The Freedom Tower, One World Trade Center, The World Trade Center Tower, or whatever else you want to call it, The tower is a symbol of resistance and freedom and looms large over everything in New York. The Tallest Building in the Western Hemisphere, the Tallest structure in New York, and a stunning piece of architecture. naturally being such a prominent and important structure people want to go to the top and the One World Observatory Observation Deck is the highest in the city, with stunning views out over Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the New York Bay.
However, there is a lot of competition for Observation decks in New York. There are now 5 separate decks, all offering their own unique take on the city. And while we would all love to try all of them, there are only so many hours in our trips, and at over $40 per deck it soon adds up meaning most people need to decide on 2 or 3 decks and making the right choice is tricky. So in this One World Observatory Review, we take a look at The Freedom Tower Observation Deck and show you exactly what to expect on your trip to the highest accessible point in New York City.
We look at the cost, how the deck compares to the other options, what we like about the One World Observatory and what is not so good, what to expect on your journey up there, and what the view is really like. Overall the deck is a real highlight of any trip to New York and definitely one for the list, but we take a really deep look into what it’s really like.
One World Observatory Review
- Height: 100–102nd floor – 1,268 feet Feet
- Cost – Standard: Adults: $43 – Child $37 (5 and Under – Free) – Live Prices
- Cost – Combination: Adults: $53 – Child $47 (5 and Under – Free) – Live Prices
- Cost – All Inclusive: Adults: $63 – Child $53 (5 and Under – Free) – Live Prices
- Location: One World Trade Center
- Prominent Landmarks: Midtown Manhatten, Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, and New York Bay
- Indoor or out: Indoor
*Booking Fees ($5 per order) not Included
When booking your experience you have a choice of 3 options, these all grant access to the same deck but have various additions.
- Adult – $43
- Child – $37 (6-12) (5 and Under – free)
The Standard Admission simply grants you access to the Deck and nothing more. You have the longest queues and no add-ins whatsoever. However on the whole this is by far the most popular. The Deck is the star of the show and just getting the simply staggering views is more than enough for some.
This is also the option included on the Attraction Passes. However, the issue here is you will only be able to book your slot on the day by visiting the Box Office, if you pre-book you can go straight to security. Sometimes the next available time can be a couple of hours away, and it is possible they will sell out so visit early and get your timed slot booked.
Although you can also upgrade to the other options below when visiting the Box-office to book your slot, meaning instant entry and access to the add-ons. Naturally for a fee.
- Adult – $53
- Child – $47 (6-12) (5 and Under – free)
The Combination entry gets you access to the priority queues and One World Explorer and Sky Explorer. On the whole, we found these to be of little value.
The Queues are usually fairly small and the priority lanes really did not save us much. The Sky Explorer was a real letdown and tbh it was just in our way and we ditched it pretty quickly. However, while you still have to book a time they are a bit looser with these so you can arrive pretty much whenever you want within a certain time window.
If you are visiting with a pass and the next available is inconvenient you can upgrade to this option for $15 and get straight up.
- Adult – $63
- Child – $57 (6-12) (5 and Under – free)
The All-Inclusive is more useful and offers all the extras of the combo ticket and a couple of other nice add-ons. You get fully flexible tickets meaning you can select morning or afternoon and then arrive anytime in that period. You also get $15 to spend in the cafe, bar, restaurant, or gift shop.
The Flexible time is really nice as you don’t have to plan your day too rigidly. You also get $15 to spend upstairs and with the ticket costing $10 more, that is a nice little freebie! We look at the bar and restaurant later on but it’s really nice to get a drink or snack when on top of New York, so getting more for your money is nice.
Again if you are using a pass you can bump your ticket up to this level and also get the $15 for $10 more, this is really worth it if you are upgrading mainly to get instant entry.
We do advise booking in advance as the walk-up tickets suffer the same issue you get with using a pass, in that the next available can be quite inconvenient, but by walking up you miss out on the cost-saving a pass offers. You can book tickets directly or try our booking partner Tiqets, these are a few $ cheaper and there is no $5 booking fee.
However, if you want to bag really cheap tickets to the One World Observatory then definitely consider an Attraction Pass. With a pass in your pocket (or more accurately on your phone) you can save over 50% on New York attractions and really see more of the City than you would without.
The One World Observatory is included on most New York Passes but our two go-to passes are the following:
Journey to the Top of the Freedom Tower
If you have a Pass or need a ticket then after entering the building on the west side of the building head straight to the Box Office in front of you. If you already have a ticker head down the escalator to security.
Queues here can be large but there are several screening stations that will scan your bags and make sure you are not taking up anything you shouldn’t. They are really strict here and this is the only place they have taken my gorilla tripod off me!
You then head off through a walk-through exhibit explaining the construction of the tower, and how the bedrock is able to support such a massive structure. It’s all quite informative and well presented as you get to actually pass between the rock sections.
You then enter the Elevator queue which for us was really short. There was no sign of the Skip the Queue or Priority Lanes, but there were not needed.
The Elevator to the top is really fast and smooth, you really can barely tell you are in an elevator. The walls of the Elevator are large digital screens that show a short movie about the history of Manhattan, starting with the area being marshland and quickly building up as you rise up into the air with the Freedom Tower finally constructing itself around you! It’s really impressive and slick. Next up is the see forever theater.
See Forever Theatre
The first time we witness this short film was quite an eye-opener. The wall in front of you plays host to a short movie about New York, it’s not that great and we tried to leave early the first time, but stick around as there is an amazing ending that will literally take your breath away. We won’t spoil it, but this is one of the coolest parts of any of New Yorks Observation Decks.
