A Nervous Momma
I will admit that I was a little nervous to take our son to One World Observatory, but I had to step back and ask myself why. For one, I was nervous about safety. That might seem silly, but it was in the back of my mind. And two, I was nervous that our son was going to ask questions that I couldn't answer. He is still very young, and although he understands that the Twin Towers collapsed and that many people died, he doesn't exactly understand how or why. That explanation will come in time, especially since we have a boy who is always asking questions!
I ultimately decided that we can't live our lives in fear. I did not want to keep him from a historical landmark because of my own fears of terrorism. Fear is what helps to keep terrorism alive and thriving. I have a dear friend who lives near the new Freedom Tower, and she told me how quiet and peaceful it was there. That helped ease my fears. So in we went. We decided to drive and took the Holland Tunnel in, but mass transit is also an option.
Planning Your Trip and Getting There
I know it's not always easy to plan ahead based on the weather, but if you can visit One World Observatory on a clear day, you will truly get the most out of it. The views are absolutely stunning, and a clear day will allow you to see so much more! You can purchase your tickets online in advance, and save yourself some wait time once you arrive. Hours of operation vary, so again, check their website or call ahead to find out when they'll be open.
Ticket prices start at around $28 and go up from there. They offer all kinds of packages and types of tickets, so please check out their website for exact details. You can also try signing up for their emails or follow them on Facebook or Instagram for deals and coupons. And try googling for Promo Codes before purchasing online! Note that ticket prices for One World Observatory are similar to the cost of visiting The Empire State Building or Top of the Rock (at Rockefeller Center), if you want to compare.
We parked at a small parking garage within walking distance to the tower. Parking garages in New York can cost a hefty sum (especially on weekends or during the holidays- or even based on the size of your vehicle!), but if you don't mind this and like to have your car close by, it's the way to go. Of course, you can also take mass transit, and there are so many options in the city. I am no expert in this area, so feel free to check out 'Getting Here' on the One World Observatory site. This is really your most economical option, especially if you don't like driving in the city!
We walked through the Oculus Transportation Hub to get to the World Trade Center. It's essentially a connection between New Jersey's PATH trains and New York City subways, and it is truly an amazing structure! As we walked through it, we kept saying that it looked like The Axiom. If you've ever seen Disney's Wall-e, then you understand the reference!
There is a mall inside with high end stores and cafes, known as Westfield World Trade Center. You can find a list of their stores and eateries on their website. We stopped for coffee and a cookie at a little cafe before we headed to the tower.
One World Observatory
Once we arrived at One World Observatory, we had to wait on line, even though we had pre-purchased tickets. This was because we somehow got stuck behind three schools visiting for field trips! Oh well, just bad timing, I guess, because when we exited a few hours later, there was no one on line at all. Just for a reference, we visited on a weekday in the Fall, around 11am.
There is a security area to pass through but you didn't have to take off your shoes or anything, so I was thankful for that! If you're concerned about security or curious what their security process is, please check the FAQ section of their website. It was very much like airport security, where you walk through a metal detector and they also check your bags and belongings. Strollers are permitted but must be folded up for the elevators.
Once inside, we wound through some twisting hallways until we arrived at the elevators. There were some videos playing about the construction of the tower and they tell you a little bit about the rock formations beneath you. There was no reference to 9/11 and they kept the focus on the tower construction itself, which was very interesting.
Sky Pod Elevators
From here you'll enter the Sky Pod elevator. The elevator ride to the top of the building was really cool. Since your actual visit takes place on floors 100, 101, and 102, it's quite a ride to the top! The inside elevator walls are actually floor to ceiling LED screens showing you the evolution of New York City.. I have heard you can spot the Twin Towers somewhere in this time lapse but I didn't see them. The ride up is very quick (about 60 seconds!). Because of the screens around you, it doesn't even seem like you're traveling up that far, but you can definitely feel your ears popping! There is a little image on the elevator screen wall to show you where you are in your climb. *Note that there is no staircase option. Stairs are for emergency use only, so the elevator is your only way to the top.
