One World Observatory Now Open to the Public
It took eleven years to build, which sometimes seemed like forever. Especially that first half decade or so when there was just that monster hole in the ground, and the construction process was more about meetings and arguments than the actual laying of steel. And then, after a burst of building, all of a sudden One World Trade Center was done, with the first tenants moving in last fall, and, last week, the One World Observatory on the 100th, 101st, and 102nd floors–the piece that the rest of us were waiting for–opened to the public. As expected, tens of thousands of tourists eagerly plunked down at least $32 for the privilege of seeing for miles in all directions on opening weekend, but there were plenty of locals in the crowd as well, including myself. Here's my report.
World Class Views
First, the payoff. Unsurprisingly, the views here are spectacular (depending upon haze and clouds of course), and they've done an excellent job at the Main Observatory on the 100th floor of offering complete-360-degree vistas with enough windows that, even though it was definitely packed with people, I never felt like I had to wait to see something, or that I was being blocked somehow. You want to get right up to the window looking out into each of the four primary directions, and that wasn't a problem even for a moment. Of course I wish there was an open-air option, both so you could really FEEL how high up you are, and also because the reflections on the glass and severe backlighting make certain photographs difficult. Notably: getting people (or a selfie) in front of the city sprawled out to the horizon; and any shot looking straight down. That said, the photos you see here and everywhere else, though cool, don't really do it justice. There's almost literally no end to the details to absorb, and it can inspire a whole host of conversations about the history of the city, and urban planning in general, if you're with a like-minded sort of companion.
Tickets & Schedule
As far the logistics go, the regular $32 tickets to get into One World Observatory are timed, parsing out groups throughout the day (and night) into 15-minute intervals. So although there have been huge lines outside the entrance, there's really no need for you to wait on one. There's no advantage to going in at the front of your group's line as opposed to the back of your group's line, because once you get inside the building there will be the same amount of people in front of you to get through security, and then onto the elevators. This part of your journey takes the same amount time–about 15 to 20 minutes–no matter when you enter (unless of course you're in the first group of the day), so don't get there early and, if they're running behind (as they were on opening day, about 45 minutes), don't join your group on line. Just hang out on a shady bench or go wander around the 9/11 Memorial until they call your time. This is also why I would advise against the pricey–as high as $90 each!"–"expedited entry" ticket options, because everyone has to go through the same procedure once inside. Oh and don't enter hungry: the casual cafe food looks terrible, and costs a lot of money; and the bar and sit-down restaurant had an hour-long wait (and were also expensive).
How & When to Go
One World Observatory is located at 285 Fulton Street, though the entrance faces West Street. The Observatory will be open until 12:00 midnight all summer long, then only until 8:00 after Labor Day, so if you want to go at night (and I definitely do), don't wait.