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The 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers shook the world and changed New York City forever. Therefore, the poignant 9/11 Memorial and Museum is a must-visit when you’re in the city.
Almost everyone who was alive at the time remembers where they were when the news of 9/11 broke – us included. I remember watching it before school in Australia and being late because my mum couldn’t stop watching.
It’s such an important part of the United States’ recent history. As such, visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum was at the top of our list of things to do in New York City, and going there really meant a lot to us.
The 9/11 Memorial opened in 2011 (on the 10th anniversary of the attacks) and consists of two pools that sit where the Twin Towers once stood. Meanwhile, the adjacent museum opened in 2014 and houses over 70,000 artifacts that were recovered from Ground Zero.
We found visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum to be a very moving experience. We also wanted to make the logistics of visiting easier for others – which is why we’ve put together this list of 12 things you need to know before you go.
- 1. About the 9/11 Memorial and Museum
- 2. Where is the 9/11 Memorial?
- 3. When is the 9/11 Memorial and Museum open?
- 4. How much does it cost to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum?
- 5. Do you need to purchase tickets in advance?
- 6. When is the best time to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum?
- 7. The 9/11 Memorial vs 9/11 Museum
- 8. What are the best tours of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum?
- 9. How long do you need to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum?
- 10. Is the 9/11 Memorial and Museum suitable for children?
- 11. Is the 9/11 Memorial and Museum wheelchair friendly?
- 12. Is visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum worth it?
- Other Things to do While You’re in New York City
- Where to Stay in New York City
- Thanks for reading!
- Why We Book Tours with Viator
- Don't get Caught without Travel Insurance!
1. About the 9/11 Memorial and Museum
On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial airplanes, two of which were flown into the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York City.
At the time, the Twin Towers were the tallest buildings in the world. At 8:46 am, the first plane hit the North Tower, and 17 minutes later, the second plane flew into the South Tower.
The towers collapsed, and almost 3,000 people tragically lost their lives, including over 400 police officers and firefighters. It was the deadliest terrorist attack in human history, and fires smoldered at Ground Zero for almost 3 months after the towers fell.
The entire world was shaken by this awful terrorist attack taking place right in the heart of one of the world’s busiest cities. Neither of us is American, but we both have vivid memories of the day the towers fell, even though we were very young at the time.
Vigils were held across the world, and the effects of the attacks were far-reaching, causing an increase in racial tensions, severe health consequences for many New Yorkers, and the US War on Terror.
The 9/11 Memorial opened on September 11, 2011, 10 years after the attacks took place. The Memorial consists of two waterfall pools that sit in the footprints of the Twin Towers.
The reflecting pools are designed to symbolize the loss of life in the attacks and the void that they left. Names of the victims are engraved around the edge of the pool. I found it especially heartbreaking to see the names of women followed by the words “and her unborn child.”
There are over 400 white oak trees in the Memorial Plaza. There’s also a Memorial Glade path to honor first responders who were not killed during the attack but later suffered from illness or died after inhaling toxins during their heroic acts.
The 9/11 Museum is adjacent to the Memorial and opened in May 2014. It includes over 70,000 artifacts recovered from the wreckage of the Twin Towers. Items like rubble and the huge, twisted steel cross beams make you realize just how devastating these attacks were. Meanwhile, personal belongings like bloodied shoes and driving licenses give you a sense of the individual loss and tragedy suffered.
2. Where is the 9/11 Memorial?
The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is located in Lower Manhattan. The entrance is on Greenwich Street, and there are several subway stations nearby.
Basically, you’ve got a ton of options for getting here via public transport. There’s very limited parking by the Memorial, so if you want to arrive in a car, we recommend taking a taxi instead of driving yourself. You can also walk here from the Financial District.
Related Read: To see the city from high above, read about the best observation decks in NYC (including our personal favorite!).
3. When is the 9/11 Memorial and Museum open?
The 9/11 Memorial is open every day from 8 am until 8 pm so it’s easy to add in a visit to your New York itinerary. Meanwhile, the Museum is open Wednesday through Monday from 9 am until 7 pm (but is closed on Tuesdays). The last admission is at 5:30 pm, though, as you need at least an hour and a half to get around – it’s huge!
