Located in Baltimore, Maryland’s Inner Harbor, the Top of the World observation deck is a 27th-floor observation area within the Baltimore World Trade Center, the tallest regular pentagonal skyscraper in the world. Baltimore’s World Trade Center building was designed in 1966 by Pei Cobb Freed and Partners architectural firm, intended as a center for services dedicated to the promotion of world trade.
The building’s construction began in 1973 and was completed in 1977, at a cost of $22 million. Its Pratt Street location along the city’s Inner Harbor was designed to mimic the prow of a ship and provide the illusion of the building rising out of the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. The facility is lit from the ground up by a system of 4,500-watt xenon spotlights designed by Ray Grenald, creating a beacon effect meant to mimic Chesapeake Bay area lighthouses. At a height of 405 feet, the skyscraper rises 30 stories above the Inner Harbor and is considered the tallest regular pentagonal skyscraper in the world, as the 75-story JP Morgan Chase building in Houston, Texas is classed as an irregular pentagonal structure. As one of 16 member facilities of the World Trade Centers Association, the building houses 309,000 square feet of office space and is home to the Maryland Port Administration, the World Trade Center Institute, and the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. Though it operates as a private nonprofit international business organization, it is held under state ownership by the Maryland Port Administration and building leasing is overseen by the Meridian Management Corporation.
Permanent Exhibits and Tours
Located on the World Trade Center’s 27th floor, the 360-degree Top of the World observation area offers an opportunity for tourists to experience panoramic views of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and downtown areas. As the 2015 recipient of TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence, the Top of the World serves as a joint observation deck and area visitor’s center, offering photo guides of area attractions, accommodations, and neighborhoods alongside binocular observation stations. Docents provide further information and personal anecdotes to further acquaint visitors with the Baltimore area. The observation facility is fully handicap accessible and features an art gallery area hosting rotating temporary exhibits of art and photography by regional artists. A gift shop also sells handmade items by Baltimore-area artists and makers.
The Top of the World observation deck is open during daytime hours, with final daily tickets sold one half hour before closing. Children under three years of age are admitted for free, and discounted rates are available for seniors, military members, and children under 12. As a result of heightened security measures following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center complex, all visitors are required to undergo manual searches of purses, backpacks, and other carry-on items before entering the observation area and are encouraged not to bring non-essential items to the facility.
As a part of Baltimore’s Harbor Pass attraction deal, visitors may purchase tickets for the Top of the World as part of a package with other Inner Harbor attractions, including the National Aquarium, the Port Discovery Children’s Museum, and the American Visionary Art Museum. Group tours for school groups and organizations of 50 visitors or more may be scheduled directly through facility administrative offices, and private rentals for corporate events and meetings may be scheduled to accommodate up to 250 participants. Several annual public special events are also offered at the facility, including a Picnic at the TOP! celebration offering panoramic views of the city’s Fourth of July fireworks and festivities.
World Trade Center Exhibits
The Baltimore World Trade Center is also home to the 9/11 Memorial of Maryland, honoring the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City’s World Trade Center facility. Dedicated in 2011 on the 10-year anniversary of the event, the memorial structure is located near the building’s Pratt Street entrance, featuring three 22-foot steel beams recovered from the wreckage of the 94th and 96th floors of the World Trade Center’s North Tower. Limestone pieces recovered from the damaged west wall of the Pentagon are also incorporated into the structure, which lists the names of 68 Maryland residents who were killed during the 2001 attack. The memorial is designed to work as a sundial in conjunction with the skyscraper’s shadow, so that the shadow crosses an inscription on the structure on September 11 of every year. Windows located on the building’s top story are also engraved with the names of all the attack’s victims, and a granite block exhibit honors the victims of Flight 93.
A Floating Wetlands exhibit area is also located at the building’s waterfront bulkhead, acting as a wetlands nitrogen extraction area for the Inner Harbor. Completed in 2012, the wetlands area is operated by Baltimore’s Waterfront Partnership, funded by grant money from Blue Water Baltimore. The wetlands system extracts two pounds of nitrogen from the Harbor’s waters for every 100 pounds of grass within the system, provides a marine life habitat area, and works in conjunction with the Mr. Trash Wheel water wheel and Healthy Harbor Plan program to utilize retrieved plastic bottles to provide structure buoyancy.
401 E Pratt St, Baltimore, MD 21202, Phone: 410-837-8439
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