The Western Hemisphere's fastest elevator in the tallest skyscraper will take visitors up 1,250 feet in 47 seconds to the top of One World Observatory, while a three-dimensional video history lesson highlights the city's rebirth after 9/11.
More than 5 million people are expected to visit One World Trade Center's observatory on the 102nd floor during its first year, and see images and hear voices of iron workers and laborers who built the glass fortress, said Dave Kerschner, president of Legends, which operates the observatory.
Kerschner gave a tour Wednesday to dozens of reporters from across the globe; the official public opening is May 29.
Visitors must go through airport-like security screening before boarding the sky pod elevators. Their tickets will be scanned and their hometown state or nation will be highlighted and recorded on a wall-sized screen with a map of the world.
"We are celebrating all our visitors as they come through our welcome center. Their nation or state will be shown on the map as they walk through," Kerschner said.
Visitors then proceed into a narrow hallway where the voices of those who built the tower speak of their work experiences.
"I was there when the towers came down and now I had the opportunity to build it up again," says one of the voices, Jorge Fernandez, an assistant foreman.
Others include a steamfitter whose father built the World Trade Center. "This is for you, Dad," he says of One World Trade.
Visitors then walk alongside granite replica walls that pay homage to the granite foundation that sustains the 102-story building. There, people learn that 5.4 million cubic feet of concrete was used on the building.
The sky pod ride is silent and swift, with several moments of ear popping sensations. On the elevator walls are digital images of a 15th century New York City landscape that spans the growth of the city's skyline through the centuries, including construction of the Twin Towers and then One World Trade.
After the elevator ride, visitors enter the See Forever Theater to view a 2-minute video of iconic city scenes -- from zooming subway cars to the rapid footsteps of pedestrians. Then the screen lifts to expose a panoramic view of New York City, New Jersey and Long Island. On a clear day, one can see 50 miles onto the horizon.
More than 350,000 tickets have been reserved for the 45-minute tour until December. Tickets are purchased before the visit. Admission is $32 for ages 13-64 and $26 for ages 6 to 12. Same-day tickets may be available at the building's ticket office.Before the general public opening, 3,000 public school children will visit the observatory; a special opening will host the 9,000 workers, electricians, architects and engineers who helped build One World Trade. Complimentary tickets to families of 9/11 victims will be available through the 9/11 Tribute Center.