Inside One World Observatory
Tablet Rental: From here you're ushered into another room where you can purchase a mobile tablet rental for your experience (they pitch this to you, but know that it's entirely optional to rent it- I think it was around $15). You can carry it around and point it out the windows while you view the city. The tablet will give you an explanation of what you're seeing and some quick facts. We passed on this but we did see some people carrying them around. I think this might be a good option for visitors who are brand new to the city, or perhaps visitors from other countries. It is also a good option if you happen to visit during gloomy weather (the tablet will enable you to pinpoint locations in the fog or if it's hazy, when you otherwise might not be able to see them).
Photo Opp: Once you get past the tablet pitch, you'll be in the main observatory. They'll take your picture against a blue screen here, and you can purchase it upon exiting for a small fee. We did wind up buying ours because we thought it was a nice souvenir of our trip. There were two options for background choices, too, since they take you against a blue screen.
There is so much to see once you reach the observatory! Be sure to walk around the entire circumference. It's truly breath-taking.
I was excited to see the 'Sky Portal' that they advertised on the One World Trade website. I thought it would be some kind of view straight down to the floors below you, but it was really a digital image on a screen that you walk on top of. I thought that was a little disappointing.
But don't worry, the rest of the views make up for it. You can even spot the Statue of Liberty!
Just note that brighter colored clothing seems to reflect in the windows, so if you want to take a great picture while you're there, consider wearing darker colors that won't reflect in the glass.
I was amazed at the amount of people trying to take selfies by the windows. I have never seen so many selfie sticks in my life.
There are also some observatory presentations that you can watch, hosted by some very animated narrators. I couldn't get The Jersey Momma's Boy to sit and listen to what they had to say, but know that this is another option for you when visiting! It's free and you just stop and listen to them while you're walking around.
There is a gift shop that sells a variety of nice items, from t-shirts to glasses to key chains. The Jersey Momma's Boy picked out a One World Trade teddy bear. Ain't he cute?
Dining at One World Trade
There are restaurants at One World Trade but we did not eat there, so I can't attest to the experience. There are fine dining options and a quick service. You can view more about the dining options on their website. In hindsight, it might have been nice to eat at the quick service cafe or even at the sit-down service restaurant since The Jersey Momma's Boy started to get a little cranky and probably could have used a break and some food while in the building.
The Memorial Fountains
Just outside the Freedom Tower you'll find the 9/11 Memorial Fountains and Plaza. They are located in the exact spots that the Twin Towers were, and they are truly beautiful. They are not affiliated with One World Observatory, so use the link I just provided if you want to find out information about them.
Across the way is the 9/11 Memorial Museum, but we did not go in. I didn't think The Jersey Momma's Boy was ready for that yet. I wasn't so sure I could handle it either. The two fountains are surrounded by carved names of the people who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Loved ones left flowers by some of the names. It made me want to stop and remember them, too.
It is humbling. In the space where I was standing, I happened to look down and saw the name of a mother and her unborn child. They're not just names. They are people- wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends. Was it a coincidence that I happened to be standing right in front of another momma? Rahma Salie and your unborn child, I will remember you, and now my readers know you, too.
All in all, this was a wonderful trip. I highly recommend a visit, since it was truly a sight to see, and now a part of our history.
JERSEY MOMMA TIPS
*Try to visit on a clear day if you can- it will make all the difference in the views!
*Purchase tickets online in advance
*Strollers are permitted but they will ask you to fold them up for the elevator rides (and you MUST take the elevator to access the observatory- there are no stairs for use except in emergencies)
*If you visit the Memorial Fountains, you might enjoy seeing The Survivor Tree. There is a whole story behind it, of how it survived the attacks on 9/11, was nursed back to health and replanted again. It now stands tall in the plaza. See if you can find it!
*Plan where you'd like to eat. There is another mall right across the street from the tower called Brookfield Place, but it was SUPER CROWDED at lunch time (this is New York, after all). We wound up walking down the street to Bill's Bar and Burger in the Marriott. This was a fairly good meal but we had to wait a very long time for our food, and then my meal (figures) was completely screwed up. The manager was kind enough to offer us some amazing milkshakes to make up for the wait time, though!
One World Trade is located at 285 Fulton Street New York, NY. You can reach them at 1-844-696-1776. Call center hours are Mon-Fri 9am-5pm. Or visit their website for more details.