Moving on up! The Ascent elevator at Summit One Vanderbilt shatters all expectations.
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Soon, Willy Wonka won't be the only one with a glass elevator.

The Empire State Building, One World Observatory, Top of the Rock, and The Edge all offer spectacular viewpoints high above the streets of Manhattan, but at New York City's newest observation deck, the real experience will be the journey to the top. Opening Oct. 21, the Ascent, an enclosed all-glass elevator, will rise 1,210 feet above the city along the exterior of the Summit One Vanderbilt tower.

The levitating deck at Summit One Vanderbilt
Credit: Courtesy of Summit One Vanderbilt

The see-through elevator will launch just off of Grand Central Terminal's main concourse, offering a new kind of immersive perspective of the city. "You have to experience it to understand the full feeling, but it's incredible," Rob Schiffer, managing director of the tower's developer, SL Green Realty Corp, tells Travel + Leisure. "I've been in buildings and on terraces all over New York and the world — and this is a unique experience. It takes you to the highest outdoor vantage point in NYC and it's a view that is beyond stunning. It's a must."

The idea came about while looking at a scale model during the design process for One Vanderbilt. "Looking at the crown of the building extending another 300 feet above the Summit's highest floor, we knew we had to get people higher," Schiffer explains. "For a variety of reasons, taking them up inside the building wasn't possible. That's when the idea of taking them up outside the building was born, and we went to work developing the concept that eventually became Ascent." Snøhetta, the architectural design firm behind the National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion at the World Trade Center, worked to bring the interior vision to life.

Exterior view of Summit One Vanderbilt
Credit: Courtesy of Summit One Vanderbilt

The elevator isn't the only glass-enclosed space at Summit One Vanderbilt. Once at the top, guests can step onto Levitation, glass sky boxes that protrude out from the tower, hovering 1,063 feet in the air, with a clear view of Madison Avenue below. "It will take your breath away and provide you with another unique vantage point of NYC," Schiffer tells T+L. Also at the top is the outdoor bar Après, which will serve food from Danny Meyer's Union Square Events. The seating area will include the world's highest urban outdoor alpine meadow.

Apres outdoor area at Summit One Vanderbilt
Credit: Courtesy of Summit One Vanderbilt

These offerings are just a taste of the 1,401-foot-tall tower's $3.3 billion development, which spans 65,000 square feet over four floors. Despite the global pandemic, plans for the opening never slowed down.

"Wait until we unveil the rest of the attraction, which is a multilevel, multisensory immersive art experience that is unlike anything else in the world," Schiffer said. That feature will be revealed this summer by storytelling studio Kenzo Digital Immersive. "Using materiality, lighting design, sound design, production design, and animation, this immersive experience will awaken your senses, transform your perception of New York, and reimagine your relationship to nature," artist Kenzo Digital of Kenzo Digital Immersive said in a statement. "It will be the ultimate example of the democratization of art — a revelatory experience regardless of age, origin, or walk of life."

In the meantime, Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud's Le Pavillon will open in One Vanderbilt this Wednesday, May 19, with a seasonal menu featuring seafood and locally sourced ingredients.