the top of the One World Trade Center.

When visiting the observation deck, you will take the Skypod elevator to the 100th – 102nd floor of the One World Trade Center to explore an area of 25,000 sq feet.

One World Trade Center with Brooklyn Bridge
One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge

What Is The History Of One World Observatory?

As the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere as well as the United States, One World Trade Center (One WTC) is the the main structure to be rebuilt on the original World Trade Center complex in lower Manhattan.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, there was debate as to how to proceed with rebuilding the One World Trade Center site.

But the site was quickly becoming a popular tourist attraction. Proposals soon included specific plans on how to remember and memorialize the individuals who lost their lives on that horrible day.

Today, the new One World Trade Center stands on the site of the original 6 World Trade Center at the northwest corner of the World Trade Center complex. It also holds the same name as the original North Tower.

In addition to the One World Trade Center, the new complex includes the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. This is a tribute of remembrance to honor those who were killed in the terrorist attacks from 9/11/2001 and 2/26/1993.

Travel Tip: We recommend you visit the National September 11 Memorial and Museum when you visit the One World Observatory. It is one of the best museums we have ever visited.

Consider booking a combination visit featuring a 9/11 Tour, the Memorial/Museum and One World Observatory here.

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

How Many Floors Is One World Observatory?

The One World Trade Center has 94 floors with the One World Observatory observation deck located on the 100th, 101st and 102nd floors featuring a panoramic 360 degree view.

What makes One World Observatory unique is the impressive height of 1,268 ft (387m) making it the highest vantage point in New York City.

The top floor of the new One World Trade Center is 1,368 ft (417m). While this floor is used as a mechanical floor, this number is historically significant as this was the exact height of the original One World Trade Center.

Interestingly, the spire of One World Trade Center was designed similarly to the Empire State Building. It reaches a peak height of 1,776 ft, also a reference to the year of the Declaration of Independence.

The spire pushes One World Trade Center to the top of the list as the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.

The Floors Of One World Observatory

When you visit One World Observatory, you will have access to three stories as part of the observation deck. But this building is also primary used for office space with 86 floors above ground.

Beneath the building, you can find a concourse with parking, storage and shopping along with an extensive railway network.

  • One World Observatory: Floors 100-102
  • Office space: Floors 20-63 and 65-90
  • Sky Lobby: Floor 64
  • Mechanical Equipment: Floors 91-99 and 103-104
Perspective photo of One World Trade Center from the street
One World Trade Center street view

Where Is One World Observatory?

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

Access to the building is on West Street.

One World Observatory Address: 117 West St, New York, NY 10006

Click here for the Google Maps location.

How To Get To One World Observatory

You can get to One World Observatory in many different ways.

Subway

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

NYC Bus

  • West (7th Ave, Columbus Circle, Times Square and Penn Station): Take the M20 to Vesey St. / North End
  • 75th Ave, Public Library and Flatiron: Take the M55 to Broadway St. / Cortland St.

The use of public transportation is highly recommended to visit One World Observatory because there is no on site parking and on-street parking is extremely limited.

The nearest parking garage is located at Brookfield Place shopping center operated by SP+ Parking.

You can also arrive by Uber, Lyft or taxi but this might not be the most cost effective option.

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

One World Observatory Tickets

You will need a ticket to visit One World Observatory.

There are four main ticket options and unlike many other of the NYC observation decks, there is no additional fee to visit during sunset.

The standard experience ticket grants you access to all 3 levels of observation decks, no time limit and 360 degree panoramic views of lower Manhattan.

The three other ticket options will include additional add ons from the basic standard experience.

  • Standard Experience – General admission. Online tickets begin at $38 for adults and $32 for children (6-12).
  • Combination Experience – General Admission + Priority Lane + One World Explorer Digital Skyline Guide. Online tickets begin at $48 for adults and $42 for children (6-12).
  • All Inclusive Experience – General Admission + Priority Lane + One World Explorer Digital Skyline Guide + Flexible Arrival + $15 to shop and drink. Online tickets begin at $58 for adults and $52 for children (6-12).
  • VIP Tour Experience – General Admission + 60 minute guided tour + Escorted entry + $15 to shop and drink. Online tickets begin at $68 for adults and $62 for children (6-12).