4. How much does it cost to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum?
The 9/11 Memorial is actually free to visit, so you only have to pay to enter the museum. Museum tickets cost $33 USD for adults, $21 USD for seniors, and $27 USD for kids (ages 7-17). There is also an optional self-guided audio tour you can purchase inside for $10 USD.
If you want to visit the nearby One World Observatory, in the reconstructed World Trade Center, you can combine tickets to save money. For $109 USD, this pass includes a 90-minute guided walking tour of the 9/11 Memorial, museum entry, and tickets for the One World Observatory. We think it’s a good way to save money and also gives you a very well-rounded experience.
And if you’re interested in doing a lot of sightseeing while you’re here, we recommend buying The New York Pass. It gives you access to over 100 attractions including the 9/11 Museum. Our full review of The New York Pass has a complete breakdown on how it works! Or you can compare all the best sightseeing passes in NYC to find one that fits your trip.
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
5. Do you need to purchase tickets in advance?
Yes! Well, technically, you don’t have to, but it saves a lot of time.
When you book online, you select a time slot between 9 am and 5:30 pm. However, there are limited spots for each time. This means that if you buy your tickets at the entrance, you might have to wait for a long time.
The line to buy tickets can also be extremely long. But if you purchase your tickets in advance, then you’ll be able to skip it!
Related Read: After sightseeing, you’ll likely be quite hungry. For a different dining experience, read our guide on booking a NYC dinner cruise.
6. When is the best time to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum?
We highly recommend going in the morning and booking one of the earlier time slots. By lunchtime, the memorial and the museum are both very busy. Get the 9 am slot if you can!
It’s also worth visiting if you’re looking for activities to do on a rainy day in New York City. The museum is completely indoors, so you can take your time wandering around while you wait for the weather to clear.
7. The 9/11 Memorial vs 9/11 Museum
The 9/11 Memorial is a permanent exhibition consisting of two reflecting pools which are positioned exactly where the North and South towers once stood. This is a place to reflect and remember the victims who lost their lives in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The 9/11 Museum is adjacent to the memorial. It’s absolutely huge, covering over 110,000 square feet (10,220 square meters). Inside, there are multimedia displays that convey the scale of this tragedy. You’ll witness first-person accounts from survivors and first responders and personal items recovered from the scene.
Visiting the Museum is a very moving experience, but it’s also very educational. It took us quite a while to walk these vast halls, and we learned so much in the process.
We think that both are absolutely worth visiting and that the 9/11 Memorial and the Museum complement each other perfectly. It really gives you a sense of the scale of the attacks and the consequences for individuals, the city of New York, and the whole world.
8. What are the best tours of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum?
9/11 Memorial and Ground Zero Walking Tour
We think doing a 9/11 Memorial tour is well worth the experience. It really conveys the profound impact these attacks had on the city of New York. Of course, the attacks shook the entire world – but it’s really hard to imagine something like this happening in your home city. That’s why this guided walking tour, which is led by a native New Yorker, is so insightful.
The walking tour takes you to so many landmarks related to the 9/11 attacks – and each was special in its own right. You’ll meet your group at the Bell of Hope, where your walking tour begins. The whole thing is 2 hours long, potentially more if you visit the museum after – so wear comfy clothing and shoes!
Along the way, you’ll visit the FDNY Memorial Wall, which is dedicated to the 343 firefighters who died saving others on 9/11. The wall also commemorates Glenn J. Winuk, a law firm partner and volunteer firefighter who rushed from his office to join the rescue efforts and lost his life as a result.
Your guide will also take you to St. Paul’s Chapel, which is just across the street from Ground Zero. The chapel wasn’t damaged in the attacks, and over 5,000 volunteers worked at the church. It functioned as a base to provide hot meals and refuge for those involved in the rescue efforts.
On this tour, you’ll visit other memorials, such as the Eleven Tears memorial that commemorates the American Express workers who lost their lives. It’s a stunning memorial with an 11-sided crystal suspended from the ceiling and continual drops of water falling into the pool below like teardrops. It’s not included on many tours, but is so moving to see.
Plus, you’ll pass the America’s Response Monument, which is dedicated to the military who also fought in response to the attacks.
