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10 Things to Do at Ground Zero in New York City

Ground Zero is, unfortunately, a Manhattan landmark that will always remind us of the 9/11 attacks. I tell you what you can see and do here

Isabel Catalán

Isabel Catalán

13 min read

10 Things to Do at Ground Zero in New York City

The 9/11 memorial | ©Hellotickets

Ground Zero was the scene of one of the most shocking events in the recent history of the city and is one of the most emotional visits to do in New York. I tell you what you can visit when you are walking around the area.

1. Climb to One World Observatory, the highest observation deck in New York City

The views from the One World Observatory| ©Hellotickets
The views from the One World Observatory| ©Hellotickets

The top floors of One World Trade Center, from 100 to 102, house one of the most innovative observatories built in the Big Apple. With a height of 386.5 meters, it is the highest observation deck in New York. From here there are spectacular 360º views of the city.

However, the One World Observatory does not have an outdoor area unlike other viewpoints such as the Top of the Rock or The Edge, but is all glass and interior so the perception is somewhat different, since you can not feel the wind in the face or the feeling of vertigo as in the others. Also, for those who want to take pictures, this may be a problem.

In any case, I recommend a visit to One World Observatory if you like skyscrapers and modern architecture as I do, because the design of this viewpoint allows you to see up to 80 kilometers of the city in all directions: the Empire State, the Brooklyn Bridge ... and even the Statue of Liberty.

The experience starts from the moment you enter the elevator, which is covered with LED panels that enliven the climb to the observation deck with the development of New York from its origins, in just 47 seconds! It is also a symbol of the new World Trade Center after Ground Zero that New Yorkers are proud of.

Practical Information

  • Where is it located? The observatory is in the One World Trade Center skyscraper located at 285 Fulton Street.
  • Hours: Open daily from 9AM to 8PM.

Tickets to One World Observatory

2. Meet the 9/11 Memorial dedicated to the victims of 9/11

Tribute to the victims| ©Hellotickets
Tribute to the victims| ©Hellotickets

The 9/11 Memorial is one of the most emotional visits to make in New York. Located at Ground Zero, it pays tribute to all the people who died in the terrorist attacks of 2001. This and the 9/11 Museum are the two monuments that struck me the most at Ground Zero and leave your emotions running high.

In the same place where the Twin Towers stood imposing today is located the Memorial Plaza, two huge fountains fed by waterfalls that are bordered by bronze plaques on which the names of all the victims have been captured.

They in turn are enveloped by hundreds of beautiful oak trees brought from Washington and Pennsylvania, also the scenes of 9/11. The result is a magnificent oasis of recollection in the midst of the bustle of the city that invites us to stroll to remember the past and to fill the future with hope and illusion.

Book tickets for the 9/11 Memorial and Museum

3. See the surviving tree

09/11 Tree Sub-Revivor| ©David Brooks
09/11 Tree Sub-Revivor| ©David Brooks

Among all these trees, one stands out called the survivor tree, the only one that survived the tragedy. The employees of the recovery works at Ground Zero in New York found it a month after the attacks and although it was still alive, it was in very bad condition so it was removed to be cared for and recovered.

Years later, in 2010, the surviving tree was returned to its original location and is now a symbol of hope and resilience for all New Yorkers and even the world. It is truly wonderful to be able to contemplate it today.

4. Visit the impressive 9/11 Museum

9/11 Museum Exhibit| ©LA Times
9/11 Museum Exhibit| ©LA Times

The 9/11 Memorial also has a museum displaying a collection of more than 10,000 objects recovered from the rubble, which belonged to the victims and the people who tried to help them after the attack.

For all of us who in one way or another witnessed 9/11, visiting the National September 11 Memorial & Museum is a very emotional moment during a trip to New York. It opened in May 2014 and documents the history and significance of the attacks on the World Trade Center through an extensive collection of pieces that bear witness to that tragic date.

What is the 9/11 Museum like inside?

