Is One World Observatory Worth It? What Do You See From One World Observatory

Is One World Observatory Worth It? What Do You See From One World Observatory

Wondering what the views look like from One World Observatory and if it’s worth visiting? This One World Observatory guide reviews all aspects of this observatory, from the elevator to the views to other experiences.

One World Observatory is the observatory located between 100 and 102nd floor in the One World Trade Center (otherwise known as the Freedom Tower) in the financial district of Manhattan. It is an unmissable experience on any New York City itinerary and bucket list.

Standing as the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, you can bet you can see a lot from One World Observatory. But you may wonder how One World Observatory compares to the other New York City observatories like Edge and Summit and what you actually see and experience inside One World Observatory.

Well this post will answer all of your questions on One World Observatory, including how to get there, what tickets to get, best time to visit and ultimately, if the One World observatory is worth visiting.

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A Brief History of One World Trade Center

Before One World Trade Center, New York City had the famous Twin Towers (Two World Trade Center which was the South Tower and One World Trade Center which was the North Tower). The Twin Towers were 2 of the 7 buildings in the World Trade Center commercial complex.

September 11, 2001 the al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked 4 airplanes within the United States and crashed two of them into the twin towers. Both towers collapsed, killing thousands of people and left a permanent mark in New York City.

10 years later, on September 11th, 2011, the 911 Memorial opened where the Twin Towers used to be. The 911 Memorial consists of two large pools with 30 feet waterfalls cascading into two “reflections pools”. Carved onto the walls circling the 4 sides of each pool were names of victims that perished during the 911 terrorist attack.

In addition to the 911 Memorial and Museum, the One World Trade Center (also known as the Freedom Tower) opened on November 3, 2014, making it the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere at 1776 feet (541 meters including its spire). The One World Observatory opened to the public a few months later, on May 29, 2015. It is the tallest observatory in New York City.

How to get to One World Observatory

One World Observatory (or the World Trade Center since that is the building) is located in downtown New York City in the Financial District. If you look at a map of Manhattan, downtown is the bottom area of Manhattan, near the water.

The address of One World Observatory is 117 West St, New York. It is super easy to get to One World Observatory by the subway, public bus, the Path Train (from New Jersey), taxi, or a hop on hop off bus (downtown loop).

One World Trade Center by Subway

There are several subway stations (and subway lines) that go to World Trade Center:

  • E Train: World Trade Center stop (the last stop on the E Train basically)
  • R, W Train: Cortlandt St
  • 4, 5 Train: Fulton St
  • 2, 3 Train: Park Place

The E, R and W trains are the closest stops to the actual World Trade Center, but the other subway lines I mentioned above are only a block or more further.

Keep in mind that New York City Subway has a flat fee of $2.90 per ride regardless of distance, and you can just use Apple Pay, Google Pay or a contactless card to tap the OMNY reader to get into the station (or you can always buy a MetroCard at the station).

The best way to navigate the subway in New York City is to use the CityMapper app. Google Maps also works but as a New Yorker, I find CityMapper far superior than Google Maps when it comes to the subway and bus because it gives you a more accurate countdown of when the next train will come and whether you should be in the front, middle or back of the train.

One World Trade Center by MTA Bus (public bus)

If you are scared of taking the subway, then you can take public MTA buses to a station nearby. Again, use CityMapper and/or Google Maps to navigate. You can use Apple Pay, Google Pay or contactless card to pay for the bus on the bus. It’s also $2.90 per ride.

Getting to One World Trade by PATH Train (From New Jersey)

If you are in New Jersey, you can take the PATH Train to the World Trade Center. PATH Train is not part of the New York City subway system, so you will need to pay for a different ticket.

The PATH Train is safe and convenient (and much cleaner than the New York City subway). I used to take the PATH Train from the Oculus all the time.

Hop on Hop Off bus to World Trade Center

If you take a Hop on Hop Off bus in New York City, depending on the route, all the downtown buses will stop by World Trade Center since it is such a popular tourist spot.

Did you know that if you have a Go City Explorer Pass or a New York Pass, both hop on hop off bus and the One World Observatory tickets are included for free?