The Observation Deck
You are now on the 102nd Floor and one of the highest points in Manhattan, but now you have to head down two floors to get to the main deck which is a bit odd! This means while this is technically the highest Deck in the City, much of it is actually lower than the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building.
On the way down you get given your One World Explorer assuming you have an upgraded ticket. However, we found everyone was being given an Explorer regardless of ticket type.
The One World Explorer is a large IPad style Device, which tracks your location and orientation as you move around the Observatory. It really is quite neat, and the view on the Explorer Matches the view you are looking at like kind of augmented reality. This means you can click points of interest on the explorer and read more about what you are looking at. We quickly found it annoying and we just had our hands full and soon ditched it. However we are pretty good at knowing what we are looking at, fort timers to new york might find this useful.
The Deck itself is a 360° wraparound of the entire building. The windows are floor-to-ceiling and actually span two floors in places. As you walk around the Deck you are walking around the entire building with views out over the whole of Manhattan.
The Deck is higher than all the other decks in the City but on paper, it’s not by that much and you don’t think you will really notice, but actually, you do, as the Deck really feels a lot higher than the others. You just get that feeling you really are awfully high up.
The View is however not as good as some of the competition. Midtown just feels a bit too far away. The scale of the building is lost slightly and the perspective of the City is just watered down. It’s a victim of its own success, being so tall everything else is just a bit small.
The view out over the New York bay is pretty awesome and it’s the only deck with a worthwhile view of the Statue. You also get nice views of Brooklyn and the Bridges as they cross the east river.
The View is still really awesome, it’s just not as epic as some of the other decks. It offers a more overview style view of the City, you can appreciate the block system and the endless concrete sprawl, but compared to The Top of The Rock or The Summit, it’s just not quite as recognizable!
The View is also let down by being indoors. This is mainly a Photographer’s gripe, but even people hoping to get nice personal shots can be frustrated by dirty windows and awkward reflections. The windows are also tinted so natural colors are hard to achieve.
The enclosed nature also takes away a little of the excitement of visiting a high deck. Even the lowly Top Of The Rock feels pretty exhilarating with the breeze in your hair and the noise of the city below. The One World Observatory feels a little sterile!
However, this is also a double-edged sword and the inside nature of the deck has a couple of benefits. It is without a doubt a lot warmer than the outdoor decks: when the wind blows in New York in winter it can be fiercely cold. When it’s blowing at 1000ft it’s positively arctic! This is no issue in the wonderfully climate-controlled environment of the One World Observatory.
It is also a little more friendly to those who are nervous about heights. Of all the decks the One World is the least likely to induce a reaction to fear of heights. The indoor nature and the large windows that you don’t really have to go too near to get a good view all help with keeping fears at bay. People with an extreme fear may still get a reaction, but if the One World Observatory provokes fear you can be damn sure the other will, and the same cannot be said the other way round.
Is the One World Observatory Worth It Then?
We don’t want to wrap this up on a sour note as really the view is completely stunning. New York City looks breathtaking from any angle and the good thing is this is a really different view of the City.
With the Top Of The Rock and Summit, which both view the best views they are both pretty similar, and even the Empire State and Edge showcase similar aspects of the City. Only the One World Observatory really turns the view on its head!
Basically, if we were only planning on visiting one Observation Deck it would not be this one! It is not the best in the City and does not conjure up the same magic as the others. BUT, it rides really high on the list and if you are visiting 2 or 3 decks it makes a STRONG case.
The fact it also fits REALLY nicely in with a Downtown day, something that is an essential part of any New York Itinerary, makes it a real contender. You really shouldn’t visit the WTC and not head up to the top of Freedom Tower!
One Dine At One World Observatory
One of the things we disliked about the classic decks, Top Of The Rock and The Empire State was the lack of amenities. Once you are up there you are kind of on your own. Sure, there are toilets and water fountains but that is about all. This makes them a dash-and-go activity. We like to linger and take things in, but with nothing to do but take in the view and snap a few pics, there is little reason to linger for too long. The One World Observatory fixes this issue by offering several dining options.
There is a basic cafe, offering basic snack items, sandwiches, and such, along with canned and bottled drinks (including alcohol). If you have purchased the top package you have $15 to spend here and that goes pretty far!
Then upstairs is the One Dine restaurant. A full-scale dining experience with a good range of entrees, sharing plates, and a full bar. We actually have not eaten at the restaurant, but heard really good things. But we do love grabbing a drink at the bar. They do amazing cocktails and have pretty reasonable prices considering you have one of the best views of any bar in the City.
Again you can use your $15 voucher here and it easily covers your first drink along with a good chunk of your second.
The One World Observatory is a really different experience from the other decks and it’s one we are really fond of. We simply love taking a step back and enjoying a relaxing drink in one of the highest points of the City. The views, while not as iconic are still simply staggering.
We also really find it just fits in perfectly with our perfect downtown day, early morning visiting the Statue of Liberty, then the WTC including the Observatory and the Museum, before heading over to Brooklyn and Dumbo and walking back across the bridge.
We find this outlier status makes the One World observatory nearly unmissable and the real competition is between which Midtown Decks to Visit!
Remember to consider a New York Attraction Pass if you are planning on visiting multiple New York Attractions!
Have Your Say
Have you visited the One World Observatory? How did you find the experience? What did you make of the view? Did you find the glass detracting from the experience? Did you check out the dining options? What package did you purchase? Let us know in the comments and if you have any other questions just fire away.