Ground Zero and the 9/11 Memorial are daunting places, but give you a context of New York City that will change your view of the event that shocked the world. The 9/11 Museum also explores more deeply its social and political consequences.
1. How to Visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum
In memory of the 9/11 attacks, today you can visit the Museum, the Memorial, Ground Zero, and the World Trade Center. Here's how to visit each place:
2. Tickets with an audio guide for the 9/11 Museum
One thing you should know before going to Ground Zero is that the 9/11 Memorial and the 9/11 Museum are different things. The Memorial is a monument located on the former foundation of the Twin Towers, and the 9/11 Museum is an underground facility below Ground Zero that houses an exhibit about the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath. You can buy your tickets for the 9/11 Museum here.
You are free to visit the 9/11 Memorial, but you will need a ticket for the 9/11 Museum. The great upside of getting them in advance is that you won't have to wait in line to visit the museum and you will secure your ticket for the day you plan to visit.
The 9/11 Museum has only one type of ticket, the general admission to the 9/11 Museum. When booking your tickets, you must select a time slot in which to visit the Museum, which usually spans about two and a half hours.
With the Museum's app, in addition to accessing interactive parts of the exhibition that you will not be able to see otherwise, you can listen to a complete audioguide in English so you won't miss anything. Once you reserve your ticket, you will receive it in your email and you will just have to present it on your cell phone at the entrance and pass the security check to access the Museum.
3. Memorial Tour and Museum entrance (morning)
My recommendation is that you take the tour of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, as it will give you an in-depth understanding of how the September 2001 attacks affected New York and the world.
For about two hours, an expert local guide will take you around Ground Zero and the 9/11 Memorial with an illustration of how New Yorkers experienced the attacks, and tell you about his personal experience of 9/11.
What you will see on this tour
You will also visit the St. Paul's Chapel, which remained intact despite being only a block away from the Twin Towers, and which served as a makeshift place to tend the victims of the attacks and a place to inform family members of missing persons.
Afterward, you will tour the 9/11 Museum and its exhibit dedicated to the World Trade Center attacks, recounting the events through personal stories and analyzing the effects of the terrorist attack on New York and the rest of the world.
4. Tour of the Memorial, 9/11 Museum, and Ground Zero
You can extend your experience at the 9/11 Memorial and Ground Zero with a guided tour of the 9/11 Museum, with a New Yorker guide who will share with you their personal story of the day of the attacks. You will walk through the same points as on the Memorial tour and explore the 9/11 Museum.
Although your guide will not be able to give you a guided tour of the Museum (the organization does not allow it), they will be able to give you all the context you need and comment on the objects and videos that are part of the exhibition.
5. Guided tour of Ground Zero and 9/11 Memorial (with tickets to the 9/11 Museum and One World Observatory)
This tour of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and Ground Zero includes all of the above, but also comes with tickets to One World Observatory. If you were planning to go up the One World skyscraper, this is the perfect option for you as you can save a bit of money on each individual ticket with the convenience of having both tickets in one place.
6. New York Pass and other passes
Remember! Admission to the 9/11 Museum is included in the main city sightseeing passes: New York CityPass, New York Explorer Pass, The New York Pass, and Sightseeing Pass. If you purchase any of these passes, you will be able to access the museum, although you will miss the depth that a local guide's commentary will add to your visit.
7. September 11, 2011
I will hardly ever forget that Tuesday in September when, having returned home from school with my brother, we turned on the television as usual to play video games, but never got around to changing the channel: we stood horrified watching the images of the Twin Towers collapsing in a cloud of black smoke, which the news repeated over and over again.
We had not long returned to Madrid after living in New York for nearly seven years, so those images were coming from the place we still considered home.
Chances are if you're reading this, you also have a story to tell about 9/11. If you weren't in New York, you were most likely at home or at work, watching the news in complete shock like me. If you lived in New York, your story will be very different, and it is precisely this story that is told at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York.
8. What you will see at the 9/11 Memorial
The World Trade Center is now a park of oak trees at the center of which are the twin fountains that make up the 9/11 Memorial, where water cascades down in a waterfall. In homage to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the names of those who lost their lives that day are engraved on the outer edges of the fountains.
The fountains and the names of the victims are illuminated at night, giving the place a special atmosphere.
9. What is a visit to the 9/11 Museum like?
You will enter the 9/11 Museum through a pavilion located at the Memorial. You will descend into the underground facilities where the first thing you will see is Virgil's quote, "No day shall erase you from the memory of time" in the room known as Memorial Hall.
