NYC: One World Observatory

Having had to plan a three-week international summer vacation for the family, my husband and I didn’t really have the time to think about what we were going to do for our anniversary/ies. We thought we could steal a quick mini-getaway during our trip, but things got in the way. Back in ‘Murica, we thought 10 years of marriage and 15 years of being together are a big deal. There’s no way we are going to let these two milestones in our relationship pass without raising a glass or two.

We weren’t looking for anything grand. A quick jaunt to anywhere would do. I remembered that One World Observatory officially opened its doors to the public in May, and figured heading out to New York City, which we haven’t done since we checked out the 5th Avenue holiday display last winter, wouldn’t be a bad idea.  And because we’re celebrating our 10th and 15th, we thought we’d up the ante with a dinner at One Dine.

Transportation Hub

Calatrava and all white everything!

Calatrava and all white everything!

Let me just deviate from the OWO for a minute and marvel over the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, which welcomed us, New Jerseyans, entering NYC via the PATH. Designed by Spanish-Swiss architect, Santiago Calatrava, the Hub is the new-ish striking structural presence in Lower Manhattan. Upon completion, the Hub’s concourse will conveniently connect the PATH, 11 subway lines, and the Battery Park ferry terminal.

Still under construction, the expansive space will soon be occupied by retail stores and restaurants, with the Oculus as its centerpiece. No stranger to movable architecture, Calatrava’s original plan was for the structure’s ‘wings’, two counterpoised canopies, to open over the main concourse. Budget and timetable issues made Calatrava and his team drop this plan. However, the architect promised a roof that would open, and that is what he’ll deliver.

Can’t wait to see the completion of the Hub! Here’s where we can follow its progress for now.

One World Observatory

Standard timed-entry tickets cost $32 for adults, $30 for seniors, and $26 children 6 and up. Tickets for expedited and anytime entries are also available.

We were welcomed by two short programs, Voices and Foundations, which showcase the stories of the people who contributed to the building of the One World Trade Center, and
an up close look of the bedrock, the literal foundations, on which the building stands.

We were lifted to the 102nd floor of the WTC in less than a minute via one of the Sky Pods, elevators with floor-to-ceiling LED screens that show the evolution of the NYC skyline - from the 1500s to the present - from our exact vantage point. (I’m no expert on the city’s architecture, but some have pointed out that the time-lapse video contains errors pertaining to the development during the 1800s.) The video, I think, is a distraction from the not-so-gradual elevation; I would’ve had a bout of vertigo for being lifted so high up so quickly. I, unfortunately, couldn’t capture it because the Sky Pod was crowded, as expected, but check out the video on the left from Fox5News.

Another set of screen panels were waiting for us in the See Forever Theatre.

And then there was this view:

We descended to the main observatory on the 100th floor.The 360-degree views of the city, the surrounding waters and then some, are truly mesmerizing at such height. For an additional cost, the One World Explorer, a ‘complementary’ experience allows you to get to know the city better. Panning the tablet across the skyline, the Explorer identifies buildings and other NYC landmarks.

Oh, and there was the Sky Portal - not the actual street below, obviously. Just a livestreamed footage.

A lively presentation of the city’s diversity - people, food, culture - is held every half hour. 

I have to say, though, my husband and I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed. It didn’t compare to our Empire State Building Observatory experience. 

A photo posted by Carol Bustos (@fcbsantiago) on

Unlike the ESB, OWO doesn’t have an outdoor deck - due, perhaps, by the elevation and the obvious safety precautions, or the building’s design itself. Whatever the reason may be, it didn’t allow us to breathe in the NYC air while enjoying the view, and it ultimately made us feel confined. Needless to say, the thick glass panels made it difficult to take photos glare-free and without reflections from the inside. After doing the 360, and trying (though barely succeeding) to flawlessly immortalize our OWO anniversary date, we resolved to hoping the food at One Dine would make up for the Discovery Level, as the observatory is called. 

One Dine

One Dine is one of three food establishments on the 101st floor; except, it is set up as a mezzanine level of the main observatory, and is separated from the other two, One Cafe and One Mix, by a reception desk, a pair of queue poles and a curtain.

This restaurant gives you a “real billionaire’s vista,” as Ryan Sutton has put it, alright, but it doesn’t have the intimate atmosphere for fine dining. You can hear EVERYTHING from the Discovery Level - the surge of visitors and that previously mentioned lively presentation every half hour or so.

We had a prix fixe of $84 for four courses.

OWO collage.jpg

The food didn't disappoint. We were satisfied from starters to desserts, to the selection of wines. Service was topnotch. It was the noise from downstairs that made this experience somewhat sour.

But we were in a lovey dovey mood, none of the drawbacks I mentioned spoiled the trip. After all, there was so much cause for celebration. This post may have been three months overdue, but here’s me raising an imaginary champagne glass to more and more years with my husband! 

Born and raised in Manila, Philippines and briefly lived in California before moving to the east coast of the USA. I'm a digital marketing executive currently based in New Jersey and a digital nomad wannabe. I write mostly about family travel.