As you walk, your local guide will explain how the attacks impacted – and continue to impact – the city of New York. This was the most poignant part of the tour for me. We learned what the experience was like from people actually living here at the time.
The tour ends at the 9/11 Memorial, and you can choose to visit the Museum afterward if you wish. It definitely makes visiting Ground Zero even more meaningful, and it gives you a much deeper understanding of 9/11 and what it meant for the people of New York.
The tour starts at 9:30 am and costs $35 USD. For $70 USD, you also get entry to the Museum. Bear in mind that if you want to visit the Museum afterward, you’ll need at least another 1.5 hours. This tour is a popular one with limited dates, so I suggest booking it as early as possible.
9/11 Memorial Tour with Skip-the-Line Museum Ticket
This walking tour takes you to many significant sites related to 9/11, delving into the stories behind each. We visited St. Paul’s Chapel, the FDNY Memorial Wall, Trinity Church, and the Oculus, an impressively designed building with a futuristic feel.
I was particularly touched by the Survivor Tree. Our guide told us all about how this tree was found amongst the rubble and badly burned. However, the community nursed it back to health, and today, it stands as a symbol of these people’s resiliency. Honestly, it’s this type of insider knowledge that makes guided tours so worth it.
Your guide will share even more stories and anecdotes along the way. Overall, it really gave us a sense of how these horrific terrorist attacks affected everyday people – and also how the community grieves and honors the experience.
This walking tour also includes a guided visit to the Winter Garden, which you won’t see on most tours. Much like the Survivor Tree, it was damaged by the attacks and later reconstructed. It’s also inside Brookfield Place, which is a top shopping area in Lower Manhattan.
As an added bonus, you get skip-the-line tickets to the Museum (which you can use after your tour). I always love being able to walk right in rather than wait in tedious lines! Plus, the museum visit will be independent, so you can spend as much time as you like there.
The tour begins at 3 pm in front of St. Peter’s Church and lasts for 2 hours. It costs $69 USD, which is a great deal since museum tickets are also included, and you learn so much from your guide. Tours are available on Mondays and Thursday through Saturday.
911 Ground Zero Tour and Museum Preferred Access
This 9/11 Ground Zero Tour takes you around Lower Manhattan, showing you impressive architectural buildings as well as important 9/11 sites. Like the tour above, you also get convenient skip-the-line entry to the museum. However, these tour guides bring extra visuals to bring their stories to life.
Tours meet at the World Trade Center Starbucks Cafe, so feel free to grab a coffee and snack beforehand. As you start walking, you’ll see the Oculus, which is part of the rebuilt World Trade Center. It’s a transport hub and shopping center that was designed to bring people and businesses back to the area in the wake of September 11.
You’ll learn more about the heroic first responder firefighters. The guide also discusses Operation Aegis, which was the largest sea rescue in history and transported over 500,000 people off of Manhattan to safety. The guides really know their stuff, and it’s inspiring to learn about how the people of New York really came together on that fateful day.
You also visit the Winter Garden, Eleven Tears Memorial, and the Survivor Tree. Finally, you’ll end the tour at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Even though the guide doesn’t join you in the museum, they’ll give you pointers and highlights on what to see.
The experience costs $80 USD, including your guided walking tour and prioritized entry to the museum. Tours are available every day but Tuesday and depart at either 9 am or 12 pm. However, we recommend that you choose the earlier option.
If you want a thorough tour plus preferred museum entry, check availability and book online here.
9/11 Memorial at World Trade Center and Financial District Walking Tour
This 9/11 Memorial Tour shows you the top 9/11 sites along with other Financial District highlights. So if you want to learn more about 9/11 as well as see other NYC landmarks, this is the one to take.
It begins in Battery Park, where you’ll have great views of the Statue of Liberty and learn a little more about her history. From the waterfront, we also got to see Ellis Island and understand its significance in NYC history.
You then go on a walking tour through Wall Street, where you see the famous Charging Bull and other iconic buildings like the New York Stock Exchange. You’ll also visit Trinity Church, the Oculus, and the FDNY Memorial Wall. On this tour, one of my favorite stops was at the World Trade Center Sphere, which is an artistic structure dedicated to the resiliency of New Yorkers.