As you proceed through the space beneath the World Trade Center, you will pass into Foundation Hall, the Museum's main hall, whose most prominent feature is the 'Last Column'. This was the last piece of the building to be removed in the Twin Towers rubble removal effort and is covered with inscriptions and signatures of those who participated in the Ground Zero recovery work.
10. What are the museum exhibits like?
The museum's two main exhibits are In Memoriam, which pays tribute to the victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks and those of the 1993 bombing that also took place at the World Trade Center, and September 11, 2001, a minute-by-minute chronology of what happened that day and a reflection on how the world we live in today has been shaped by the World Trade Center attacks.
Throughout the museum, you will find a collection of 60,000 objects salvaged from the rubble of the Twin Towers through which the story of 9/11 is told through various perspectives, including first-person accounts, documents, and belongings.
11. Where is the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and how to get there?
To get to Ground Zero, located at 180 Greenwich Street, I recommend taking the subway to the World Trade Center train station or going to the Chambers Street station.
12. 9/11 Memorial and 9/11 Museum opening hours
Both the 9/11 Memorial and the 9/11 Museum are open every day of the week (except September 11, when they are closed to the public for a memorial service). The 9/11 Memorial and 9/11 Museum hours on Fridays and Saturdays are 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (last admission at 7:00 p.m.), while Thursday through Sunday they are open from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (last admission at 6:00 p.m.).
13. When to go
I recommend that you visit the Museum right after opening to experience the solemnity and intimacy of the exhibition. If there is something to criticize about the Museum, it is that its minimalism and the atmosphere it tries to create are not entirely compatible with the tourist crowds.
14. Where to eat in the area of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum
Being in the middle of the Financial District, there aren't too many restaurants in the 9/11 Memorial and Museum area, but there are a couple of worthwhile places:
- Delmonico's - A relatively expensive steakhouse but one that scores fairly high on TripAdvisor.
- Leo's Bagels - A place where you'll find the typical New York Bagel and my personal recommendation to anyone who travels to New York.
- If you're looking for something quick, in The Oculus you'll find a lot of restaurants and fast-food chains (like in any mall in the US): Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Eataly, Shake Shack...
15. The Oculus
Speaking of The Oculus, I recommend you stop by while you're in the area to visit to the World Trade Center. It is a building with a very particular design, which houses the World Trade Center train station and a shopping mall where you will find shops, restaurants, and cafes. If you love photography or are looking for the best photos for your Instagram feed, it's the perfect place to add to your list of New York must-sees.
The Oculus is open from 10:00 a.m. to 20:00 p.m. from Monday to Saturday and from 11:00 a.m. to 19:00 p.m. on Sundays.
Practical information for your visit
- Try to get to Ground Zero as early as possible, to avoid the crowds and have a more personal and quiet experience. The place deserves it. Alternatively, you can visit the Memorial at night to experience a more intimate atmosphere.
- Visiting the Memorial is always free, but you can also enter the Museum for free on Thursdays from 17:00 p.m.
- You can take photos at both the Memorial and the Museum.
Alex's Traveller Tip
You can delve deeper into the 9/11 Museum with the augmented reality app 'Explore 9/11'.
17. Other interesting tours in New York
If you want to expand your knowledge about the history and culture of New York, I recommend you to do three of the most amazing tours the city has to offer: the Harlem tour, the Contrasts tour, and the Upper and Lower Manhattan tour. Here are the practical guides I have written for each of them so you can check them out while organizing your trip to New York: New York Contrasts Tour, Upper and Lower Manhattan Tour and Gospel Mass and Harlem Tours.
Frequently asked questions
When is the best time to book a 9/11 Memorial tour?
Due to the level of detail many tour guides go into, we advise you to pick a time that also gives you a chance to see the rest of the area, including the museum, before closing time. The average visit to the Memorial takes about 2 hours.
Do I need tickets to visit the 9/11 Memorial?
Do I need tickets to visit the 9/11 Memorial?The 9/11 Memorial is actually open to the public so you don't need a ticket. When most tours talk about "9/11 Memorial tickets" they are mostly referencing either tickets for a guided tour or tickets for the 9/11 Museum itself.
Is there a difference between the 9/11 Memorial and the 9/11 Museum?
There is! The 9/11 Memorial is open to the public, and is actually a cascading fountain located at Ground Zero, while the 9/11 Museum requires a ticket but gives adds a lot of context and history to the 9/11 event.
What other places are related to the 9/11 Memorial?
Every tour is unique, so depending on the day you will visit St. Paul's Cathedral, Firefighter's Memorial Wall, The Oculus, the Survivor Tree, Brooks Brothers or the The Millenium Hotel, all related to the events that took place on 9/11.