You just couldn’t miss it.
The new Freedom Tower was a bright electric blue, with clean-cut modern architecture, and the light reflected off of it beamed down Fulton Street, burning into your retinas if you dared to look up.
Recently, while visiting NYC for a Broadway show, me and my family dropped by to go up to the One World Observatory, 1200 feet from the bustling streets below.
It was a truly unique experience that really put the remarkably small size of New York City and the surrounding area into perspective.
The experience begins as soon as you get your ticket, walking through a corridor explaining the building’s notability, the massive undertaking of its construction, and how it was a symbol of American endurance even after the devastating events of 9/11 (let’s not even mention how the the tippity-top of the tower reaches 1776 feet).
You have a few minutes to wander through this area, before boarding the elevator, which in itself is a dizzying and awe-inspiring experience.
The pressure filling your ears isn’t easily ignored, and you suddenly wonder if your breakfast was too heavy, since your feet feel glued to the ground with the g-forces.
The reason for your briefly-suffered, but mild nausea: that elevator ride is the fastest in the West, peaking at 23 miles an hour, about the same as Usain Bolt’s peak speed.
Digital screens take you through 500 years of New York City history compressed into the 47-second journey up to the 100th floor.
We found the view rather impressive, although it was surprising how much smaller the city looked from the near-top of its tallest building than from the sidewalks of, let’s say, Central Park, or perhaps Broadway.
Nonetheless, it was fun to be able to see my birthplace in Jersey from this lofty vista, and point out where we’d been the day before and where we’d be later on. The whole observatory was brightly lit by an unclouded sky, and tourists from around the globe chattered in dozens of languages, snapped a pic or two, and admired the urban landscape.
You could see the occasional helicopter, or distant plane approaching JFK or La Guardia, and see people and cars streaming up and down crowded streets like a busy ant colony, like a slow-motion version of those tilt-shift videos.
It was one of the most sober doses of size-related humility anyone other than an astronaut can get.
I can’t exactly recall the visuals for the elevator ride back, but I think it was a CG camera rounding stately circles and making dizzying, graceful spirals down around the building.
Or something like that.
We went and had lunch at the subway and mall complex, which was nice, but as usual for New York, more than a bit overpriced, so if you decide to go, and you’re already throwing your hard-earned cash at something else cool, you could skip that and get a bagel or whatever and save a few dollars for a really nice graphic tee or something longer-lasting than a quinoa-and-kale wrap that you end up splitting with the rest of your family anyway.
After we left, we turned back around and craned our necks to see if we could spot One World Observatory from the sidewalks, but to no avail- it was just too high up.
Whoa is probably the best way to describe it.
It was a wonderful experience, seeing one of the world’s largest cities laid out all sparkling beneath us.
It was great, and I look forward to maybe going back someday!
See you ‘round the Korner!