The tour ends at the 9/11 Memorial, where you’ll see the Memorial Pools where the towers once stood. It’s the ideal place to complete your guided tour because you can explore the museum afterward. Museum entry is not included on this tour, but tickets can be purchased separately here.
One thing we really like about this walking tour is that the guides also show photos on their tablets. This really brings the stories to life and gives you more context to these famous landmarks and buildings. Overall, it’s a fantastic way to not only learn more about the 9/11 attacks but also New York’s Financial District.
The tour costs $45 USD per person and includes the thorough walking tour and your incredible guide. Tours are offered Thursday through Monday at 1 pm. Since they last 2.5 hours, we recommend booking museum tickets for 3:30 pm or 4 pm.
If you’re interested in exploring both the 9/11 sites and the Financial District, then secure tickets for this tour online here!
Related Read: For another tour in NYC, check out our review of this Chelsea Market Food Tour. We give the inside scoop on what to expect, along with our honest opinions!
9. How long do you need to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum?
You need a minimum of two hours to visit it all – but to be honest, you could easily spend 3-4 hours in the museum alone. If you have time, we recommend setting aside half a day to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum because there’s so much to see.
If you decide not to take a tour, you only need about 20 minutes to explore the memorial’s garden. There’s not a ton of information at the memorial because it’s more of a place to reflect and quietly pay your respects to those who lost their lives.
Since there’s not a ton of information at the memorial itself, we think that it’s really worth doing a tour. It gives you so much more context, and you learn a lot. Just make sure to allow enough time for both the walking tour plus your self-guided tour of the museum. Bear in mind if your tour doesn’t include museum entry, you can reserve your tickets in advance online.
The museum is absolutely huge. If you walk through it briskly, you’ll need 1.5 hours (but it’s best to spend longer here if you can). There are so many multimedia exhibits and artifacts that you could spend four hours or even longer here. It’s not really the kind of thing you want to rush through.
10. Is the 9/11 Memorial and Museum suitable for children?
Yes, just bear in mind that it can be upsetting.
There were lots of kids at the museum when we went. 9/11 was such a significant moment in history, for Americans especially, but the whole world was deeply affected by the attacks. We think it’s important for kids to learn about it – and a museum is much more impactful than simply reading about it in history books.
However, some parts of the museum can be shocking, and kids may get distressed. It’s ultimately down to you and what you think your child can handle. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is stroller-friendly, and admission is free for kids under 7. Kids ages 7-17 get discounted entry (costing only $27 USD).
If you and your family are planning a visit, you can book all your entry tickets online here.
11. Is the 9/11 Memorial and Museum wheelchair friendly?
Yes, both the memorial and museum are wheelchair-friendly. There are accessible entrances to the memorial and an accessible drop-off point where Liberty Street and Trinity Place intersect. There are accessible restrooms, and service animals are also welcome.
If you want to learn more about the 9/11 Memorial’s accessibility, check their website for more information.
12. Is visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum worth it?
The 9/11 attacks had a huge and devastating impact on the city of New York, but it was also a world event that affected so many countries around the world. In fact, 102 countries lost citizens in the attack, including 10 Australians and 24 Canadians.
The personal artifacts on display at the museum come from all over the world. This really hammers home just how many people suffered globally as a result of 9/11.
Our visit to the 9/11 Memorial was very meaningful, and we learned a lot. The museum and memorial are a really fitting tribute to the victims. Plus, they offer a meaningful way of educating people about this devastating event.
The 9/11 Memorial and Museum really is a must-visit while you’re in New York City. After all, the events of 9/11 changed the USA – and the world- forever.
Related Read: Are you looking for an epic way to experience the city? Check out the best Manhattan helicopter tours (plus how to choose one!).
Other Things to do While You’re in New York City
As the biggest city in the USA, there is no shortage of things to do in New York! I mean you could spend weeks here and still not see a fraction of what the Big Apple has to offer. But if you only have a few days and want to see the highlights, these are other top attractions and activities we highly recommend checking out.
- Eat pizza! – New York was home to the first pizzeria in the US way back in the early 1900s and it’s still something this city is known for. I dare say the pizza here is legendary! Top pizza joints include John’s of Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, Prince Street Pizza in Nolita, and we also loved 2 Bros Pizza. You can even eat pizza (and lots of other treats!) on a food tour of Chelsea Market which is a foodie’s paradise!
