Next week, the world will get a chance to take in New York City from the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, but the experience is more than just the view from the top.
The administrators behind the World Trade Center Observatory gave the media a sneak peek of the three-floor attraction Wednesday, lifting the curtain on the viewing space that's been years in the making. David Checketts, CEO of Legends, which operates the observatory, said the opening marked the latest step in the rebuilding of downtown Manhattan since 9/11.
"This is a fist bump, forever looking forward," he said.
On Tuesday, 3,000 selected city students will get a preview, and there will be an open house May 28 for people who were lucky enough to get special tickets. The observatory will fully open to the public on May 29 with tickets that range from $26 for kids aged 6-12 to $32 for adults. Four million people are expected to visit the observatory in its first year.
The experience begins in the lobby where, following a security check, visitors will see an interactive map that pinpoints the hometowns of the ticket holders, as well as other data about the guests such as how far they traveled.
"We'll be prepared to calculate those statistics as you arrive," Checketts said.
The corridor leading to the elevators includes two sections of monitors that display video anecdotes from the men and women who helped build the tower and a brief history of the construction.
About 9,000 of those workers will get a preview of the observatory on May 27.
After making their way through another section decorated with rock, visitors will head to an elevator that will carry them to the 102nd floor in 47 seconds.
Inside is an animated time-lapse video that shows New York City change from a lush grassland in the year 1500 to a modern metropolis filled with skyscrapers as you rise to the top. Visitors will start the next leg of their tour with another video presentation about the rich diversity and history of the city. The screen in the elevator then rises to reveal the breathtaking view from the 102nd floor.
"We wanted to make you wait for it," Checketts said of the awe-inspiring sight.
The 101st floor is the observatory's spot for visitors looking to get a good bite with their trip to the top. There's a restaurant that serves traditional cafe and lunch items while another section is meant for fine dining, complete with stylish tables and chairs.
The main observatory is on the 100th floor, where viewers can freely walk around and take in the view of the tri-state area. Visitors are encouraged to snap pictures of as many of their favorite sights as they can. Checketts and his team said they hope tourists will get a new perspective and appreciation of New York from that height.
"This is about starting a new era," he said, "not just for the city but for the entire country."