The Best View of New York City: One World Trade Center

One World Trade offers a unique view of New York’s spectacular waterfront. While you can see both the Hudson and East rivers in the distance from Top of the Rock, One World is right on the water. You can both rivers clearly merging into the Upper Bay and watch the sunset over New Jersey…

Everyone always debates between going up the Rockefeller Center‘s Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building to see the best views of New York City. My advice? Go to the One World Trade Observatory (Freedom Tower) instead.

Isaac and I travel a lot and one of the highlights of any trip that we take is going up the highest point. Nothing beats seeing a place you’ve been exploring from a new vantage point and we always try to schedule our trip around sunset to experience the city going from day to night.

Although we still haven’t seen the view from the Empire State Building, we’re confident that nothing will beat One World Trade and here are the reasons why:

1. The Waterfront

One World Trade offers a unique view of New York’s spectacular waterfront. While you can see both the Hudson and East rivers shimmering in the distance from Top of the Rock, One World is right on the water. You can both rivers clearly merging into the Upper Bay and watch the sunset over New Jersey.

2. Brooklyn Bridge

New York’s most iconic bridge, the first steel-wire suspension bridge ever constructed and finished by a woman is one of the highlights of the city. One World offers a beautiful view of not only the Brooklyn Bridge but also the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. Seeing the bridges light up at dusk was magical and not possible from Top of the Rock.

3. No Obstructing Construction

Construction is not an issue at night because the lights of the city drown out the many cranes. However, on our last visit to Top of the Rock during the day, the view was quite obstructed by construction – we couldn’t really see Central Park because at least three buildings are coming up in front of the park. On the other side, right next the Empire State Building, surprise, surprise, there’s more construction!

Since One World Trade is so much taller than all of the buildings surrounding it so there’s no cranes in view. The construction happening uptown is too far to interfere. Unfortunately you can’t see Central Park from the One World observatory at all, but the Top of the Rock isn’t a good place to see it anymore either.

4. Picturesque Skyline

Both One World Trade and Top of the Rock offer great opportunities for photos. On our visit to Top of the Rock we saw a couple getting their wedding photos taken. There are a few big differences between the views. Top of the Rock offers the best possible close-up shot of the Empire State Building and you can even take a selfie with it.

From the One World Trade observatory, you can see Empire State but from a distance. You can take beautiful shots of the entire city with Empire State, Top of the Rock and all of the other iconic sky scrapers all lined up in the distance. Seeing the entire city like that was spectacular, but you couldn’t make out any of the buildings clearly in a selfie. Enjoying a great view should be a bigger priority than the perfect selfie, but to each their own…

5. Floor-Length Windows

When you’re standing up against the floor-length windows in the One World Trade tower, you can see all the way down and feel like you’re flying above the city. With so many people touching the glass and leaning their greasy foreheads against the windows (like I did) create unsightly smudges and reflections that interfere with the view and with photos. But having windows also makes it weatherproof, which gets me to #6….

6. Weatherproof Views

Top of the Rock is outside which is great on a breezy sunny day, but I’ve been there twice in the middle of winter which was less pleasant. Sure, there’s something to be said about the crisp night air, but if it’s raining a lot or if there’s a storm, the observatory is closed. You can visit One World Trade whenever you want and enjoy a (slightly too strongly) air-conditioned space.

7. Tallest Observatory Deck

Size doesn’t matter, but when it comes to views, height makes a difference. One World Trade is significantly taller than Top of the Rock and was actually the tallest building in the USA (if you count the height of the antenna). As I previously mentioned, it’s height puts it over ugly construction on nearby buildings and it just makes it more excited to be as high off the ground as possible.

8. The WOW Factor

This might be an unfair category since the Top of the Rock was built almost a hundred years ago and opened to the public in 1933… but I can’t not mention the cool extras that the One World Trade Center offered that made the experience more special. The elevator that took us up took only 45 seconds and shows us a video of New York as it changed (and grew) in the past 300+ years. It was unexpected and beautiful!

Next we were waiting in line watching yet another movie about the building. It wasn’t boring but staring at screens gets old when you’re itching to see the real thing. The video ended with the screens lifting to reveal our first glance of the bay from (almost) the top of the building! Everyone was so genuinely surprised that we wowed and clapped. Sorry for spoiling the surprise…

Conclusion:

The two buildings offer completely different view of the city. If you can only do one, I’d say go to One World Trade. If you get the chance to do both, it’s definitely worth going to Top of the Rock too. They charge you extra for going around sunset so if you do both, go to Top of the Rock during the day and then do One World Trade for sunset to save a few dollars. Or get the New York Sightseeing Pass and save a lot of money on visiting various attractions in New York.

Both buildings have a fascinating history – if you do One World Trade I’d recommend visiting the 9/11 Memorial first to truly appreciate what a symbol of hope the Freedom Tower was in the light of the terrible attack on the Twin Towers. It’s a somber experience that made sure to emphasize the One World Trade Center’s part in New York’s healing process.