That the 9/11 Museum is located underneath Memorial Plaza, within the remains of the original World Trade Center structure, was amazing to me. There is nothing that can prepare you for what you will see inside the 9/11 Museum after passing through the security arch as it stirs up so many emotions.

It is impossible not to have a lump in your throat throughout the tour, learning so much about the terrible event and the heroic response of New York City.

I was very impressed to see the remains of the original columns of the Twin Towers, the objects of the victims recovered from the rubble, the testimonies of the survivors and especially the stairs by which hundreds of people tried to flee for their lives in the midst of the chaos.

In the museum there are even the remains of a fire truck that took part in the rescue efforts that fateful day. It is truly shocking. Many people sacrificed their lives to save the lives of others and thanks to all those anonymous heroes, hundreds of people managed to survive that morning.

Practical Information

  • Where is it located? The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is located at 180 Greenwich St, Lower Manhattan.
  • Hours: Open Sunday through Thursday from 9 AM to 8 PM (with last admission at 6 PM) and Friday and Saturday from 9 AM to 9 PM (with last admission at 7PM).

Reserve your tickets for the 9/11 Memorial and Ground Zero

5. Stroll through 9/11 Memorial Glade, the memorial of heroes

Strolling through Ground Zero| ©Hellotickets
Strolling through Ground Zero| ©Hellotickets

The Glade Memorial located in Memorial Plaza, near the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, is dedicated to the rescue teams and those who died as a result of the indirect consequences of the attack.

Many firefighters, police, sanitation and other workers lost their lives while trying to help the victims or clearing debris. Others died from various illnesses after being exposed to harmful toxins in the air at Ground Zero.

They were all part of this tragedy, along with the nearly 3,000 direct victims and their families. The 9/11 Glade Memorial is a tribute to all of these people.

What is the 9/11 Glade Memorial like?

The story behind this memorial is very moving because of the beautiful significance it holds. It is a four-meter long path with six monoliths that seem to sprout from the ground and cross it. Each has steel from the One World Trade Center and was designed following a traditional Japanese technique called kintsugi, which involves repairing broken pieces of ceramic by filling the cracks with gold.

Kintsugi represents the idea that no scars should be hidden. On the contrary, they have to be shown because it is a symbol of damage but at the same time of strength. A concept that comes to signify the ability of New York City to overcome adversity without ever forgetting what happened on 9/11. A precious lesson in resilience.

6. See One World Trade Center, one of the tallest skyscrapers in the world

Image of One World Trade Center| ©Hellotickets
Image of One World Trade Center| ©Hellotickets

After the attack it was necessary to completely rebuild the area. The Twin Towers gave way to four large, modern skyscrapers, with the One World Trade Center standing out, a building that has become one of the main landmarks of New York.

At first it was baptized as Freedom Tower but later that name was discarded because of its emotional weight. Thus, finally One World Trade Center was chosen as the name of the tallest building of the complex with 104 floors and 541 meters high, that is, 1,776 feet, a symbolic number that refers to the year of the Independence of the United States. Curious, isn't it? This makes it the sixth tallest building on the planet and the first outside Asia.

It is accompanied by other glass, steel and concrete skyscrapers called 2 WTC, 3 WTC, 4 WTC and 7 WTC, intended for offices and other purposes, which replaced several of the buildings affected after the collapse of the Twin Towers.

7. Discover The Oculus and go shopping at its mall

The interior of the Oculus in Black and White| ©Hellotickets
The interior of the Oculus in Black and White| ©Hellotickets

Where the PATH Station once stood, destroyed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the WTC Central Station has been built by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

It is a huge and spectacular central station that connects numerous subway lines, trains and large buildings in the Financial District. What caught my attention is that it is crowned by a glass and metal dome called The Oculus where the light can flow easily illuminating the whole.

For its design Calatrava was inspired by the way in which a child releases a pigeon in his hands into the sky, but some say it looks like a big eye with eyelashes or that it is like being inside a whale...

