After the Terrible events of that infamous day in 2001, the City got together to build a fitting memorial to the people that were lost. The plan was a three-pronged memorial to permanently commemorate the victims of the terror attacks that rocked the City. First, the Freedom Tower was to be built. Bigger, Brasher, and a big ‘up yours’ to those who tried to disrupt the American way of life. Also, a pair of fountains, mirroring the footprints of the towers set in a Memorial Garden/Plaza. And lastly, a museum to educate and remind people of the following generations what exactly occurred on that fateful morning.
Our National 9/11 Memorial and Museum Review is designed to help you understand what is involved in visiting the area and how to make the most of your trip along with answering a few burning questions a lot of people have. This is one of the most important sites in the USA and we highly recommend you visit it during any trip to New York. We don’t even like calling this a review as it’s not that sort of attraction, we won’t be “rating” it, just explaining what to expect.
IN A NUTSHELL
We have given the National September 11 Memorial Museum 5 stars across all categories. This isn’t because we really think the Attraction is worth a full 5 stars for everything, but more we refuse to review such a sensitive Location too critically. We feel it is just too important to be the subject of a crass internet review. and as such have given it the full 5 just to fit our review template. We feel this attraction is incredibly important for the city and a true must experience location. Even if you skip the museum and just visit the Memorial and the wonder of the Freedom Tower that has been raised in honour of the victims. If you do visit the Museum its a sobering and moving experience you are unlikely to forget and memories of that day come flooding back. It is not an enjoyable experience as such but incredibly important. This on one of modern histories most important locale, up there with pearl harbour, Auschwitz, Stalingrad, and the Normandy landing sites. The fact it is still so young and emotions still raw make it a very powerful place. The Museum is an incredible achievement, truly breathtaking and a fitting tribute to the enormity of the Event.
Memorial and Museum Explained
There is some confusion as to what exactly the 9/11 Museum and Memorial actually is. This stems from the fact it is actually two separate attractions that are run by the same people. The Memorial is on the ground level of the site of the Twin towers, Ground Zero, and consists of a pair of manmade waterfalls and a large garden/Plaza. The area is open to all and is a place for quiet reflection.
The Museum is a separate attraction and is ticketed. The revenue raised goes to fund both the Memorial and the Museum which is a non-profit organization.
The cost of visiting the Memorial Gardens and fountains is rightly free. This is a place anyone can come anytime to reflect on the events of that fateful day and mourn the loss.
The cost for visiting the Museum is $30 for an Adult, $19 for youths (7-12), $24 for a young adult (13-17), and $24 for Seniors A Family Pass (2 Adults and 3 Children) is available for $86.
Families of the Victims, 911 Rescue and recovery workers, and Military personnel (Active and retires) all get free entry. NYPD/FDNY/PAPD Workers get reduced entry for $12.
Due to the Huge cultural importance, Every Monday 3:30-5:00 pm is also free of charge. However, our page is mainly geared towards tourists in the City and we discourage you from taking some of the limited availability of free Monday tickets simply as a way to save money. Unless you really can’t afford the entry. If you want to save money consider an Attraction Pass instead.
At the Heart of the Memorial Garden are two waterfalls and reflection pools. These are built on the actual footprint of where the twin towers stood. They are surrounded by enormous plaques inscribed with the names of the 2977 People who perished during the attacks along with 6 people who died in the previous terror attack on the WTC in 1993.
The Pools are set in a large Garden / Plaza area where people can come and pay respects to the lost. The area is free to roam around and is planted with trees that are destined to reach a good size, a reminder of the passing of time.
The whole area is overlooked by the Freedom Tower or One World Trade Center as it is officially called. This incredible building is a reminder that the terrorists failed in their mission in the long run, and America has recovered and rebuilt since the attack.
The area is essentially a cemetery. The incredibly destructive forces involved in the destruction of the towers meant the remains of many were not recovered and as such the Memorial is their final resting place. As such you should treat the area as if it were a cemetery. Refrain from selfies and other overt tourist behavior and simply spend the time there reflecting upon the events. We wish we didn’t need to say this but experience has led us to witness people far less respectful than they should be.
The Memorial is not open all the time and is accessible from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. The Reflecting pools and park area are still visitable outside these times but are cordoned off so you can only view from a distance.
An incredible survivor story of the Attack is the Survivor Tree. The Callery Pear tree stood on the grounds of the old WTC and somehow managed to escape the collapse largely intact. The tree remains standing in place today and since 2013 cuttings have been taken and sent to other cities that have endured their own terror attacks. Orlando, Madrid, and Boston are among the recipients. Recently, our hometown of Manchester, England, was hit by a terrible attack at an Ariana Grande Concert. A cutting from the Survivor tree was also sent to us as a commemoration of the attacks. This makes the tree very poignant for us.