- Visit Central Park – Likely you’ve seen this famous park in movies, so it’s a must while you’re here. Central Park is huge with great spots like a historic carousel, Belvedere Castle, and even a skating rink in the winter. Feel like you’re starring in a rom-com with this horse and carriage ride. It’s 45 minutes around Central Park and a fantastic way to cover more ground in style.
- Fly above NYC – Exploring on the ground is fun, but to truly appreciate the New York skyline, take to the air! Joining a helicopter flight in NYC gives you a front-row seat (or hopefully a window seat!) to all the iconic sights like the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty. We chose this 15-minute helicopter flight that flew over Manhattan and it was a highlight, if not THE highlight of our whole trip!
- Cross the Brooklyn Bridge – New York can be expensive, but strolling over the Brooklyn Bridge is completely free! The views of the skyline are stellar and there are lots of vendors if you get hungry. We recommend walking all the way across to Brooklyn Bridge Park for the best views of Manhattan.
- Empire State Building – As one of the most iconic buildings in the entire world, the Empire State Building is an attraction like none other! Of course, you’ll see the building from afar, but the views are next-level from the Empire State Building observation deck. Make sure to reserve tickets for the main observation deck in advance as only a limited number of people are allowed up at a time.
- Take a day trip – Not only is NYC full of fun, but it’s close to other amazing destinations you can visit for a day! Head to Washington, DC to check out the White House, try some amazing Philly Cheesesteak and see the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, or take a tour from New York to Niagara Falls.
Where to Stay in New York City
New York City is huge – there is just no other way to put it! Even Manhattan (the area you’ll want to base yourself in) is a lot bigger than you think. That’s why choosing the right hotel in the right location is so important during your stay in New York.
Below, we’ve simplified it all for you by choosing a couple of the very best hotels available in the city. All three of these options have ideal locations close to attractions and the subway system. They all have amazing reviews, too, so just choose the one in your budget category, and you’ll be ready to pack your bags!
Motto by Hilton – $$$
Motto by Hilton is a gorgeous hotel located in the Chelsea neighborhood. It’s 600 meters (656 yards) from the Flatiron Building and a 20-minute subway ride from the 9/11 Memorial. The hotel features modern decor that has “speakeasy vibes”. In fact, they have a beautiful bar onsite that looks like the perfect place to sip an Old Fashioned.
There are a variety of rooms on offer, including some that are a little more budget-friendly and some that are pure luxury with city views! Prices start from about $400 USD per night plus tax. You can check prices and availability for Motto by Hilton online here!
TBA Times Square – $$
TBA Times Square is where we stayed the last time we visited New York, and honestly, we loved it! This hotel is the perfect combination of comfort and value for money. It was clean and modern, and our room had all of the amenities we needed for an enjoyable stay (air conditioning, k-cup coffee maker, steamer, large shower, big windows, etc). Plus, the location is ideal, it’s only a couple blocks from Times Square! It’s also just a 20-minute ride from the 9/11 Memorial and Museum (with no transfers).
Prices do range, but they do go as low as $200 USD per night plus tax depending on the time of year and day of the week. You can check prices and book the TBA Times Square online here!
Nap York Central Park Sleep Station – $
For those traveling on a tight budget, Nap York is a budget hostel that’s an ideal choice. Although affordable, this property is immaculate and offers a ton of amenities for a great stay, including air conditioning and a shared kitchen. The rooms are modern, and the location is about as central as it gets! On public transit, it’s only 25 minutes from the 9/11 Memorial. This property only offers dorm rooms, but they are affordable at as little as $150 USD per night.
Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!
We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.
They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!
Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)
Thanks for reading!
Everyone knows about the 9/11 attacks, but visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum is a whole different experience. As we saw Ground Zero and all the related artifacts, we felt much more connected to the events. We highly recommend visiting when you’re in New York, and if you can take a guided tour, even better! Tour guides share insider info and anecdotes that make the whole visit so much more impactful.
We hope this guide has made visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum super easy. To learn more, you can check out our other blogs about the USA. We also have a wealth of resources for traveling in Canada (Bailey’s homeland)! To give you an idea of what we cover, click on the links below.