Finding the Entrance of One World Observatory

There are two ways to find the entrance to the One World Observatory, outside and inside.

The Outside Entrance of One World Observatory

The outside entrance is just what the address says, on West St. If you are taking the E train like I did, you will exit to the front of the train, pass by the Starbucks inside, take the escalator up and leave the building.

How to get to One World Trade Center and One World Observatory on the subway
Getting off the E Train at World Trade Center

Once you leave the building where you get off the E train at World Trade Center, turn left and walk towards the One World Trade Center Building. Continue walking down Vesey St then turn left on West St. You will probably see people lining up outside on West St. waiting to go inside.

Note that you cannot just go into any door at One World Trade Center, the guards will tell you to go to West Street to enter One World Trade Center.

The Inside Entrance of One World Observatory Through the Oculus

You can enter One World Observatory from the Oculus also. This is a great option if you are coming from the PATH Train (since the PATH Train actually stops inside the Oculus).

If you are in the Oculus, walk towards the PATH Train entrance in the West Concourse (it’s so big you won’t miss it). Once you are near the PATH Train, you will see stairs and escalators to go up stairs to different levels.

Take the right escalator (if you are facing the PATH entrance) to go up. You should also see signs pointing to “One World Observatory”. Once up one level, just follow the path (it looks like you are under the ribs of a dragon) and walk all the way towards the end until you reach One World Trade Center door.

If you enter from the Oculus on the inside, you will already be at the level where the security check is.

You can always ask someone for directions if you get lost, but both ways are easy to get to the entrance of One World Observatory.

One World Observatory Opening Hours

One World Observatory view of Empire State Building

One World Observatory has seasonal hours, with longer hours (opening earlier and closing later) during the summer and shorter hours in the winter and spring.

When I visited in December, the opening hours were 10am to 7pm daily. During the peak holiday week from December 22 to December 31, it opens at 9am.

It’s open from 11am on Christmas day and 12pm on January 1 New Year’s day.

Be sure to check the official website for actual hours of operations.

Cost of One World Observatory Tickets

There are 4 different ticket options for One World Observatory on its official website:

  • General Admission: $44 with just views, no skip the line option. You have to pick a specific day and time to enter
  • Upgraded Experience Tickets: $54 with priority entry and One World Explorer iPad. You have to pick a specific day and time to enter
  • All Inclusive Tickets: $64 with all of the above, plus flexible arrival (no need to pick a time, you can go whenever) and $15 credit at the cafe, bar, restaurant or gift shop
  • VIP Tour Tickets: $74, with all of the above and escorted entry into the observatory and a 60 minute guided tour to learn about the famous landmarks of New York City

I actually got my tickets from Getyourguide with skip the line privilege, for the same price as the general admission on the official website. I was able to get into the priority entry without paying for the Upgraded Experience so I highly recommend getting it from GetYourGuide.

When I visited at opening time, there was already a line outside and inside. Without the skip the line privilege, I probably would’ve had to wait an extra 10 to 15 minutes. So I’m pretty happy with the ticket I got without paying extra to use the Priority Lane.

Keep in mind that the Go City Explorer Pass and New York Pass both include One World Observatory general admission and a discount on the Go City specialty cocktail.

The Three Floors at One World Observatory

The entire One World Observatory covers 3 floors, from floor 100 to 102.

Floor 102: You get off the elevator at floor 102 to see the Forever Theater and rent the iPad guide.

Floor 101: This is where the Illy Cafe and ONE Dine (restaurant) and ONE Mix (bar) are located. The official photo taking service and iPad rental is also on floor 101.

Floor 100: This is where the actual observatory is located, as well as City Pulse. From Floor 100 you have an unobstructed 360 degree view of the area.

One World Observatory Experience and What to Expect

This is entirely based on my experience and your experience visiting One World Observatory may be different. But in case you are curious about what to expect at One World Observatory to decide whether it’s worth visiting or not, I hope this will give you some ideas on what you will actually see from One World Observatory.

Ticketing and Security

I opted for the opening time slot since I thought going early would be less crowded. When I got to the West St. entrance 10 minutes before opening there was already a line of people waiting. But the line was not super long (the line was way worse BEFORE opening at Summit One and Top of the Rock).

