One World Observatory: Complete Visitors Guide

One World Observatory: Complete Visitors Guide

One of the highlights of our staycation this holiday break was visiting the One World Observatory at One World Trade Center. Also known as the Freedom Tower, it’s been high on our list. We’ve seen it from the outside many times, but still had yet to go inside and up to the top. The 9/11 buildings and memorials are always tricky with kids – how do you explain to a child the horror of September 11th? In any case, in subtle language we did, and then focused on the awesomeness of going to the top of the tallest building in the western hemisphere. And indeed it was!

From beginning to end – from bottom floor to top – it was a total experience, and an amazing way to see New York City. Below is a guide to visiting the One World Observatory (ticket options, features, etc.), as well as other World Trade Center attractions nearby to get the most out of your visit.

A zoomed in look at the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges

Ticket Pricing

We went two days before Christmas, at the suggestion of a friend, and surprisingly, we hardly had to wait in line. It was a bit shocking actually, with the holiday and tourist season in full swing! But who was complaining. We purchased our tickets ahead of time online, which always helps. We bought Standard Admission tickets, which cost $34 per adult and $28 per child. It’s certainly not cheap, but as you will see, worth the money. There are a few options for visiting the Observatory (which occupies floors 100-102), and below is a breakdown of how the ticketing works:

Standard Admission: $34/adult and $28/child (6-12). 5 and under are free. You must choose a date and time to visit – entry times are every 15 minutes.

Priority Admission: $56/ages 6 and over. 5 and under are free. Same as Standard admission in that you must choose a date and time, but you have VIP Expedited Entry and can skip the regular lines.

Day Flex Admission: $67/ages 6 and over. 5 and under are free. You must choose a date, but do not have to choose a time. The ticket allows you (1) entry at any time you’d like during regular hours plus Expedited Entry, allowing you to skip the lines.

These are the three main options. There are a few other packages, including Sunset Flex Priority Admission, Family Four Pack and City Lights Champagne Nights. You can read more about those here.

We accessed the entrance to One World Observatory via the Oculus.

Accessing One World Observatory

I’m not sure if this played a role in our not having to wait much in line, but we accessed One World Trade from the Oculus, in the World Trade Center Transportation hub (more on this below), rather than outside on West Street, or on Fulton Street, where the box office is. I had the tickets emailed so I was able to show them on my phone. For most of you choosing this option, note you must register each person before being admitted. I didn’t know this and had to step aside and quickly do it. It doesn’t take long, but best to do it ahead of time- just look for the registration section for each person on your e-tickets.

Experiencing One World Observatory

Walking through the foundation.

As for the experience, it really is one and starts at the Global Welcome Center on the main floor. Here you will find a video wall that welcomes people in ten languages and celebrates cultures all over the world. You then enter a section called Foundations where you walk along, and with a close-up view, of the bedrock and foundation that supports NYC. You wind around and through a short tunnel, which takes you to the Sky Pod elevators. The elevator ride  is interesting in and of itself, as it has floor to ceiling videos on each of the four walls, on the history of New York. For those with vertigo like me, this made a huge difference as I can assure you I would have walked out with wobbly legs – but the video was a good distraction.

When you exit the elevator you come to one of my favorite parts of the entire experience – the See Forever Theater. You step out of the elevator and wait for a big screen to light up in front of you and watch a short show full of NYC scenery…and then you are given your first glance of the outdoor skyline. It’s a great introduction to everything New York, before seeing the real city from way up high yourself, and a fantastic way to enter the observatory, in my opinion.

Elevator ride with video on history of New York.

View of Manhattan

Finally (it’s really not that long), you enter the Main Observatory on the 100th floor, which is where you have all the incredible, panoramic views of New York City. It really is breathtaking, as you take in the city all around you. There are different vantage points from which to see the city, so make sure to walk all around. The interior space is worth a mention as well, very pristine and modern. There are a few different restaurants on the 101st floor and for those wanting to splurge with a fabulous view, go for it. We did not, especially after learning that a regular bottle of water cost $6! You’ve been forewarned. To read more about dining options, view here.