The truth is that it is very different from Grand Central Terminal, the most important railway station in Manhattan and, in my opinion, one of the architectural jewels of New York dating from the nineteenth century. Although it is complicated to compare them since they are very different styles. Each one has its own charm, don't you think?

Westfield World Trade Center Mall

Just below the structure of The Oculus, which serves as a roof to the huge central lobby, is located Westfield World Trade Center Mall, a shopping center with more than 50 stores (Apple Store, Lacoste, H&M, Pandora...) and several restaurants (Eataly, Shake Shack, Starbucks...) that came to replace the World Trade Center Mall when it was destroyed in 9/11.

Westfield World Trade Center Mall is a good place to go shopping or to take a break for a snack after a visit to Ground Zero in New York. How about a coffee, an ice cream or a hamburger to get your strength back and continue your route through the city?

8. Take the opportunity to visit the Financial District

New York Stock Exchange Building| ©Hellotickets
New York Stock Exchange Building| ©Hellotickets

Lower Manhattan has a number of tourist attractions such as Battery Park, Wall Street and its Charging Bull, City Hall, the New York Supreme Court or Trinity Church, among others. But if there is something that attracts thousands of tourists to this area, it is the so-called "Financial District" of New York. Here, among hundreds of executives in suits, you can discover imposing buildings such as the New York Stock Exchange or the famous buffalo, which you will have to pet for good luck.

In this area, the streets are narrower and the skyscrapers are even taller (if possible), so much so that you will find it hard to guess the blue of the sky between the tall buildings. Here everyone is in a hurry, so you'll also find plenty of fast food joints where workers take a break from their day to grab a bite to eat.

9. Mix culture and shopping at Brookfield Place

The entrance to the Oculus mall at Christmas time| ©Hellotickets
The entrance to the Oculus mall at Christmas time| ©Hellotickets

Speaking of shopping, the 9/11 attacks also damaged the former Winter Garden Atrium shopping mall which was then part of the World Financial Center. Although its structure withstood the attack it was damaged under the rubble and the building had to be reconstructed to restore it to its former splendor and appearance.

In 2002, almost a year after the event, it reopened its doors under the name of Brookfield Place and we were able to walk again through the galleries and marble staircases, enjoying the beautiful windows through which natural light penetrates and the huge palm trees located inside the mall.

This mall is a lovely place to take a break and have a snack or to browse in its luxury stores (J. Crew, Bottega Veneta, Gucci, Louis Vuitton...). There is even a food market called Le District specializing in French cuisine where you can order what you like and sit down to eat at the tables scattered around the mall.

What else to do in Brookfield Place?

Throughout the year, Brookfield Place hosts cultural activities such as exhibitions, concerts, performing arts and children's programs for the whole family. If you are traveling with children to New York it is a good idea to check out the cultural offerings on their official website because there is always something to do.

In addition, during the winter outside Brookfield Place there is an ice rink that is usually not as crowded as others in the city. I recommend you to visit it at Christmas if you like skating because they also organize a beautiful light show in its central square.

Practical information about Brookfield Place

  • Where is Brookfield Place? It is located at 230 Vesey Street.
  • Hours: Open Monday to Saturday from 10 AM to 8 PM and Sundays from 12 PM to 18 PM.

10. Visit Saint Paul's Chapel, the miracle of 9/11

Saint Paul's Chapel| ©Austria Forum
Saint Paul's Chapel| ©Austria Forum

This chapel is a miracle. Despite being located very close to where the Twin Towers were located, it did not suffer any damage during the attack, unlike other more modern buildings in the area. Not a single broken pane of glass. That is why Saint Paul's Chapel is known as "the chapel that resisted".

It is the oldest religious building in Manhattan. Georgian style is the only one of the colonial era on the island known because it was here that George Washington made his speech as the first president of the United States in 1789.