With my ticket from getyourguide, I had skipped the line privilege so the security guard let me in without waiting in line.

Once you are at the outdoor entrance on West St, you generally have to wait in line and there is a ticket office immediately inside the building. Or you can go directly down the escalator to one level below to either buy your tickets there or just wait in line to go through a security check.

One World Observatory entrance

For security check there are also two lines, one for standard admission ticket holders and a “priority access” lane for those with upgraded tickets and my skip the line ticket. They would let people in the priority access line enter the security check before letting others in, saving you 10-20 minutes of waiting.

Photo of inside One World Observatory : security check

Global Welcome Center

NYC One World Observatory Global Welcome Center

You can see this large LED display while going through security but this digital display is the global welcome center, where it visually displays data of where all the registered guests are from globally.

The display is apparently the largest curved indoor LED in the world. Since they fenced it off you can’t really get that close to or touch the screen.

Horizon Grid

One World observatory horizon grid

After you walk past the Global Welcome Center you will come to a dark “tunnel” with 145 screens on the right hand side called the Horizon Grid. When I was there, these blocks of screens showed animated versions of landmarks across the globe, such as the Big Ben in London and the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

One World Observatory Elevator (SkyPod)

Soon you will arrive at the Skypod elevator bank. There are multiple elevators that take you up 102 floors in 47 seconds.

Once you are in the elevator, there is a digital display on all 3 walls of the elevator, showing you the transformation of New York City “from then to now”. The displays are dazzling so you won’t even notice how fast the elevator is until you reach the 102nd floor.

Unfortunately you most likely will be sharing the elevator with a ton of other tourists, so it’s really hard to just stand back and see the whole “show”. However when I came down the elevator I was the only one and there was a completely different display on the ride down.

One World Observatory See Forever Theater

Once you get off the elevator on the 102nd floor, you will be greeted by the See Forever Theater. The horizontal “theater” shows you different aspects of life in New York City from different iconic landmarks to the NYC subway to everyday life on the street. It really makes you feel how awesome New York City is.

At the very end of the show, the screens lift up and an amazing view of Manhattan is revealed before your eyes (for about 10 seconds).

One World See Forever Theater horizontal view

One World Explorer iPad Guide

After you leave the See Forever Theater, you will be greeted by staff members checking your tickets and giving you the option to rent the One World Explorer iPad for $15. You only pay for this if your ticket does not already include the iPad.

This iPad guide essentially allows you to take the iPad with you inside the observatory and shows you what buildings you are looking at and gives you some background and insights on the things you are looking at.

I didn’t rent it since I’m from New York City and already know most of the iconic buildings. But I can see the appeal if you are a tourist and want to understand more of what you are looking at.

Food and Drinks at One World Observatory

One World Illy Cafe

After walking by the iPad table, you will now go down the escalator to floor 101. On this floor there is the illy cafe, ONE Mix (bar) and ONE Dine, the famous restaurant in One World.

The Illy Cafe is open when the observatory opens but the ONE Dine restaurant is only open from noon and you probably need to make a reservation. Tickets to One World Observatory are required for you to access the restaurant.

One World One Dine restaurant

As you can imagine, eating in One World Observatory is not cheap. The menu items range from $15 to $50 depending on what you order. I did not eat there so I can’t comment on how tasty the food is. But if you buy the VIP ticket or the All Inclusive Ticket you get a $15 credit to use here.

Photo Station and Photo Package Cost at One World Observatory

After the restaurant you will come across the official photo taking spot. The price of photo packages are as follows:

  • One printed photo: $25
  • Two printed photos: $35
  • Digital Only copies: $30

Finally after the photos, you will go down to Floor 100 for the actual observatory and the views!

Discovery Level and Views from One World Observatory

Floor 100 is where you will find a 360 degree view of New York City from One World Observatory.

The space is quite empty and in the middle you will see Skyportal, City Pulse, One World store, and ONE Sip, a drinks vendor (it was not open when I visited).

The Skyportal is a screen on the ground showing you what you would see 100 floors below you if the floor was transparent. It’s not actual glass you are stepping on so anyone (even those with fear of heights) can do it. To be honest I found this pretty underwhelming.

