View Boston from High Atop the Pru
Check out the new three-story observatory deck and restaurant, offering an unparalleled way to see the city and environs
Boston’s newest observation deck reimagines the city 750 feet above the ground. Once-looming high-rises become shiny toy boxes, multilane highways appear as thin gray lines, and at every turn, a new part of the city sprawls out.
This is View Boston, a three-story observatory at the top of the Prudential Center that opened to the public June 15. The attraction occupies the 50th, 51st, and 52nd floors of the Pru, the same space as the old Skywalk Observatory and restaurant Top of the Hub. The redesigned space, with a $182 million price tag and taking four years to build, offers photo ops, interactive exhibits, video presentations, a bar, and a restaurant serving new American cuisine.
The cost of tickets, ranging from $29.99 to $49.99, depending on added perks like priority entry and spending vouchers, had already ripped the rose-tinted glasses off my face when I went to check out View Boston for BU Today. I wondered what kind of view could possibly cost more than a meal at the Eataly next door. As it turns out, the experience threw my expectations right over View Boston’s viewing deck.
By the time I arrive at 10 am, the lines on the ground floor for entrance—nestled between Vineyard Vines, Ralph Lauren, and Madewell inside the swanky Pru—stand empty. I’m told the real crowds start at 1 pm, with sunset time drawing the most visitors. An employee scans our tickets, which visitors need to hold on to for later.
After passing security, a sleek elevator playing videos of Boston’s skyline zips us up to the 52nd floor. From here, Boston spreads out as far as the eye can see. Sailboats dot the Charles, the Citgo sign shines familiarly, and the golden dome of the Statehouse gleams from above the Boston Common.
Inside the room, small silver statues of landmarks like MIT, Trinity Church, and Fenway Park sit on tables near the windows. View Boston designed the statues in collaboration with Perkins School for the Blind, allowing visually impaired visitors to touch and explore these iconic sites.
Visitors are able to rotate viewing guides (large screens) to point towards specific neighborhoods out the window. The viewing guide then offers lengthy descriptions of the neighborhoods they’re directed towards. Under both the sculptures and the viewing tools, visitors can scan their ticket to add whatever landmark or neighborhood they’re looking at to a virtual itinerary (that’s the reason you need to hold on to your ticket!).
One floor down lies the Cloud Terrace. The highest open-air viewing platform in Boston, this floor has a bar, seats, and comfy couches for reclining. Here, tourists seem to slow down from their sightseeing frenzy. Out on the 360-degree deck, families cuddle together on the couches and people take their time looking at the breathtaking views.
Regional touches also enhance the space. The bar, named Stratus, has a floor made of refurbished wood from an old local pier, and a mural by area artists Rachel and Ryan Adams decorates the terrace wall.
After the Cloud Terrace, visitors head to the 50th floor, called The City. Here a huge 3D model of Boston created in minute detail stands on display. Rotating videos of the Boston Marathon, Boston Pride, and other local events play in the background, and various landmarks light up intermittently on the model. Even familiar BU sights like the Center for Computing & Data Sciences, Myles Standish Hall, and the College of Communication lawn are visible.
I can barely contain my enthusiasm, and neither can the young boy next to me. “I love you, Boston, you are the best city in the entire world,” I hear him exclaim as he studies the miniature buildings. He might do well on View Boston’s marketing team.
Past the 3D model, a series of screens in the next hallway takes visitors through almost every attraction in Boston, all of which they can add to their virtual itinerary with a simple scan. There’s even a built-in babysitter—a games section keeps kids entertained while parents browse.
In the attraction’s final room, everything comes together. Scan your ticket, enter the length of your stay in Boston, and a screen compiles all the sites you’ve scanned and spits out a personalized itinerary for you for when you return to street level. At this point, the Eataly meal fades from my mind. For tourists, View Boston may just be worth the price. The attraction doesn’t only allow you to experience Boston, it equips you to explore it further once you leave the observation deck.
If you need a break from your trip planning, grab a snack or lunch at The Beacon. While overpriced (hello, $20 salad), the spot offers solid flavors and attentive service. Favorites include lobster roll crepes, chop cheese (beef, cheese, and pickles and onions on a roll), and the roasted chicken.
Though View Boston writes a pretty compelling love letter to Boston, there are still a few typos. Some viewing tools on the 52nd floor don’t work, and the silver statue for the Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge (Zakim Bridge) was nowhere to be found. The Beacon and the Stratus Bar are still playing around with hours and menu items, and when I pay for my meal, their card reader doesn’t work.
Despite these small gripes, View Boston comes to the city at just the right time. Seattle has its Space Needle and Chicago its Willis Tower, so it’s only fair Boston gets a stunning observatory of its own. Everyone—young, old, tourist, local—will find something here, whether they are falling in love with the city for the first time or the millionth.
View Boston is at 800 Boylston St., Boston. Tickets range from $29.99 to $49.99.