What is an observation deck?

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When it comes to viewing a cityscape or natural wonder in its full glory, observation decks or viewing platforms stand tall, quite literally.

For many tourists and nature enthusiasts, these decks offer unparalleled panoramic views.

In this guide, we’ll delve deep into what makes observation decks tick and why they’re a must-visit.

What is an Observation Deck?

An observation deck is a raised platform, typically located in skyscrapers, towers, or atop natural elevations.

They are designed meticulously to offer visitors a comprehensive view of the city and the surrounding region.

From the bustling heartbeats of urban cityscapes to the tranquil serenity of nature’s landmarks, these platforms provide a vantage point like no other.

Types of Observation Decks

Observation decks, while primarily designed to provide panoramic views, come in various designs and forms.

Here’s a breakdown of the different types of observation decks:

Outdoor/Open-air Observation Decks

These are completely open to the environment, allowing visitors to be outside and experience the elements.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris is a good example of an open-air deck.

Enclosed Observation Decks

These are fully enclosed by windows or glass, shielding visitors from external weather conditions while still providing a clear view.

The SkyPod of the CN Tower in Toronto is the perfect example of an enclosed observatory.

Partial Open-air Observation Decks

These decks combine elements of both open-air and enclosed designs. They might have areas that are shielded and others that are exposed.

Tokyo Skytree’s Tembo Deck has both indoor and outdoor sections. Even the Empire State Building has both open and closed decks.

Rotating Observation Decks

These decks slowly rotate, allowing visitors to see a 360-degree view without moving from their spot.

It takes 45 minutes for the observatory at the Space Needle in Seattle to do a full rotation.

Ground-level Observation Platforms

Not all observation decks are sky-high. Some are closer to ground level but positioned to offer strategic views of surrounding attractions.

The ground on which these platforms are built is at a height.

Certain viewing platforms in national parks or wildlife areas that overlook landscapes, waterfalls, or animal habitats are good examples.

Natural Observation Decks

These aren’t man-made structures but natural formations that have been adapted (often with added safety measures) to serve as observation points.

For example, the Grand Canyon Skywalk is a horseshoe-shaped glass bridge that allows visitors to walk out over the Grand Canyon.

Multi-tiered Observation Decks

Some structures have multiple observation levels at different heights, each offering a distinct perspective.

The Shard in London has several levels open to the public for observation.

Interactive Observation Decks

These decks are equipped with digital or interactive features, like augmented reality screens, touch-screen telescopes, or virtual reality setups that provide information or enhance the viewing experience.

One World Observatory in New York City, which offers an interactive skyline concierge, is a good example.

Adventure Observation Decks

Beyond just viewing, some observation platforms offer adrenaline-filled activities. This might include glass floors, skywalks, or even bungee-jumping platforms.

The Macau Tower’s Skywalk X, where visitors can walk around the outer perimeter, is an ideal example of this kind of platform.

The design and type of an observation deck often reflect the character and purpose of its location, whether it’s to showcase a city’s skyline, natural wonders, or both.

What do observation decks offer?

Panoramic Vistas: The primary allure of observation platforms is the unhindered, expansive views they offer. Be it the skyline of bustling cities like New York or Dubai or the serene landscapes of the Grand Canyon, the vistas are unparalleled.

Visitor Amenities: To augment the viewing experience, many decks are equipped with telescopes and binoculars. Additionally, amenities such as cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops, and even augmented reality experiences are becoming increasingly common.

Safety Measures: Decked with safety railings, barriers, and in some cases, reinforced glass walls, these platforms ensure visitor safety remains paramount.

World-famous Observation Decks

The global landscape is dotted with iconic observation decks.

Some popular observatories offering fascinating views to its visitors are –

Empire State Building, New York: Located on the 86th and 102nd floors, this iconic skyscraper offers panoramic views of Manhattan and beyond.

Burj Khalifa, Dubai: As the world’s tallest building, its observation decks on the 124th, 125th, and 148th floors provide unmatched views of Dubai and the surrounding desert.

Eiffel Tower, Paris: Its three platforms provide scenic views of Paris, with the Champ de Mars, the Seine, and other landmarks in clear view.

Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo: This television broadcasting tower offers two main observation decks (Tembo Deck and Tembo Galleria) with expansive views of Tokyo.

Shanghai Tower, Shanghai: The world’s second-tallest building features an observation deck on its 118th floor, providing visitors with a sweeping view of Shanghai’s skyline.

One World Observatory, New York: Located on floors 100-102, this observatory provides views of the Manhattan skyline, Statue of Liberty, and neighbouring boroughs.

CN Tower, Toronto: Known for its glass floor and SkyPod, the CN Tower provides visitors with panoramic views of Toronto and Lake Ontario.

The Shard, London: The tallest building in the UK offers the “View from The Shard” experience, providing 360-degree views of London from its 72nd floor.

Sky Tower, Auckland: The tallest freestanding structure in the Southern Hemisphere, it provides views of Auckland and, on a clear day, up to 80 km (50 miles) in every direction.

Ostankino Tower, Moscow: As Europe’s tallest freestanding structure, its observation deck offers a panoramic view of Moscow.

Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro: While primarily a statue, its base serves as an observation point, offering panoramic views of Rio de Janeiro, Sugarloaf Mountain, and Copacabana Beach.

Grand Canyon Skywalk, Arizona: This horseshoe-shaped glass walkway extends over the Grand Canyon, allowing visitors to stand 4,000 feet above the canyon floor.

John Hancock Center, Chicago: Beyond the traditional observation deck, the “Tilt” is an enclosed platform that tilts visitors out over Michigan Avenue from the 94th floor.Unparalleled Panoramic Views

Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur: The Skybridge on the 41st and 42nd floors connects the two towers and provides a unique view of the city.

Each of these observation decks has its unique features and offers a different perspective, making them must-visit attractions for those seeking unparalleled views and memorable experiences.

Why are observation decks worth it?

Observation platforms offer many experiences and advantages that make them worth the visit.

Here’s why many tourists find them irresistible:

Unparalleled Panoramic Views

Observation decks provide visitors with bird’s-eye views that are often not achievable from any other vantage point.

They allow for panoramic glimpses of cityscapes, natural landscapes, or even iconic landmarks, making them a visual treat.

A Different Perspective

eck can change one’s perspective of a place.

The hustle and bustle of a city may appear calm and orderly, or the vastness of a natural landscape can seem even mor

Photographic Opportunities

For photography enthusiasts, observation decks are a haven.

They offer a chance to capture skyline shots, sunrise or sunset views, and architectural marvels from an elevated position.

Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, a nature enthusiast, or just someone looking for that perfect Instagram shot, observation decks around the world await with open arms.

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