Centuries later, surviving 9/11, it became a symbol of the triumph of life over unreason and barbarism. Because of its proximity to the area of the tragedy and the good condition it was in, Saint Paul's Chapel was used as a shelter for the police, firefighters and volunteers who worked for months at Ground Zero to help clear the rubble and search for victims.

Saint Paul's Chapel Memorial

In fact, to remember those who died on 9/11, a room inside the church was dedicated to them as a memorial. Saint Paul's Chapel is another of the places at Ground Zero in New York that I advise you to visit. Not only for its historical value but also for its emotional value to the city.

There you can see some photographs of the people who sacrificed their lives to save the lives of others and messages of support from the international community. There is also a board for those who disappeared that fateful day and you can even see the bed on which the volunteers rested during their endless days of work at Ground Zero. Undoubtedly, a visit that makes you shudder and makes you reflect a lot for the meaning it holds.

Practical Information

  • Where is it located? 209 Broadway, between Vesey and Fulton Streets.
  • Hours: Open Monday through Friday from 10 AM to 6 PM. The chapel is open Saturdays from 10 AM to 4 PM and Sundays from 7 AM to 9 PM.

What was the World Trade Center?

Twin Towers at the World Trade Center| ©Jean-Pierre Dalbéra
Twin Towers at the World Trade Center| ©Jean-Pierre Dalbéra

It was a complex located in Lower Manhattan where the emblematic Twin Towers, symbol of the American financial world since its inauguration in 1973, were located.

The 9/11 terrorist attack devastated the World Trade Center and took the lives of thousands of people. The area where the tragedy occurred became a huge crater that was eventually rehabilitated to build a memorial to the victims.

Today it has become a symbol of resistance in New York and Ground Zero has been renovated with several monuments that are well worth visiting. What can you see at the World Trade Center?

Practical Information of New York's Ground Zero

  • Where is it located? In Lower Manhattan, next to Wall Street.
  • How to get there. By public transportation you can take the subway Broadway - Fulton St (lines 4 and 5) or Cortlandt Street - World Trade Center (lines N and R); or the bus lines M05 and M20.

Other interesting experiences near Ground Zero

Views from the water along the Hudson| ©Hellotickets
Views from the water along the Hudson| ©Hellotickets

The tour of Upper and Lower Manhattan

Manhattan is the heart of New York, one of those places you can never get tired of exploring. If you enjoyed your visit to Ground Zero, you may be interested in taking the Upper and Lower Manhattan Tour, which will leave no relevant corner undiscovered.

With this tour you will see from a bus all the sights of downtown New York, its emblematic neighborhoods such as Greenwich Village, Wall Street, Chinatown or Little Italy, as well as the streets that make Manhattan world famous, such as Fifth Avenue.

If you want to know more about this experience in New York, I recommend you to read the article about the Upper and Lower Manhattan Tour where I explain in detail everything you will see, give you some useful tips and tell you more about other interesting experiences in the city that you won't want to miss.

Hop on one of the Hudson River cruises

Lower Manhattan is a key location from where you'll find several piers where you can board the cruise ships that ply the Hudson. There are tours and tours for all tastes and budgets, from those that depart during the day to see the Manhattan Skyline in all its splendor to the luxurious dinner cruises that depart every night and serve a gourmet dinner for you to enjoy the illuminated city.

Get to the Statue of Liberty

From Battery Park, just off Ground Zero, ferries depart to the Statue of Liberty. A ferry ride will give you the best views of Manhattan and Lady Liberty. Once you arrive at her island, Liberty Island, you can visit her Pedestal and even her Crown, but it is best to buy tickets to the Statue of Liberty in advance.

Take the opportunity to visit Brooklyn

If you cross the Brooklyn Bridge, something I recommend 100%, you will reach the Brooklyn borough, one of the trendiest areas of the city. Take the opportunity to walk its streets and avenues, take the mythical photo from DUMBO and have lunch or brunch in one of its hipster cafes.