Various vantage points from the observatory.

Visiting the One World Observatory is a must-do in my book now, we loved it. It may be a bit on the Disney-ish side, but that didn’t bother me. It’s a wonderful tribute to the greatness of this city. You can do it in less than an hour, and it doesn’t have to be an all time-consuming activity. Make sure to arrive 15 minutes before your chosen time, and not after, in case they fill capacity. But honestly, it never felt too crowded the way some NYC attractions do.

Nearby Attractions

9/11 Memorial & Museum

The National September 11 Memorial occupies 8 acres of the World Trade Center’s 16 acres, honoring the lives of those lost on September 11, as well as the bombing in 1993. In the footprints of the Twin Towers are the twin reflecting pools, which have the largest manmade waterfalls in North America. They are a majestic site – even for the little ones who can’t comprehend the events of 9/11 – and have inscribed into the paneling the names of each person who lost their life in the 2001 and 1993 attacks. You can’t go to the World Trade Center without seeing the pools. There is also the 9/11 Museum, dedicated to exploring the events of 9/11, along with temporary exhibitions (note: we have not yet been to the museum).

World Trade Center Transportation Hub and the Oculus

Santiago Calatrava’s white marble hub is not to be missed and now one of New York’s most iconic sites and buildings. The 800,00 square feet center, which is meant to emanate a bird taking flight, connects (and will connect) the PATH railway system, 11 subway lines, the Battery Park City Ferry Terminal, the National September 11 Museum and Memorial, and World Trade Center Towers 1,2,3 and 4. The centerpiece of the hub is the Oculus, with 78,000 square feet of retail shopping and dining in the Westfield mall. The word mall is not something people – or I – would like to associate with September 11, but after walking through it, all I can say is, it’s beautiful. Even angelic, with all that white. I loved it.


The World Trade Center and nearby downtown area is bustling with restaurants, but our favorites have to be:

Shake Shack 


Blue Smoke


Need to know information:

Location: One World Trade Center, 285 Fulton Street, New York, New York, 10007.

Entrance on West Street. 212-602-4000. Calling hours: Monday-Friday, 9-5.

Hours: Open every day, 7 days a week. 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. (last ticket sold at 7:15).


Linking up with Faraway Files, Cultured Kids, and City Tripping.

Travel Notes & Beyond


  1. January 5, 2017 / 12:09 am

    Interesting tour, thanks

    • January 5, 2017 / 2:33 am

      Thank you for reading:).

  2. January 5, 2017 / 1:25 pm

    such great views of the city! interesting place, but also sad because of what happened at this place #farawayfiles

  3. aandj8804
    January 5, 2017 / 3:50 pm

    I’ve been wanting to visit One WTC for a while now, but haven’t made it yet. I don’t want to pay so much on a day when it’s overcast and you can’t see much nor do I want to go up at dark (though I’m sure the city lights are beautiful). Thanks for sharing your trip to the WTC. Now I have a better idea of what to expect when I finally manage to go. 🙂 #farawayfiles

    • January 6, 2017 / 3:53 am

      I hear you. We planned about a week ahead of time to go on the day that we did, but didn’t purchase tickets until the night before because the weather was all over the place. It ended up being a mainly gray day (not too overcast though) when we went and of course the sun came out as we were leaving. It was still beautiful though – hope you make it soon:).

