New York, New York

One World Trade Center, right, draws visitors to its observatory, shown here, which offers spectacular views.Photos by Melissa Gerr
One World Trade Center, right, draws visitors to its observatory, shown here, which offers spectacular views.
Photo by Melissa Gerr

NEW YORK — From the Washington area, it’s an easy train, bus or car ride to New York City to revisit cultural meccas such as the Jewish Museum, wander the Lower East Side streets or lunch at your favorite deli. But if you haven’t visited since the One World Observatory opened in May at One World Trade Center where you can “see forever,” it’s time to plan your next trip.

The well-designed and thoughtfully orchestrated One World experience gives you a sense of global connectedness right from the start, where greetings in dozens of languages fill the lofty entrance and the visible tally map shows how many visitors arrive moment by moment and where in the world they harken from. Since the opening, more than 735,000 people have visited, or about 1,000 people per hour.

Those numbers can make for long lines. But time passes quickly for guests as the queues wind through a cave-like section featuring Voices and Foundations on the way to the elevators. Videos encased in the walls feature interviews with designers, engineers, architects and construction workers as they describe what it was like to create the tallest structure in the western hemisphere. Even in the elevator, visitors are treated to a surround-style experience as they travel 47 ear-popping seconds to the top. As the pod ascends, animated video engulfs riders, giving an historic overview of the New York skyline as it morphs from its beginnings in 1500 to present day.

Once on the observation levels (101 and 100) you can roam as long as you like — on a clear day you can see for 50 miles as far as Princeton, N.J., it’s claimed. The Discovery level on the 100th floor has huge circular multiscreen kiosks called City Pulse, the “interactive skyline concierge” that gives details for many landmarks, sites and events all across the city.

Visitors can rent an iPad for $15 that geolocates anywhere they are standing in the 360-degree view. Touch the screen for more information about whatever it is you’re viewing. Only rented iPads work in the area; personal tablets won’t function in the same manner.

Visitors can walk onto the14-foot diameter Sky Portal, but it’s not for the faint of heart or those with vertigo tendencies.

From a camera poised on One WorlTrade Center’s spindle, real-time high-definition video footage of the streets directly below is projected inside the portal’s floor. You get the sensation of walking high above the streets of Manhattan with a thin layer of glass between you and the bustling traffic below.

Of course, food and drink is available including a café, bar and restaurant, all with varying hours. Suggested timing is to arrive an hour or so before sunset and stay until dark to get the best of both views.

Exiting the tower, visitors come upon the 9/11 Memorial’s plaza. It features two enormous square waterfalls and reflecting pools, each set within the footprint of the original twin towers. The hypnotic cascading waters seem to disappear deep into the earth. Including the nearby 9/11 Museum, the memorial covers about half of the 16-acre site that was the base of the former World Trade Center complex.

The 9/11 Museum tells the story of the tragic event through multimedia displays, archives, written and audio narratives and hundreds of artifacts.

The experience consists of three distinct parts — the historical and memorial exhibitions and Foundation Hall, a cavernous space that was home to the “last column,” where visitors can listen to recordings from the men and women involved in the immediate aftermath. The space itself leaves the visitor face-to-face with a huge underground section of the foundation of the original World Trade Center site. Two to three hours is recommended to visit all three sections.

In the Historical Exhibition, visitors are led through sections that illustrate before, after and the day of 9/11, including events at the Pentagon and the story of Flight 93.

The Memorial Exhibition commemorates the lives of those who perished in 2001 and also during the WTC bombing of 1993. Names and photographs of each person, as well as commemorations and memorials from across the country and across the world, are documented.

One such commemoration was the story of the enormous U.S. flag that hung across from the World Trade Center site during the cleanup, which became tattered and in dire need of repair. Communities across the country participated in mending it as it traveled from city to city in a gesture of unity; in Baltimore, three threads from the flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812’s Battle of Baltimore were woven into its fabric.

If more than a one-day stay is in your plans, consider seeing the Lower East Side of Manhattan by way of the Tenement Museum walking tours. While the museum itself, at 97 Orchard St., is a living treasure of the local immigrant history, walking tours of the neighborhood point a focused lens at the different ethnicities, livelihoods and challenges that characterized the area during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Foods of the Lower East Side tour, offered twice a week, runs about two hours. It’s an easy stroll and you’ll taste samples from neighborhood originals like The Pickle Guys and Kossar’s Bialys; newcomers like Panade Chinese pastry and Vanessa’s Mandarin-fusion dumplings, Italian cheeses from Essex Street Market, delicious Dominican plantains and candy from the venerable Economy Candy run by the Cohens, a Greek-Jewish family that has been selling sweets on Essex St. since World War II.

Though you might be tempted to stop in Katz’s Delicatessen or Russ & Daughters nearby, you won’t be hungry after all those samples. Wander west and pick up the Number 1 train to pay a visit to Barney Greengrass, the Sturgeon King for a late lunch at Amsterdam and 86th.

Keeping Manhattan afloat in sable, whitefish and more since 1908, Barney Greengrass lives up to its commitment of being a “food store for those who demand the best.”

Half restaurant and half deli, the sights and aromas that greet you upon entering are guaranteed to stir your inner Jewish foodie soul. Cases on the right are filled with a bevy of fishes, meats and store-made salads; to the left are breads, bagels and sweet-baked goods. Shelves surround the jam-packed space with the likes of gefilte fish, caviar and pickled herring. Don’t miss the chunks of fresh halvah or babka loaves on the counter, and if you don’t want to assemble the meal, just step over the threshold to the full restaurant or put in a catering order to go.

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