Tag Archives: tourism

30 Before 30: Visit One World Observatory

19 May

In my 30th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

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Manhattan from so far above

On a clear and sunny day, my friend Zach and I trekked downtown to visit the One World Observatory at the top of the Freedom Tower. My obligatory tourist indulgence in a city overflowing with them. At this point, I’ve done Top of the Rock, top of the Empire State Building. So I knew at the very least, I’d get some great views. The whole thing was so orchestrated; though, it ended up feeling surreal.

After going through airport-level security, everyone was shoved into elevators that as they rose to the top floor, displayed on screens a 360-view of Manhattan developing over the centuries. From when it was home to Native Americans, to the first Dutch traders, to the Industrial Revolution, and present day. It was the most interesting part of the visit, but it went by so fast, and everyone in the elevator expressed varying degrees of nausea.

Upon exiting the elevator, we were ushered into a theatre, showing “street scenes” of New York, the kind of imagery constantly fed to people who aren’t from here. Women in high heels catching taxis, smoky hot dog stands, the rumble of a subway train. It’s a little less exciting and hypnotizing when it’s just an expression of your day-to-day. At the end of the movie, the wall lifted to reveal a floor to ceiling window, showing off Manhattan. All the tourists gasped and then clapped before we were ushered into a room where they tried to sell us interactive iPads to carry around. Then we were taken through a gift shop. Then we were forced to take a picture which Zach ended up convincing me to buy, because he’s a sentimentalist, even though I wasn’t ready and look like a goon.

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The green screen photo I CLEARLY wasn’t ready for, but Zach somehow was.

Finally we got to the floor with the views. My phone promptly died after one picture, but it felt better that way. Instead of worrying about the perfect picture, we took our time wandering around, admiring the city from every bird’s eye angle we could find. Once we felt like we had absorbed most of it, we left, caught a cab, giving the driver an address on the West Side highway.

“Oh, you go to the bar!” Our Island cabdriver said.
“You clearly know us.”
“I should park my cab and join you,” he said.
“I’d buy you a drink, man!” Zach told him as we all laughed.

At the Frying Pan, a bar on a pier, we drank cold Pale Ales and ate sandwiches. We laughed about the morning and chatted about innumerable things, the kind of conversation only possible between two people who have known each other 12+ years. Once it got too breezy, we wandered through Chelsea and stumbled upon another dive bar we like, and we grabbed one more beer to cap the day.

THAT’s New York to me. THAT’s the thing they will never be able to appropriately sell to the hordes of tourists. It’s a city full of lovely, kind people, chance encounters, wanderings that usually result in something memorable and familiar. It was great to take in the city from above, but it’s so much better to be living right down in it.