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

12 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 in New York. I'll tell you what you can visit when you're walking around the area.

1. Climb to One World Observatory, New York's highest observation deck

The views from One World Observatory| ©Hellotickets
The views from 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 to enjoy 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. Also, for those who want to take pictures it does not have the same charm.

In any case, if you like skyscrapers and modern architecture, I recommend a visit to One World Observatory, as 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.... 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: The observatory is located in the One World Trade Center skyscraper at 285 Fulton Street.
  • Hours: Open daily from 9AM to 8PM.

Book skip-the-line tickets to One World Observatory

2. Learn about the 9/11 Memorial dedicated to the victims of 9/11

A tribute to the victims of 9/11| ©Hellotickets
A tribute to the victims of 9/11| ©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 those 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 that 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 lined with bronze plaques on which the names of all the victims are engraved.

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.

Reserve tickets to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum

3. See the 9/11 survivor tree

9/11 Survivor Tree| ©David Brooks
9/11 Survivor Tree| ©David Brooks

Among all these trees stands out one 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 it was in very bad condition, so it was removed to be able to recover it.

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 the world.

Book a tour of Ground Zero

4. Visit the striking 9/11 Museum

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

The 9/11 Memorial also features a museum that exhibits a collection of more than 10,000 objects recovered from the rubble, which belonged to the victims and the people who tried to rescue them after the attack. It opened in May 2014 and documents the history and significance of the attacks on the World Trade Center.

For everyone who in one way or another witnessed 9/11, visiting the National September 11 Memorial & Museum is a very emotional experience.

What does the 9/11 Museum look like on the inside?

That the 9/11 Museum sits underneath the Memorial Plaza, inside the remains of the original World Trade Center structure, is amazing. There is nothing that can prepare you for what you will see inside the 9/11 Museum.

It is stunning to see the remains of the original Twin Towers columns, recovered victim artifacts, survivor testimonies and especially the staircases where hundreds of people tried to flee for their lives. In the museum are even the remains of a fire truck that participated in the rescue efforts.

Practical information

  • Where: The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is located at 180 Greenwich St, Lower Manhattan.
  • Hours: Open from 9 AM to 7 PM daily except Sunday, which is closed to the public.

Reserve your tickets for the 9/11 Museum

5. Stroll through 9/11 Memorial Glade, the memorial to the 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 workers and other workers lost their lives while trying to help the victims or cleaning up the rubble. Others from illnesses after being exposed to harmful toxins in the air at Ground Zero.

The 9/11 Glade Memorial is a tribute to all of these individuals and the nearly 3,000 direct victims and their families.

What is the 9/11 Glade Memorial like?

The story that this memorial houses is very moving. It is a four-meter long walkway with six monoliths that seem to sprout from the ground and run through it. Each one has steel from One World Trade Center and was designed following a traditional Japanese technique called kintsugi, which involves repairing broken ceramic pieces 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 New York City's ability to overcome adversity without ever forgetting what happened on 9/11. A precious lesson in resilience.

Book a tour of Ground Zero and the 9/11 museum

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

One World Trade Center| ©Hellotickets
One World Trade Center| ©Hellotickets

After the attack it was necessary to completely rebuild the area. The Twin Towers gave way to four large and modern skyscrapers where the One World Trade Center stands 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, One World Trade Center was finally chosen as the name of the tallest building in 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. This makes it the sixth tallest building on the planet and the first outside Asia.

It is accompanied by other skyscrapers of glass, steel and concrete 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.

Book skip-the-line tickets for One World Observatory

7. Discover The Oculus and tour its mall

Inside the Oculus in Black and White| ©Hellotickets
Inside 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. It is crowned by a glass and metal dome called The Oculus through which light can flow easily, illuminating the entire complex.

For its design Calatrava was inspired by the way 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 gems of New York dating from the nineteenth century. Although it is difficult to compare them since they are very different in style.

The Westfield World Trade Center Mall

Just below The Oculus structure is Westfield World Trade Center Mall, a shopping center with more than 50 stores and several restaurants (Eataly, Shake Shack, Starbucks...) that replaced 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.

Book a tour of Ground Zero and visit the 9/11 museum

8. Take a tour of 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 have trouble guessing the blue 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.

Book a tour of Lower Manhattan and Wall Street

9. Mix culture and shopping at Brookfield Place

The entrance to the Oculus Mall at Christmastime| ©Hellotickets
The entrance to the Oculus Mall at Christmastime| ©Hellotickets

Speaking of shopping, the 9/11 attacks also damaged the former Winter Garden Atrium mall. Although its structure withstood the attack it was marred 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 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.

This mall is a lovely place to take a break and have a snack or browse in its luxury stores. 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 at 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 their 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

  • Where: 230 Vesey Street.
  • Hours: Open Monday to Saturday from 10 AM to 8 PM and Sundays from 11 PM to 18 PM.

Book a tour of Ground Zero

10. Visit Saint Paul's Chapel

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 in style, it is the only one from 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, by 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 the fallen of 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 for 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: 209 Broadway, between Vesey and Fulton Streets.
  • Hours: The chapel is open daily from 8:30 AM to 6 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 iconic 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 with it 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 a visit.

Practical information

about Ground Zero in New York

  • Where is it: 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.

Book a tour of Ground Zero

Other interesting experiences near Ground Zero

Manhattan from the water| ©Hellotickets
Manhattan from the water| ©Hellotickets

The tour of Upper and Lower Manhattan

Manhattan is the heart of New York, one of those places you could never get tired of exploring. If you enjoyed your visit to Ground Zero, you may be interested in 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 like Greenwich Village, Wall Street, Chinatown or Little Italy, as well as the streets that make Manhattan world famous like 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, I give you some useful tips and tell you more about other interesting experiences in the city that you will not want to miss.

Hop on one of the Hudson River Cruises

Southern Manhattan is a key location from where you'll find several piers to hop on the cruises that ply the Hudson. There are tours to suit all tastes and budgets, from daytime tours to see the Manhattan skyline in all its splendor to luxury 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, next to 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 get to Liberty Island, you can visit her Pedestal and even her Crown, but it is best to book a tour to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island 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.

Book a ferry cruise to the Statue of Liberty