What Does Freedom Tower Stand For? History and Top Sights
By Hedy Phillips
December 11, 2022
One of the most recognizable buildings in New York City is Freedom Tower — and it’s also one of the newest ones. This skyscraper, which is less than 10 years old, stands as a beacon on the southern tip of the island. Built upon the wreckage of the 9/11 terrorist attack, when the Twin Towers came crashing down after being hit by two hijacked airplanes, Freedom Tower is a symbol of America standing tall amid the trauma.
There is a lot of symbolism that went into constructing this tower, as well as plenty to do if you plan to visit. Here’s everything you need to know about Freedom Tower.
What is Freedom Tower?
Freedom Tower — which stands at One World Trade Center — is an office building and tourist attraction that stands near the site of the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York City. The 1,776-foot-tall building, which officially opened in 2014, also has an observatory at the top, providing gorgeous views of Manhattan and beyond.
What is the symbolism behind Freedom Tower?
When architect Daniel Libeskind and later the firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill put together the plans for Freedom Tower, symbolism was part of the design. To start, the tower is 1,776 feet tall, symbolizing the year the Declaration of Independence was approved.
As a tribute to the fallen Twin Towers, the base of Freedom Tower is the same size as both the North Tower and the South Tower: 200 feet on each side. This is also how big each side of the Reflecting Pools is as well, both at the site where the original towers stood.
Rather than build two towers to replace what fell, the architects designed one big tower that appears to be two. The top of the tower is rotated 45 degrees so that the building appears as a prism.
Things to do at Freedom Tower
There are quite a few things to keep you busy once you’ve arrived at Freedom Tower, both inside the building and on its grounds. Here’s what to do at Freedom Tower:
- Observation Deck: The most popular thing to do at the World Trade Center is to visit One World Observatory, where you’ll find the observation deck. The observation deck takes up floors 100-102, but there’s a whole experience involved with visiting. When you get to Freedom Tower, you’re greeted at the Global Welcome Center, where you can learn about the construction of the tower and its history. Then you can hop in a SkyPod — the elevator — to travel to the top, where you can take in the 360-degree views. The quick elevator ride provides more facts about the building.
- See Forever Theater: At the top of Freedom Tower, before you get to the views, you can also check out the See Forever Theater. As part of the observatory experience, this theater provides a short video of what lies right outside the windows: beautiful New York City.
- ONE Dine: If you’re hungry, there’s a restaurant perched atop Freedom Tower called ONE Dine. The restaurant, which is open for lunch, dinner, and late-night cocktails, has a menu with a little something for everyone — including classic New York cheesecake. A ticket to the observatory is required to eat at the restaurant, and you can purchase a package that includes the ticket and your meal ahead of time. You can also check out the bar, ONE Mix, and cafe, Illy Cafe and Gelateria.
- Souvenirs: No trip is complete without souvenirs! While the photos you take at One World Trade Center will no doubt be an excellent memento, you can also pick up other souvenirs at the building’s gift shop in the observatory.
- Ground Zero: Ground Zero is right outside the door of Freedom Tower and is part of the experience. You’ll find the Reflecting Pools next door to One World Trade, as well as places to get outdoor views of Freedom Tower.
Local tip: Buy your tickets ahead of time so you don’t have to wait in line to buy them when you arrive. This also ensures you’ll get in. There are capacity limits.
Things to do nearby Freedom Tower
After you’ve seen Freedom Tower, don’t leave the neighborhood. There are plenty of other sights nearby! The Reflecting Pools should be top of your list for what to see after Freedom Tower, but there’s even more in the area.
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum: Nestled between the Reflecting Pools is the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. This vast museum, which extends below ground, takes you back to what happened on 9/11 through news clippings, photos, videos, and wreckage left behind after the attack.
- Ground Zero: Take a guided tour, led by lifelong New Yorkers, around Ground Zero and learn more about the history of the area and what the city has done to come together in the aftermath. Depending on the tour you opt for, you can combine this with a ticket for the museum and even for One World Observatory.
- The Oculus: The Oculus is a fascinating structure from the outside, and on the inside, you’ll find a mall. Take pictures from the outside before heading in for some shopping and food. Plus, it has several entrances to subway platforms, so you can also end here and hop a train to your next destination.
- Battery Park: Just down the street is Battery Park. This is where you can get the Staten Island Ferry or a ferry to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty. The Staten Island Ferry is free and provides you with beautiful views of the city, but you’ll need a ticket for the Statue of Liberty if you’re heading in that direction. Buy your tour tickets ahead of time here to see both Liberty Island and Ellis Island.
Local tip: If you walk south on Church Street to get from Ground Zero to Battery Park, you’ll come across plenty of souvenir shops and souvenir stands (if the weather’s nice), so you can pick up even more goodies to take home along the way.
More to see
Lower Manhattan has plenty to do, see, and eat, but it’s only one little piece of what New York City has to offer. Head uptown to check out Central Park or Broadway. Or take in another city view from the Edge in Hudson Yards. Don’t forget to explore outside Manhattan too, if you have the time.
The Bronx has delicious food and beautiful art to see, as do Queens and Brooklyn. And whatever you don’t get to on this trip, you can save for your next visit — because I know you’ll want to come back!