  4. January 5, 2017 / 5:15 pm

    So cool Corey. I would love to do this with my kids who are all very well aware of the events of 9/11. The Oculus looks very beautiful. Thank you for outlining all the options and honestly sharing costs. We love Eataly (we just got one here in Copenhagen!!! So happy!) Thanks for sharing with the first #FarawayFiles of 2017. Cheers from Denmark and happy new year, Erin

    • January 6, 2017 / 4:00 am

      That’s amazing you got an Eataly!!! That’s where we went to lunch that day, actually. There’s been a lot of mixed feelings about the new buildings at the WTC, but I loved them. The observatory is very well-done, and the Oculus I thought was so striking and beautiful. Thanks Erin – hope you’ve had a great start to the new year. x

  5. January 5, 2017 / 5:32 pm

    The transportation hub looks fabulous!! Love the sound of Observatory – anything Disneyish and I’m a fan for sure. What a great idea in the elevator too – I would need that to calm my nerves….

    • January 6, 2017 / 4:03 am

      Ha – seriously, thank god for that – I was starting to get a little shaky regardless!

    • January 7, 2017 / 3:28 am

      The elevator ride entertainment was key as far as I’m concerned!

  6. January 6, 2017 / 3:14 am

    Love this! I’ve been wanting to do this, but was unable to make it up during my last two NYC visits… Next time I’m going, no matter what my travel mates say! Looks amazing! #farawayfiles

    • January 7, 2017 / 3:26 am

      You’ll love it – incredible views!

  7. January 7, 2017 / 5:45 am

    Very interesting. Of course the views are suberb, the architecture sublime and the history tragic, but I can’t help but comment on the prices… that is shockingly expensive for an experience of less than an hour! Not only the entrance fees, but charging $6 for water is simply ripping off tourists, no? Sorry if this sounds a bit rantish! ;o)

    • January 7, 2017 / 9:29 pm

      I hear you, but when you compare it to the Empire States Building and Top of the Rock, they’re all around the same price. Not sure about the water though!;). For us, it was a price we were willing to pay, but understand that it may turn some others away.

  8. Clare Thomson
    January 7, 2017 / 12:31 pm

    Such a stunning way to see New York, Corey. Love it!

  9. Clare Thomson
    January 7, 2017 / 12:32 pm

    The architecture is so beautiful – I’ll be adding this to my ever-growing New York wishlist for sure.

    • January 7, 2017 / 9:29 pm

      Thanks Clare – I’m sure you’ll make it here some day!

  10. pigeonpairandme
    January 7, 2017 / 4:32 pm

    What an evocative, poignant and beautiful place. The view from the top really brings home the majesty of this incredible city. Thanks for linking up with #CulturedKids.

    • January 7, 2017 / 9:30 pm

      Thanks Nell – agree, the view really does it such justice:).

  11. January 8, 2017 / 8:12 pm

    A beautiful and poignant place, somewhere I’d very much like to visit with my son – which we will do on our next visit.

    • January 9, 2017 / 2:36 am

      Thanks Ting – yes put it on the list:).

  12. January 8, 2017 / 11:33 pm

    Looks to be a simply amazing experience, Corey. 🙂

  13. January 11, 2017 / 9:21 pm

    Somewhere I’d love to visit on my next trip to NYC- I’m not sure how I’d begin to explain 9/11 to my daughter yet thought. My first visit to the city was July 2001 and we went up the twin towers: my most recent visit, the various buildings and memorials were still under construction. #citytripping

    • January 12, 2017 / 6:23 pm

      That was the toughest part – explaining to the girls. We made it very general..

  14. January 13, 2017 / 5:33 am

    I am glad I am able to see this attraction thru your photos. I was about to go in December but changed my mind and ended at the Top of the Rock. Next time, it would be this observatory. I was able to walk around the area and it is beautiful. I would be back. #CulturedKids

    • January 13, 2017 / 2:15 pm

      You can’t go wrong with Top of the Rock, the Empire State building or One World Observatory. They all offer incredible views and deciding on which one to go to may just boil down to what else is on the itinerary for that day. Thanks for reading.

  15. jphowze
    January 19, 2017 / 3:02 pm

    Good tips on tickets. It’s always great to get up high in Manhattan and this should be on everyone’s list.

    • January 20, 2017 / 2:29 am

      Thanks so much – I agree – Empire State and Top of the Rock have some competition..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.