I always love traveling to landmarks with great views of their respective cities. Whether it’s the Space Needle in Seattle, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Empire State Building/Top of the Rock in NYC, or the Tower of the Americas in San Antonio, I make time in my schedule to visit so I can get a unique perspective of the city. The One World Observatory, located in lower Manhattan, has fantastic views of the city, and is also a special place in the history of NYC. Thinking of visiting? Here’s our One World Observatory review, as well as tips for your visit.
Our tickets for the One World Observatory were provided at no cost by Exclusive Resorts as part of our hosted stay. All opinions are our own. This post contains affiliate links. A purchase through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us.
One World Observatory Review
The One World Observatory is located on the top of the 1,776 foot tall One World Trade Center Building on floor 100, 101, and 102. The building, which is now the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, is used as an office building, but there’s a separate entrance for guests to the observatory.
The Freedom Tower is in Lower Manhattan, across from the Westfield World Trade Center shopping center and Battery Park City Park. While the actual observatory doesn’t contain the 9/11 Memorial, it’s adjacent to it.
Ticket to the One World Observatory
When purchasing tickets, you’ll find several options. Standard reserved is the basic option. With that, you’ll choose the time that you want to visit, and will get in the regular line. You’ll have access to all of the amenities, but will need to wait in the regular line before proceeding up to the Skypods. Depending on the time of day, the line could get long.
If you are in a hurry, or prefer not to wait in line, the Priority Access Reserved option is a better choice. With that, you’ll choose your arrival time, just like with the standard ticket. However, when you arrive, you’ll be able to go through the Priority Access security line. These are the tickets that we had during our visit. There was no line at all, and we were in the Sky Pod and up to the 102nd floor in no time at all. It’s a great way to save time, especially if you have other things that you want to do during your visit to New York City.
Prefer to arrive at your convenience? The Priority Anytime option allows you to arrive at any time that is convenient to you. Tickets are valid for 6 months from the date of purchase. There’s also an option called Day Flex where you can choose the day and arrive anytime during that day, and a slightly less expensive Sunset Flex. With that flex pass option, you can arrive anytime after 3pm.
With all of these different ticket options, you’ll really want to think about when you plan to attend and how much time you have to dedicate to your visit. You’ll pay more money for some of these tickets, but they can be worth it if you don’t have lots of time to wait in line. The skip the line ticket can give you the time you need to visit another attraction.
If you are looking for a One World Observatory discount, you may be in luck. Admission is included with a TurboPass. If you are planning on other New York City family activities, that could be a great option. There’s also a discount available with Mastercard. If you carry one of those cards, definitely check to see if you are eligible for a discount.
What You’ll See at the One World Observatory
There’s a separate entrance in the building just for observatory guests. Walk around the building until you find that specific entrance. You can purchase tickets right there at the entrance, but I’d definitely recommend booking your tickets in advance. Since the majority of tickets are timed, it’s best to reserve early to guarantee your preferred time. When we visited in August, the line to purchase tickets was quite long and we were thankful to have timed skip the line tickets.
After you go through security, you’ll find The Global Welcome Center. Because we had Priority Access tickets, we went right into the SkyPod elevator once we cleared security and skipped the welcome center. I didn’t feel that we missed anything, however.
The SkyPods, which are express elevators that go directly to the observation decks, are so much fun. During your ride up, you’ll see how the city has changed over the years – from open land, to smaller buildings, to the skyscrapers that you see today. It’s really interesting to see. The whole trip up to the top takes less than one minute.
Once we arrived at the deck, we went into the See Forever Theater. Here, you just stand along the sides and watch a brief multimedia presentation. Then, the walls open, presenting you with your first incredible view of the city. It’s pretty surreal.
Then, you are led to the 102nd floor. We stopped at the restroom, and then were presented with the opportunity to rent an iPad with helicopter tours for an additional fee. These are available in ten different languages. We didn’t rent one but saw quite a few people with them. If you’d like to add to your experience, it may be worth renting one.
From there, we were able to walk around the observatory to see the sites of New York with 360-degree views. We loved seeing the Statue of Liberty from that vantage point! There’s also the Sky Portal – a glass floor with direct images from a live camera pointed down. Views from the observatory are through glass. You won’t be outside at all.
If you are wondering what else to do in New York City with kids, the City Pulse presentation can help you learn about your options. It’s completely optional, and while we skipped it, I saw a bunch of people watching it. During the presentation, they showcase some of the other things to do in New York City during your visit.
Restaurants at the One World Observatory
There are three different dining venues at the top, including ONE Dine (make reservations in advance), ONE Cafe, and ONE Mix. You do need tickets to the One World Observatory in order to eat at any of the restaurants. We didn’t eat at the top, however. Instead, we went across to the Westfield World Trade Center, and ate at Parm.
There’s also a gift shop offering One World Observatory merchandise. It’s a small shop, but there’s a lot available to purchase.
Once you are ready to go back down, you’ll get in line for a SkyPod elevator. If you had Priority Access, there’s also another separate line at the top to go down. Make sure that you’ve taken all of the photos you want and have seen everything. We did two loops around to make sure that we were completely done before heading back down to ground level.
Overall, our trip to One World Observatory took about an hour. You could definitely spend more time, especially if you rent an iPad, have to wait in line for a while, or plan to eat at the top.
It’s also quite a distance from Midtown Manhattan, so plan accordingly. It took us over 30 minutes in an Uber to get from Midtown to lower Manhattan. If you have a timed ticket, you’ll want to make sure you plan for enough transportation time.
Parking isn’t convenient in this area, so you’ll probably want to take public transportation, a car, or a ride share service.
Frequently Asked Questions about the One World Observatory
Can you arrive at One World Observatory without tickets?
It may be possible, but I’d definitely recommend getting your timed tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.
Are strollers allowed at One World Observatory?
You can bring them, but you may need to fold them during part of your visit.
Are lockers available to store personal items?
There are no lockers, so you’ll want to make sure you only travel with items that you are allowed to take up with you.
Can guests also visit the 9/11 Museum as part of the visit to the One World Observatory?
The museum is located right next to the Freedom Tour. However, they aren’t affiliated so you’ll need to purchase separate admission. I think they could both easily be done in a day if you plan accordingly.
To learn more or purchase tickets directly, visit their website.