How To Buy One World Observatory Tickets

There are many ways to purchase One World Observatory tickets. Compare prices on each platform before purchasing.

You can buy directly from the official One World Observatory website or onsite at One World Observatory.

Or you can purchase an entry ticket through:

Click on the links to compare reviews and prices for each platform.

We visited One World Observatory with our New York Sightseeing Pass which is the best New York City attraction pass for returning visitors. You may also consider a Go City New York Pass.

If this is your first visit to NYC and you are planning to visit the top attractions in New York, we would recommend the New York CityPASS as our top recommendation (but One World Observatory is not included on this NY attractions pass).

Read our detailed comparison to the New York attractions passes to help you decide which New York pass you should purchase for your visit to the Big Apple.

Travel Tip: If you purchase admission tickets through the One World Observatory official website, there is an additional $5 processing fee.

Reserve Your Time Slot

No matter how you purchase your tickets, we recommend you buy your tickets in advance. Sunset time slots at One World Observatory are extremely popular and can sell out.

If you are using one of the New York attraction passes, you will be able to reserve your time slot in advance or the pass will grant you instant entry.

Skypod Pass to One World Observatory in the One World Trade Center
Standard Skypod Pass tickets for the One World Observatory

Things To Do At One World Observatory

During your visit to One World Observatory, you will experience three different levels of observation decks as well as learn many interesting facts about what it took to build this impressive structure.

It is important to note this observation deck runs on a one way system. For example, you will begin on the 102nd floor and once you leave the 102nd floor, you will not be able to revisit the floor.

However, there is no time limit to how long you can stay at One World Observatory.

Below we will walk you through exactly what you should expect for your visit with a complete photo walk through of each floor and exhibit.

Woman standing in line at One World Observatory
Kristen waiting in line at main entrance

Ticket Entrance And Security

One World Observatory is open every day of the week from 9:00am – 9:00pm with last entry at 08:10pm, 7 days a week. But hours of operation may vary on holidays.

After showing your tickets at the main entrance, you will be led through security and your tour will begin with posing for photos which you will have the option to purchase later.

Many screens featuring the Horizon Grid at One World Trade Center
Multiple screens featuring the Horizon Grid

Horizon Grid Featuring Voices

Next, you will continue past the Horizon Grid featuring ‘Voices’ which showcases important and historic events from New York City.

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 and be sure to take a few minutes to listen to NYC’s voices.

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

The Foundations Room

As you continue walking, the next exhibit is known as the foundations room.

The entire exhibit is meant to resemble the bedrock on top of which most of New York City and One World Trade Center is built.

In the foundations room, the lights are dim and the area will resemble a cave. Don’t miss the facts about New York City projected on the walls.

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

Skypod Elevator Experience

The Skypod elevator experience in One World Observatory is easily the best elevator ride out of all New York City’s popular observation decks.

Once the elevator ride begins, you are rewarded with a visual history lesson originating with NYC’s wetlands, followed by the slow building of the New York City skyline over 300 years as you climb elevation.

The ride finally terminates on top of the modern day metropolis we know today. If you look closely, you will see many familiar buildings surrounding you.

Not only does this elevator ride win for having the best visual display, but the Skypod at one World Observatory is currently the fastest in the world. In just 47 seconds, you are transported to the 102nd floor.

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

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

102nd Floor And See Forever Theater

After your Skypod elevator ride, you will immediately step out onto the 102nd floor. This is where you will watch another short time-lapse video featuring New York City in the See Forever Theater.

The two minute video is a high tech audio and visual experience meant to enhance your first glimpse of the famous New York City 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!

Cafe in One World Trade Center at One World Observatory
Cafe and escalator down to the 100th floor

100th Floor Exhibits On The Discovery Level

Once the video is complete, you are lead down two flights of stairs to the 100th floor via a combination of stairs or escalator.

Take a moment to soak in the views. This is now the highest point the general public has access to in the Western Hemisphere.

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.

These are the views you have been waiting for as you peer through the 30 ft high windows stretching the entire floor.

Below we have listed the iconic sights you can expect to see from One World Observatory:

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

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 will be rewarded with a stream of live 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 nausea feeling when using the Sky Portal.

One World Explorer

Depending on the ticket you purchase, you will 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.