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New York City Explorer Pass vs. Sightseeing Pass

Quick facts about both passes:
– They both offer free entry to over 80 attractions (though some are already free anyway)
– They both offer to pay by the day or pay by attraction packages
– The included attractions are quite similar for both passes
– They both exaggerate how much each attraction costs when bought separately

A quick Google search of “Which Tourist Pass to use in New York City” will no doubt leave you scratching your head. Under all the ads from Viator, TripAdvisor and Groupon, you’ll see links to the many different tourist passes offered in New York City. The most popular are the New York City Explorer Pass and the New York Sightseeing Pass. You’ll have to advance several pages into the Google results to finally find personal accounts written by people who have actually done the research and planned out an itinerary that makes sense. If you’ve made to this page, congratulations! I am a real, live person here to tell you which pass is actually worth it!

The Travel Bug Bite has already posted about how the New York City Explorer Pass saved us over $100 with its 5-attraction pass. I’m not here to say one is hands-down better than the other. Instead, I’ll take you through the process we used to decide where to go and which pass to purchase. If you’re in a similar situation, great! If not, this article should still give you some idea about how these tourist passes work.

Quick facts about both passes:

  • They both offer free entry to over 80 attractions (though some are already free anyway)
  • They both offer to pay by the day or pay by attraction packages
  • The included attractions are quite similar for both passes
  • They both exaggerate how much each attraction costs when bought separately

Prices and attractions:

New York City Explorer Pass

  • 3 choices – $89
  • 4 choices – $119
  • 5 choices – $134
  • 7 choices – $169
  • 10 choices – $219

You can get a quick 5% off for entering your e-mail address so our 10-choice card would be $208.05 per person.

New York Sightseeing FLEX Pass

  • 2 attractions – $64
  • 3 attractions – $89
  • 4 attractions – $110
  • 5 attractions – $135
  • 6 attractions – $150
  • 7 attractions – $165
  • 10 attractions – $199

The 10-attraction Sightseeing Pass is already $10 cheaper, plus we got a Father’s Day discount which made each ticket for 10 attractions only $159.20! We found that it would still be worth it for the original price though – read on!

How Did We Decide?

No matter which package you want, whether a quick two-day trip or a longer trip like ours, it comes down to what you want to see and how much it would cost to pay for everything separately. Me being my stingy self, I wanted to find out how much money we would save if we went to the most expensive attractions that we wanted to see. To get a general idea, you can see the value on each of the company’s websites: Sightseeing Pass here and the Explorer Pass here. Take these with a grain of salt though because some of the prices are exaggerated. For example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History are both “Pay what you want” and the listed fees on the websites are actually the “suggested admission” prices. Don’t waste one of your valuable “Attractions” on these!

Here is our suggested method of planning your trip:

  1. Make a list of places you want to go
  2. Check each attraction’s website to confirm its cost
  3. Since each pass is around $200 for 10 attractions, make sure your average price per attraction is over $20.
  4. Read the fine print! Does any attraction say “only covers blahbitty-blah?” Does it require booking in advance? Be sure to check these things before making your choice. Nothing worse than getting all the way to Ellis Island only to find out the tour doesn’t actually include going inside the Statue of Liberty!

After looking at the list on both websites, we decided on the following attractions:

  1. Empire State Building – $37

For the Main Deck on the 86th, the 102nd floor is $20 more and not included. Also, for the Sightseeing Pass, this attraction isn’t technically included. You need to redeem your $40 Attraction Credit and book this for free through CitySitesNY.com.

  1. Top of the Rock Observatory – $36

$5 extra for Sunset Times not included.

  1. One World Trade Observatory – $32

Only available on the Sightseeing Pass, not the Explorer Pass.

  1. Coney Island Luna Park – $49

The $49 fixed date pass includes ALL rides when purchased separately. The Explorer and Sightseeing pass both exclude the iconic Cyclone roller coaster and any “Extreme Thrill” rides. We decided to use this on the Sightseeing Pass and pay the $8 each if we want to ride the Cyclone.

  1. Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty – $25.50

NOT including access to the pedestal and crown of the statue. Only includes ferry and access to the Immigration Museum. To get to the Crown, you need to book months in advance here for $21.50.

  1. Hop on, Hop Off Bus – $59

Downtown Tour, Uptown Tour, Brooklyn Tour, Night Tour and Ferry Tour. Unfortunately, the Night Tour and Ferry Tour count as separate attractions.

  1. Hop on, Hop Off Night Tour – $0

Valued at $0 because the $59 when purchased separately here lets you ride all four tours, including the night tour, for one price. We already counted that $59 above, so we can’t count it again here.

  1. Spyscape – $39
  2. I ntrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum – $39
  3. 9/11 Memorial Museum – $24

Grand total if purchased separately – $340.50

Total savings with the Sightseeing Flex Pass – $141.50

Total we will save because of the Father’s Day discount: $181.30

Wow! So either way, even if you aren’t lucky enough to score the discount we did, you’ll be saving some serious money!

The Verdict

When it comes right down to it, these are very similar passes offering an almost identical list of attractions for a similar price. We went with the Sightseeing Pass because it includes One World Trade, we got a discount on Father’s Day, and it was already $10 cheaper. Make a list of attractions check the prices and fine print, and you’re sure to save with either pass.

Want your own pass? Use the affiliate links below! It’ll help The Travel Bug Bite grow =)

New York Sightseeing Pass: http://www.anrdoezrs.net/links/8827860/type/dlg/https://www.sightseeingpass.com/en/new-york

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