September 11th Museum
Currently open Wednesday to Monday (closed Tuesdays) 10 am – 5 pm (last entry 3:30)
The Museum is a Ticketed attraction and the proceeds pay for the continued upkeep of both the Museum and the Memorial. The team behind the Museum has put together an incredible exhibit. One truly fitting of the magnitude of the events of that day. This is far from a mere collection of memorabilia or artifacts.
As you enter the very small but marvelously architectured museum building, you can’t help but feel a bit underwhelmed. It’s all a bit small and you can’t really see how a suitable museum can be contained within. This is until you realize this really is just the entrance. As you begin to move through the museum you begin to appreciate the enormous scale of the place.
The Museum is built around the actual foundations of the twin towers. As you head through to the main exhibits you are first presented with a large balcony overlooking the Main Foundation hall. This is your first glimpse of the scale.
The Slurry wall is a huge intact wall that survived the collapse and dominates the scene to the left, while at center stage is the “last column”. This column miraculously stayed standing and was used as a focal point during the rescue and recovery stages. It is still covered with the inscriptions and “missing messages” that adorned it in the days following the attack.
This scene is truly breathtaking and really takes you unawares as you begin to head down the ramp to the main floor. The original stairway is still in place but obviously, you take a different route.
As you walk around the main level you are literally walking around the foundations of the original buildings and you can still imagine them towering above you. Many people (us included the first time) think that the Museum is just housed in the fairly small building upstairs. This could not be further from the truth and the entire footprint of both blindings houses the incredible and thought-provoking Exhibits.
There are many exhibits and artifacts as you explore the vast area. These include parts of the building columns, pillars, and such. One of the most striking exhibits is a full but heavily damaged firetruck from Ladder 3, A stark reminder of the selflessness of the emergency responders.
Contained within the footprint of one of the towers is the artifact Museum. There is no photography allowed here and this is understandable considering what is contained within. This is a full run-down of the events of that fateful day. Here are some of the most striking exhibits. There are uniforms of first responders, fragments of the aircraft that struck the towers, personal artifacts of survivors, and pieces of furniture and office memorabilia from the Towers.
It is a striking collection of artifacts and really brings home the fact that so many people just went about their lives that day and so many just never returned home.
The Story is also told through striking imagery, horrifying video, and recorded survivor’s testimonies, You hear ATC calls and the radio chatter of the first responders. It’s horrific and serious moving stuff.
In the Memorial Hall, a stunning piece of art consisting of 2983 individual unique blue tiles commemorates the dead, and there is a remembrance hall that displays photos of each of the victims and is a quiet and sorrowful location.
We would not say we enjoyed the experience, that is the wrong word. We, of course, wish this museum wasn’t here, and instead, the towers were still standing and the lives not lost. But that cannot be changed and we found the experience very important. It is a very apt and fitting tribute that really does the enormity of what transpired here justice.
We simply can’t imagine visiting New York without experiencing the Museum and Memorial to the events of that day. It is not an easy trip but it is incredibly worthwhile.
The Museum takes around 2 hours to see properly and far far longer if you really take everything in. Honestly, after a couple of hours, it all gets a bit much and you will need to think about leaving.
Freedom Tower – One World Observatory
One World Trade Center proudly overlooks the whole site and is a constant reminder that the country was not defeated and has rebuilt and carried on. It was a bitter blow for the country and the City but in the end, the terrorist ideal lost and the American way of life won out.
The building was named freedom tower during the design and building but was subsequently officially called One WTC. It is a beautiful building and from close quarters the design makes it appear infinitely tall. It is the tallest building in America and the sixth in the world at a whopping 1776 feet.
While not technically part of the memorial and Museum its presence definitely adds to the whole experience. If you want to go to the Observation deck read here.
The Oculus is another memorial structure that has been erected in the World Trade Center Area. It’s actually the outmost structure of the World Trade Center station. Anyone arriving at the Memorial by Subway will arrive through this striking building.
It is technically not part of the Memorial but its location makes it intrinsic to the Park and it looks so spectacular with its curved wings rising above the Reflecting pools. It was also only constructed due to the collapse of the towers than destroyed the old station so it is part of the World Trade Center’s Rebirth!
Is The Museum Suitable for Children?
Very young children will probably be fine, 4 and under…ish. They are unlikely to fully appreciate what is going on and your bigger issue would be boredom. There isn’t a lot to keep younger kids interested. Older children who are a bit more aware can be more of an issue.