If this is your first time to NYC or you are visiting with kids, you may want to consider renting One World Explorer to help get acclimated to NYC.

There are two channels with One World Explorer:

  • Skyview Channel: Virtual helicopter ride to buildings along the NYC skyline
  • Restaurant Channel: Tour 10 of NYC’s most famous restaurants

No worries if you haven’t purchased One World Explorer with your original ticket because you can upgrade for an additional $10.

The City Pulse exhibit at One World Observatory
City Pulse exhibit with next showtime displayed

City Pulse

The City Pulse exhibit is led by ambassadors who want to give visitors more than just an observation deck. Be sure to stop by and watch a show.

At 100 stories up, this exhibit showcases the history of New York City driven by a human storyteller. Show times will be posted or you can ask staff when the next show is scheduled.

Empty seats at One Dine at One World Observatory
Empty seats and tables in One Dine at One World Observatory

One World Observatory Restaurants

If you want to grab something to eat and drink at One World Observatory you have three options.

But keep in mind, the dining level on the 101st floor is only accessible to visitors who have One World Observatory tickets.

  • One Dine: This restaurant offers a first class service along with gourmet cuisine serving a seasonally inspired menu with prime cuts of meat and fresh seafood. Reservations are recommended and the restaurant is open from 11:30am – 8:00pm.
  • One Cafe: Also known as Savoy Illy Caffe & Gelateria, this cafe serves 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 are in the mood for a cocktail, this is the perfect option. Enjoy views of the New York City skyline while sipping on a tasty cocktail. Seating at the bar is walk up only and space may be limited.
Manhattan street view from One World Observatory
Clouds and fog enveloping Manhattan

Best Time To Visit One World Observatory

The best time to visit One World Observatory is at sunset. This time of day will yield a gorgeous hue of colors in the sky as you watch the sun set over the Manhattan skyline.

If you have enough time in your NYC itinerary, we would recommend you wait for the sun to fully set and enjoy the nighttime views of the New York City skyline.

The summer months of June, July and August are peak season in NYC. Observation decks like One World Observatory are naturally going to be busier at this time of year.

We recommend visiting New York in Winter if you want to enjoy observation decks with no crowds. Alternatively, pick a shoulder season month, such as visiting New York April to benefit from better weather and fewer crowds.

 

Is One World Observatory Better At Day Or Night?

We visited One World Observatory at the first time slot right at 9:00am. Unfortunately, our itinerary did not allow a sunset visit but sunset is what we would have preferred.

However, the crowds early in the morning at One World Observatory were extremely small. This made our visit worth while because there were minimal people.

If you visit One World Observatory during the day, you will be able to see about 45 miles in the distance which includes many famous sights in New York City.

If you visit One World Observatory during the night, you will not be able to see as far in the distance, but you will be able to see the NYC skyline lit up at night.

But keep in mind, there is no outdoor viewing platform at One World Observatory so your photos may have a lot of glare at night due to the large windows.

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

Is One World Observatory Worth It?

Yes, One World Observatory is worth it because of its technology and history.

We have summited all five of New York City’s observation decks and while One World Observatory is not our favorite, we loved the history and elevator ride.

What makes One World Observatory unique is its height and the fact it is currently the only observation deck in lower Manhattan. The views are different compared to the other NYC observation decks.

One World Observatory also symbolizes for resilience. Because this building now stands as the tallest in the Western Hemisphere in an area of such tragedy and heartbreak, this just goes to show the strength of New York City and its people.

Is The World Trade Center Taller Than The Twin Towers?

Yes, the One World Trade Center is taller than the Twin Towers.

The new One World Trade Center is stands at 1,776 ft which pays tribute to the birth of the United States. The Twin Towers were 1,368 ft in height.

