Three new openings offer the best-ever views of D.C., Beijing, and San Francisco.
View from Observation Deck at CEB Tower in Arlington, VA
Credit: Courtesy of StayArlington/Observation Deck at CEB Tower

As the old adage goes, it's easier to go down a hill than up it — but the view is much better at the top.

Views from the top are one of the reasons we travel: to see the earth from airplanes, to get a new perspective on a place we're exploring. Thankfully, technology (in the form of high-speed elevators) makes the climb much easier these days — but the payoff at these new observation decks is just as sweet.

Interior of Observation Deck at CEB Tower in Arlington, VA
Credit: Courtesy of StayArlington/Observation Deck at CEB Tower

The first 360-degree view of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area debuted last month at CEB Tower in Arlington. On the 31st floor observation deck, floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the Potomac and the metropolis's iconic architecture. From the Washington Monument to Capitol Hill, to the Pentagon and new National Museum of African American History & Culture, this vantage point is ideal for experiencing the country's capital in almost no time. Glass-walled elevators whiz you to the top — and inside the two-story space, touchscreens with anecdotes and historical narratives orient visitors to the significance of the spectacular views.

Salesforce Tower, San Francisco
Credit: Courtesy of Salesforce

The new 61-story Salesforce Tower, in San Francisco’s up-and-coming Transbay District, bills itself as the tallest U.S. office building west of Chicago — and is certainly the tallest in San Francisco, a gleaming tapered glass tower with a clear view over the city and across the Bay. The top floor has been nicknamed "Ohana" — Hawaiian for family — and christened a communal spot for employees and special groups.

Opening in 2019, the Ohana Floor offers 360-degree views of the peninsula, Golden Gate Bridge, and even as far as the Farallon Islands on a clear day. Admission may take some finagling -- you must apply for its use -- but inside you can see the inner workings of artist Jim Campbell's nine-story LED light installation, which will broadcast colors and images for miles around the city, as well as the inspiring view.

Citic Tower in Beijing, China
Credit: by CaoWei/Getty Images

Opening later in 2018 is CITIC Tower, in Beijing’s new Central Business District — nicknamed "China Zun" for its curved shape, reminiscent of a traditional Chinese wine vessel (尊, or zun). At 108 stories, it towers over the CBD and the rest of the city and will claim the title of second tallest building in Northern China.

View from Citic Tower, Beijing, China
Credit: VCG/Getty Images

On the top floor, a rooftop garden and observatory deck with enormous floor-to-ceiling windows will provide views over all of Beijing, including the meticulously designed 75-acre business district core, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, and other architectural curiosities like Zaha Hadid's Galaxy Soho and the infamous “pants building” next door.

Our series Reasons to Travel Now highlights the news, events, and openings that have us scoping out plane tickets each day.