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Our first day in New York City is too much for one blog post to handle, so it’s being broken up into two posts. In the morning, we headed into Manhattan to the World Trade Center, visiting the One World Observatory and National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

Shortly after sunrise, we left our hotel in Harrison, New Jersey and walked just a minute down the street to the train station. There, we joined the commuters on a train to the World Trade Center PATH station. Inside, we got our first glimpse of the gorgeous Oculus, but didn’t have time to gawk at it’s expansive glory as we had a schedule to keep. By our 9:00 AM ticket time, we were outside the front door to the One World Observatory.

We were told that cloud coverage was 100%, but decided to keep our ticket time anyway so the delay wouldn’t throw off the rest of the day’s itinerary.

The elevator ride all the way up to the 102nd floor was an unexpected and incredible highlight of the visit. The elevator cab is lined with screens that provide a history of downtown Manhattan as it ascends the shaft. Starting with New York marshland of the 1600s, buildings are gradually constructed all around as the viewpoint also rises in conjunction with the cab’s increasing elevation. The view is a completed, modern-day downtown Manhattan by the time the cab reaches the top. Very cool! I wished I could have taken the elevator ride a few more times just to see what I missed from all sides!

The real windows at the top revealed exactly what was warned down below – 100% coverage. Eventually we could peek through a few breaks in the clouds to reveal the city far below, but we mostly waited out the weather for a bit, enjoyed some incredibly overpriced pastries (location is everything, I guess!) and eventually had a rather spectacular view of the city all around.

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The clouds never parted completely, but that’s also what made this view so unique, being amongst the clouds and watching them race by with the city streets far below. The weather forecast also kept crowds to a minimum and had grown considerably once word reached the ground that visibility had improved. That was our cue to leave!

Back on ground level, we walked the September 11 Memorial reflecting pools and admired the Survivor Tree which was heavily damaged on 9/11, removed and brought back to health, and replanted back at the original site nine years later. Such an incredible natural monument of hope.

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Inside the National September 11 Museum, housed in the original “bathtub” foundations of the original twin towers, we slowly made our way through one emotional display after another – the Ladder Company 3 Fire Truck, Survivors’ stairs, Foundation Hall with the original slurry wall and Last Column.

I personally found the art installation, Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning, to be most moving. This art piece is 2,983 individual drawings memorializing the victims of both 1993 and 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, each a different shade of blue that attempts to remember the color of the clear sky on that September morning.

We tried to walk through the historical exhibition that leads viewers through the events of Septemebr 11, 2001 but it was impossibly crowded and difficult to see. The day was nearing lunchtime so we prepared to leave.

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New York pizza is a must when in the city, so we got a few slices from Majestic Pizza and brought them to Zuccotti Park, which sounded great in theory (New York pizza enjoyed outside in a lovely little park!) but the boys were annoyed by all the birds and smokers. Eh, not all plans are as perfect as they seem!

We would spend the afternoon exploring the historical parts of downtown Manhattan. More to come!

World Trade Center Observatory and Museum