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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

One World Observatory

The view south toward Battery Park and Governors Island.

Yesterday, we were lucky to be invited to a preview of the new observatory atop One World Trade Center, which opens to the public on Friday.

For a history buff, the best part is the elevator ride to the top (see video, below). In 47 seconds you are whisked from the bedrock level to the 102nd floor and during that time, state-of-the-art LED screens, which line three sides of each elevator, show the evolution of Lower Manhattan from the pre-contact era to the present day. As you’ll see in the video, it all goes by so quickly that you can’t take in a fraction of it in. We knew to look at the screen to the right (south) side of the elevator in order to see the old World Trade Center appear in the late 1960s and fade away in 2001.

The journey begins in the basement of One World Trade, where each person’s ticket is scanned and a light appears on the map to indicate what country (or, in the USA, which state) he or she is from.

A corresponding welcome message is displayed on a monitor nearby in the vistor’s language, showing a scene from New York City. We found it amusing that in addition to the Statue of Liberty representing France, another French scene is Washington Square, presumably since the famous arch there is modeled on the Arc du Triomphe.

Wending your way to the elevators, you pass video installations of construction workers talking about the building of the tower.

Then you pass through a bedrock chamber with facts and figures projected on the rock face. Except it’s not rock face. It’s all fake.

Then, the elevator ride:

Once at the top, you still don’t get to see the view until you watch a two minute video montage in the SEE FOREVER™ theater (ALL CAPS for some reason), which ends with the big reveal: the screen rises to give visitors their first look at the amazing view.

After being guided downstairs past the restaurant / bar / cafe, you reach the main observatory on the 100th floor. (By the way, the bar wasn't open yet, but looks great and might be worth the $32 admission price.)

The scenery is what you are here for, obviously:

The Lower East Side's "Blue" apartment building stands out.

Looking up the West Side Highway and the Hudson River Greenway.

A great view of the Tweed Courthouse.

Santiago Calatrava's new PATH station (under construction) and the World Trade Center museum and memorial pool.

Is this all worth $32 a person? It’s hard to tell. We were up there with two dozen other people and it was glorious to have the place to ourselves. Once operational, the observatory will admit approximately 200 people every 15 minutes with timed tickets. People are, of course, free to stay as long as they want, but David Checketts, the CEO of Legends, which operates the facility, told us that he expects the average visitor to stay between 45-60 minutes. In our best estimation, there will probably be 500-800 people on the 100th floor at any given time, which may feel like a madhouse. If you go, let us know what you think.

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Explore more NYC history in

If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy of Footprints yet,
you can order it from your favorite online retailers (AmazonBarnes and Nobleetc.) or
from independent bookstores across the country.

And, of course, Inside the Apple is available at fine bookstores everywhere.

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