The events of the day were very horrific and it can be hard for children to get their heads around. But the most upsetting exhibits are separate and warnings are given (falling man etc…). We feel a lot of children will be ok and it is more the parents who will suffer from difficult questions. But all children are different and we are sure there are some who would find this a very distressing experience.
We think most parents are the best judge of this. You will have seen how your kids react to upsetting things in the past. Be advised the experience IS very emotionally charged. It is a somber and intense mood in the Museum and you can’t hide from what you are experiencing. If your child is likely to react negatively to that sort of thing it may be best to wait until they are older
Children who are in their teens should be fine, assuming they are not too easily upset. We think as kids get older it’s important to educate them on these sorts of things and as such, the trip would be very beneficial. They might get upset at times but that is not necessarily a bad thing, we see many adults getting upset, it is a pretty upsetting experience.
Conspiracy Theories – Wasn’t all this faked?
Really we are not big conspiracy theory fans and we find the 9/11 ones about the least convincing. This is the internet though and we are fully aware of how many people have come to believe in some sort of conspiracy surrounding 9/11. Some people who are of sound mind and capable of reasoning are completely convinced this was all fake. However, What we are utterly convinced of is, on that day, Planes stuck the towers, they then subsequently collapsed causing the deaths of 2977 innocent people. Whatever you believe, these people are dead and this is a tribute to their memory.
The Museum and its artifacts bring this all home very clearly and after a visit here only the most deranged conspiracy nut would question otherwise. This is why places like this are so important so people cannot just decide on their own narrative and ignore the indisputable evidence that is here for all to see.
This doesn’t completely rule out all the possible conspiracy theories, there are plenty of them that don’t preclude the actual loss of the towers and the 2977 people. But we don’t think this is the place to go into that. The Museum and Memorial are here as a tribute to the lost.
We really feel the National September 11 Memorial and Museum is one of New Yorks’s most important attractions. The attacks of September 11th, 2003 are probably the most significant event of the 21st Century so far. And the cost of 2977 lives deserves something very special to remember them. The Memorial and Museum are fitting tributes and one of New York’s must-visits.
We have tried to shy away from reviewing the Museum as it feels very crass, instead just tried to explain the experience so you are aware of what to expect during a visit. And we don’t feel most people fully understand the scope and the scale of this incredible attraction.
Literally, as we were leaving on our last visit, we were approached by someone who was asking if it was Worth It. They were simply blown away when we explained the huge scale of the Museum, people get the impression it’s just that little building on grounds of the Memorial that houses the museum, unaware it sprawls away underground covering the entire foundations of the original buildings.
Visiting the 9/11 Museum on an Attraction Pass
We have mentioned a couple of times in this article that we recommend using an attraction Pass to visit the 9/11 Museum along with other Paid attractions in New York. On the whole, this is a fantastic idea and can save you literally hundreds of dollars!
However, there are some REAL quirks about using the Pass for visiting the Museum. This does not apply to most attractions in New York, where the pass works as a ticket and you simply walk up scan the pass and you are in. It USED to work like that here, but all that has changed and if you do not use the pass in the correct manner, you may end up missing out.
Essentially the Museum only offers so many tickets to the various attraction pass holders each day. And these sell out FAST! If you are not at the museum by 11 am forget about it, and even then on busy days, you may have trouble!
The best plan of action is to be at the Museum BEFORE the ticket office opens, preferably around 9:30 am, or even earlier if you want access at 10 am when the Museum opens. We got there at 9 am and were pretty much at the front of the queue, by 9:30 the queue was 100+ deep.
We like to combine our downtown trips with other attractions and sights in the area, the Statue Cruise, One World Observatory, and heading over to Brooklyn, and it can be hard work packing all these in.
Our plan of action is to head to 9/11 straight away, then after visiting the Museum, get a ticket for one world observatory for later in the day (head over to their ticketing Foyer for this), Then head down to Battery Park to catch the cruise out to Liberty Island. Then back to One World Observatory for your timed ticket to the top.
If you have time head over to Brooklyn on the Subway to see the skyline and walk back over Brooklyn Bridge. It’s a big day but worth it!
With the pass, there is always the risk if you do not arrive on time you will not get entry, If the Museum is essential to you, either ENSURE you are there on time or book a ticket separately.
Have Your Say
Let us know in the comments below if you have any other questions or comments. We would love to hear about your experience of visiting. However, we are unlikely to engage with anyone wanting to discuss the conspiracy side of things. Anything else just drop us a comment below or come join us on Facebook.