Tips For Visiting One World Observatory

Here are a few important tips to consider for your visit:

  • Purchase your tickets in advance – If you want to visit at the coveted sunset time, your best chance of getting tickets is purchasing them online and reserving your time slot.
  • Wear dark clothing – By wearing darker clothes, you will minimize glare against the windows so you can take better photos. Brighter colored clothes will reflect worse especially at night.
  • Early morning is less crowded – While sunset is the best time to visit for the views, it is the worst time to visit for the crowds. So if you want minimal crowds, visit early at 9:00am.
  • OWO is kid friendly – Strollers are allowed at One World Observatory and kids under 5 are admitted for free with a paid guardian.
  • You can decline the posed photos – If you do not want to purchase photos during your visit, feel free to politely decline any photos taken by staff at select locations.
Man and woman pointing to the State of Liberty from One World Observatory
Mark and Kristen enjoying the views from the top of One World Observatory

Our Overall Experience

While One World Observatory is not our favorite NYC observation deck in NYC, we do think it is worth visiting at least once.

Personally, we believe the elevator ride is one of the best in the city, but if you want the iconic NYC skyline view you see in the movies, visit one of the other observation decks in Midtown Manhattan.

One World Observatory would be worth visiting if you are a returning visitor to New York City or if you are extremely interested in the history of NYC.

Pros To Visiting One World Observatory

  • Best elevator ride out of all 5 NYC observation decks
  • Best views of the State of Liberty, Governor’s Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridge
  • Decent views of Hudson River and New Jersey (but Edge is better)
  • Highest observation deck in NYC
  • Only observation deck in Lower Manhattan
  • History of this building demonstrate resilience and strength
  • Modern day high tech experience 

Cons To Visiting One World Observatory

  • 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

One World Observatory Images

We enjoyed our visit to One World Observatory and took many photos.

Below, we will share some of the best photo spots along with our favorite photos.

Woman looking out the window of One World Trade Center
Kristen looking out at the Brooklyn Bridge
Fog and clouds covering the Manhattan skyline
Clouds and fog over Manhattan
State of the world and four fists at One World Trade Center
Symbols of strength at the entrance of One World Observatory
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 One World Observatory
View of the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge
Memorial Pool and Oculus view from the top pf One World Trade Center
View of the Memorial Pool directly down below (with some glare)
Sustainability exhibit at One World Observatory
Sustainability exhibit at One World Trade Center
Brooklyn Bridge view from One World Trade Center
Cloudy view of Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn

Is One World Observatory The Best Observation Deck In NYC?

Unfortunately, this answer depends on your preferences.

Below is a quick overview for the 5 New York City observation decks (including One World Observatory).

We understand you may not have time to visit each observation deck so it’s important to have all the facts before you make a decision about which one to visit.

  • Edge at Hudson Yards – New York’s highest outdoor sky deck with an optional City Climb experience taking you 1,200 ft above Manhattan.
  • Empire State Building – The most iconic observation deck filled with history and glamour. The 360 degree view of surrounding concrete buildings is stunning, but it’s the most expensive option.
  • SUMMIT One Vanderbilt – The newest addition to New York City’s high vantage points. But this is more than just an observation deck, it’s an entire experience.
  • Top Of The Rock – The shortest and unglamorous option from the outside, but in our opinion, the observation deck with the best view in all of New York City.
  • One World Observatory – The tallest observation deck with a different perspective to the others. But while you are closer to Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty, the sunset is much less impactful.

Can’t make up your mind about which NYC observation deck to visit? Don’t miss our popular guide to the best observation decks in New York City ranked with pros and cons.

A colorful art installation at One World Trade Center
Colorful art exhibit at One World Trade Center

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s take a look at some of the most asked questions regarding One World Observatory!

How Long Does A Visit To One World Observatory Last?

An average visit to One World Observatory lasts about 45 to 60 minutes. If you plan to take many photos, you may want to give yourself extra time.

Is The Freedom Tower The Same As One World Observatory?

Yes, the Freedom Tower is the same as One World Observatory. Unfortunately, the name was too emotional and prevented the rental spaces from being let out.

In 2009, the Port Authority changed the name to One World Observatory in order to make it easier for people identify with.

Can I Bring a Tripod To One World Observatory?

No, you can not bring a tripod or professional photographic equipment to One World Observatory. This also includes video cameras, recording devices and lights. DSLR cameras and flash pieces are permitted.

Is There A Restaurant At One World Observatory?

Yes, there is a restaurant at One World Observatory along with a cafe and cocktail bar.

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We hope this guide to One World Observatory helps with planning your visit to this NYC observation deck!

Please let us know if you have any questions about One World Observatory or New York City in the comments below.

Happy Summiting,

Mark and Kristen

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