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As you walk in the Global Welcome Lobby, you’re met with screens on all sides showing cities from around the world, with each city’s native language welcomes you to the tower. Further inside, more large screens show the stories of those who worked to conceptualize and rebuild the World Trade Center to be bigger, better and safer than before. Architects and construction workers speak, and footage of the tower being built plays. This dark, flashing hallway of screens leads to the elevators.


Your ears pop the whole way up what feels like a reverse Drop Tower. When it stops, it takes a minute to adjust while your mind tries to process the visual history lesson that somehow manages to squeeze 515 years of New York architecture, from foundation to present day, into 48 second elevator trip. The ride begins with trees and greenery. As you rise up, houses and churches begin to form, only to be replaced by office buildings and roads. As you jet upwards, Manhattan forms virtually around you.


Then the doors open to the World Trade Center Observation deck, and your eyes blink as they meet something unexpected—a quiet darkness. It so goes against what you were expecting to see at the top of a tower that for a moment, you’re disoriented. As your eyes finally focus, you are led into another room to see a row of display panels. These screens each show a different three-dimensional bird’s-eye video scene of a part of New York City. Then, the panels then lift up and out of sight and for the first time since you’ve arrived, the actual city is in sight, and it stretches out before you in all of its spectacular grandeur.


When you finally move forward to the World Trade Center Observation Deck and are treated to breathtaking views from a perspective that hadn’t existed for almost 15 years, you somehow  better appreciate what you’re seeing. You remember the history of NYC from the ride up in the elevator, and the post-9/11 stories from the ground level, and a tear might even form in your eye. Maybe you become convinced (if you weren’t already) that New York City really is the best city in the world.


Reaching 1,776 feet into the sky (1776 on purpose? You bet), the World Trade Center is the tallest in the U.S. The observatory that you’ll be going to takes up floors 100, 101 and 102 of the tower. Admission costs $32 for adults, but is free to all family members of 9/11 victims and to rescue workers who responded to Ground Zero.


When you buy a ticket, you commit to a date and a time slot. Additional pricing is offered based on when you’d like to go—the more flexible the tickets, the more expensive. A ticket for any day of the week, at any time, will set you back $92. If you’re feeling extravagant, try the a sunset view ticket at 4pm, complete with a champagne toast. If all that photo-snapping and awe-gasping gets you hungry or thirsty, grab a bite in the ONE Cafe or ONE Dine at any time of day, or sip on a hand-crafted cocktail in a coveted Hudson-river facing seat.

image @one_world_trade_center