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What to Expect When Visiting One World Observatory with Your Family

What to Expect When Visiting One World Observatory with Your Family

The best-kept secrets of exploring One World Trade Center, a New York City landmark site located in the Financial District.

One World Observatory, located in One World Trade Center in the Financial District, is a fun-filled, interactive way to spend the day with your family. The observatory is a part of the newly developed World Trade Center, which is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. One World Observatory offers a viewing experience like no other and is a great place for families to spend hours exploring and interacting with NYC through an educational, historical, innovative, and imaginative lens. It’s more than just a view, it’s “an experience above,” as OWO says.

One World Trade Center is the largest building in a collection of seven buildings that will be coined as The World Trade Center. The area, once known as Ground Zero following the attacks of Sept. 11, is now a 16-acre site that includes the National September 11 Memorial & Museum standing in place of the former Twin Towers. One World Observatory is a part of a project to rebuild the feeling of freedom in New York City, rising 1,776 feet above ground, in reference to the year the Declaration of Independence was signed. One World Observatory is not meant to educate visitors of New York City’s past, but shed a light on its inspiring future.

On the Way to the Top

The best part about visiting One World Observatory? It’s super family-friendly, even when it comes to buying tickets. When you purchase tickets online, you can choose a date and time to enter the Observatory, which cuts down on the time you’ll wait to get in with your little ones (don’t you sometimes wish this was an option wherever you went?).

Once you enter the Observatory, there is so much to do and see before you even get to the view on the 102nd floor. The developers understand there is much more beyond the view, and they translate that to visitors through education, an interactive experience, visual art and technology, and pure fun!

The large screen at the Global Welcome Center’s entry point shows the cities of origin of visitors in real time. You’ll see a visual statistics map of how many visitors have been to the observatory and the countries they’re from, making you immediately feel welcome—and give your kids (and you) a sense of wonder at how big a melting pot New York City really is.

You’re then ushered through Voices, which are recorded stories from the engineers and architects who built One World Trade. Plus, you’ll see images and videos from construction workers that can only be seen at the Observatory. Guests continue through the cave-like pathway, which is designed to make you feel like you’re below ground at bedrock in Foundations. Facts about the building are displayed to accomplish its main goal: to make visitors feel safe within the 45,000 tons of steel that is One World Trade Center.

Next, your brood will enter one of the SkyPods, state-of-the-art elevators that display a time-lapse video of NYC being built from the ground up over the course of more than 500 years (the Twin Towers even make an appearance). You’ll travel 1,250 feet in 47 seconds. And the experience doesn’t end after you turn away from the view: The descent trip on the SkyPod shows the exterior of One World Trade Center, giving the illusion that you’re flying down to the ground.

sky pod at one world observatory

When you’re ready to head up to the Observatory, you’ll board a SkyPod, a state-of-the-art elevator that displays a time-lapse video of New York City being built.

Upon arriving to the 102nd floor, you’ll make a stop into the See Forever Theater to watch a 2-minute video depicting the pace at which New Yorker’s experience the city—and catch your first glimpse of the skyline. Don’t miss the special jaw-dropping surprise at the end!

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The View from Above

Now for the part that you and the whole family have been waiting for: the view of New York City and beyond from One World Observatory. If you learned anything along your journey up, the Observatory does everything in its power to make sure your family has fun through every step of the experience. The ultimate sky-high viewing experience is filled with photo-ops, education, and hands-on interactive fun!

Visitors can see 30 miles of impeccable and breathtaking 360-degree views from the Observatory. And in the case that poor weather spoils your view, OWO will issue you a new ticket to come back on a clear day as part of its See Forever Commitment! See if your kids can spot the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, or Battery Park. You’ll see those landmarks and so much more from a bird’s eye view!

Want to learn more about the history, culture, and neighborhoods of New York City? City Pulse is an interactive presentation by tour guides who use their own interests to entertain and educate guests about their favorite things to see and do in New York City. Tour ambassadors can change the images and videos on the screens to match their presentations, whether they’re talking about their favorite Broadway musical or the best place to get doughnuts on the Upper West Side. Boy and Girl scouts can even earn badges during their time at the Observatory for learning about a guide’s topic of choice.

And don’t miss Sky Portal, 14-foot-wide disc that uses high-definition footage of the street 100 floors below making it feel like you’re walking on air. This is especially great for the little ones, as it mimics the feeling of walking along construction beams and can make kids feel as if they’re playing a part in the creation of the building.

one world observatory sky portal

Step onto the Sky Portal in One World Observatory to see what the ground below looks like from more than 100 floors in the sky.

For an additional fee, you can add One World Explorer to your Observatory experience. The iPad displays a zoomed-in, labeled version of the NYC skyline below you as you move around the Observatory. Scan the skyline and click on more than 40 NYC landmarks and sights to see videos, visuals, and information. Plus, it’s available in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.

Know Before You Go

Address: One World Trade Center, 285 Fulton St., Financial District; the entrance is located at West and Vesey streets.

Admission: Standard admission is $34, but prices increase for priority and time-flex tickets. Children ages 5 and younger are free of charge. Tickets must be purchased online in advance and can be obtained directly from your smartphone.

Hours: One World Observatory is open daily year-round: May 1-Sept. 4: 8am-9pm; Sept. 5-Dec. 20 and Jan. 4-April 30: 9am-9pm; Dec. 21-Jan. 3: 8am-8pm. Hours vary on holidays. 

Restrooms: There are restrooms on each level, and each is equipped with changing tables.

Strollers: One World Observatory is a family-friendly facility, and all areas are stroller-friendly and wheelchair accessible.

For more information: or 212-602-4000

Main image: Spend some time at One World Observatory and snap an Insta-worthy family selfie with the Manhattan skyline.
All photos courtesy One World Observatory


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Dasha Kofman

Author: Dasha Kofman, a rising senior at Binghamton University, is an editorial intern for NYMetroParents. When she’s not writing poetry, she can be found researching the best brunch spots in Manhattan to catch up with friends, exploring the vast world of NYC pop-ups, or stuffing her face with any and all types of sushi rolls. See More

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