One World Skyportal

One World Skyportal view

City Pulse is the giant circle thing with screens you see while facing South. This is an interactive presentation that tells you about New York City’s neighborhoods and famous landmarks.

As you walk around this floor, you will also see a pressed penny collectibles machine, photo package station where you can purchase your photos and the official store.

Views from One World Observatory

Now comes the most important question you may have: what do you actually see from the One World Observatory?

Since the tower is uniquely positioned in downtown (the most southern area of Manhattan), you can expect to see the entire Manhattan midtown, Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, New Jersey, Governor’s Island and of course the Statue of Liberty.

One World Observatory is the only observatory where you can see the Statue of Liberty clearly. You can sort of see the Statue of Liberty from the Edge but it is really small since Edge is further north.

To prevent visitors from sitting on the vent, One World Observatory has these skyline shaped things placed on the vent so you can’t sit or step on it, making it impossible to sit or stand right against the glass.

On the floor there are direction indicators that show what direction you are looking at.

Personally I loved the view of the Brooklyn Bridge from One World Observatory, but I find the view of midtown a bit too small since it is pretty far from the observatory.

Other things to know before visiting One World Observatory

  • Go early if you want to avoid huge lines and people. By early I mean get there 10-15 minutes before opening. Also aim to go on a weekday to avoid the crowd.
  • Book your skip the line ticket on getyourguide. You pay the same price as standard admission from the official website but you can use priority lane
  • You probably will spend about an hour inside unless you plan to eat there. I didn’t find the observatory itself to have too many things to do honestly
  • One World Observatory is good for view of downtown, but it is not a place where you can get Instagram worthy shots of yourself like you do with some of the other observatories in New York City
  • There is no outdoor space at One World Observatory
  • You need to go on a clear day. When I visited it was hazy so the view was not as stunning as it would be if it was perfectly clear. Definitely do not go on a rainy day, you won’t be able to see anything!

How does One World Observatory Compare to other Observatories in New York City?

One World Observatory vs. The Edge

The Edge is one of the most popular observatories in New York City. It has a large outdoor space and an indoor space with a bar. The Edge has seasonal decorations throughout the year whereas One World Observatory doesn’t have any.

The One World Observatory is taller than The Edge and it has a much better view of the Statue of Liberty, downtown Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge.

If you want the whole outdoor experience I would say the Edge wins, but if you are looking for specific views of downtown or if you are already in the 911 Memorial area then One World Observatory is a better choice.

Also, One World Observatory is not as crowded as the Edge and there is a larger and more empty indoor space at One World.

One World Observatory vs. Summit One

One World Observatory is taller than Summit One but Summit One is a much more interactive observatory with its viral balloon room and mirror rooms.

One World Observatory has a much closer view of the Empire State Building and Midtown but you cannot see much of the Brooklyn Bridge or Statue of Liberty from Summit One.

Read Next: Complete Guide to Summit One Vanderbilt

One World Observatory vs. Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center has the most classic view of New York City, with the Empire State Building on one side and Central Park on the other side. Rockefeller Center also has an outdoor area and is great for Instagram worthy photos.

However there are already 4 observatories in Midtown and One World is the only one in downtown, therefore you can expect completely different views.

Is One World Observatory Worth It?

If you are spending time in downtown Manhattan visiting 911 Memorial and Wall Street, I think One World Observatory is worth stopping by since it is right there.

Also, if you have either the New York Explorer Pass or the New York Pass, then you should definitely visit One World while in the area since it is included on those passes.

One World Observatory is also worth it if you want to see the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. No other observatories can give you a better view of these two landmarks.

I find One World Observatory very educational, from iPad guides to City Pulse presentations. If you want to learn more about New York City I think One World Observatory is the best observatory for that.

However the One World Observatory is not worth it for you if:

  • You have limited time and plan to just stay in midtown
  • You want outdoor space
  • You care a lot about Instagram worthy photos of yourself
  • You want the classic view of Empire State Building or Central Park

Ultimately whether One World Observatory is worth it or not depends on your budget, amount of time in New York City, and what view you want to see.

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