Inside NYC’s One World Observatory

By Maria Carter, May 20, 2015

Imagine wowing clients with a venue overlooking all of New York City—a perch so high it rivals sights offered by luxury helicopter rides.

One World Observatory, atop One World Trade Center (also known as Freedom Tower), the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, officially opens tomorrow, May 29. Spanning floors 100 through 102 of the 1,776-ft.-tall Lower Manhattan skyscraper, the observatory includes three restaurants and private event space. Its extraordinary height makes for incredible visibility: You can see up to 50 miles away—as far as Norwalk, Connecticut, or Princeton, New Jersey—on a clear day.

elevatorThe experience starts on ground level, where a wall of screens plays interviews with workers who helped build Freedom Tower. Next, the world’s fastest elevators (Sky Pods) take guests on a 47-second ascent to the 100th floor, as supersize LED screens display a virtual time-lapse of Lower Manhattan’s skyline, from a bustling 1600s seaport to home of the first skyscrapers and, in tribute, the appearance and disappearance of the original World Trade Center towers.

Above 1,250 feet, the main observatory has floor-to-ceiling windows (but unlike the Empire State Building, there’s no outdoor access here). Here, bird’s-eye views of Upper Manhattan along the Hudson River, Lady Liberty, Brooklyn and the city’s iconic bridges are the main attraction, though the space isn’t without its own bells and whistles. Guides at City Pulse concierge stations use gesture technology to control a ring of flat-panel screens, sharing customizable tidbits on NYC history, architecture, dining and more. A 14-ft.-wide circular screen embedded into the floor relays real-time footage of the street below, captured by cameras on the tower’s spire.

On the 101st floor, three restaurant concepts satisfy a range of palates and budgets. One Cafe serves casual fare like soup, salad and sandwiches; One Mix focuses on locally inspired small plates; and One Dine showcases seasonal produce, fine meats and freshly caught seafood.

one world

Event planners will be most interested in level 102, which has a 9,300-sq.-ft. private event space featuring the same panoramic views found in the main observatory, but with an upgrade: elegant standing cocktail tables, white leather couches, a stage and state-of-the-art sound system. The space is available for morning, afternoon and evening events, accommodating up to 300 for a cocktail party or 150 for a seated dinner. The venue’s pricing plan is inclusive—catering, chairs, tables, linens and beverages are all in-house. Meka White, director of sales, recommends booking three to six months out. “If it’s available, we’re happy to accommodate,” says White.

The grand opening on May 29 follows a series of VIP preview events that took place this week, including ones for local NYC students and the men and women who worked to build the tower. One World Trade Center opened for business in November 2014, with magazine publisher Conde Nast, advertising firm KiDS Creative and game developer High 5 Games among its first tenants.

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