I remember exactly where I was. Everyone remembers where they were when they learned of the World Trade Center attacks in New York City.
I was sitting at my desk in my 4th-grade classroom when our teacher told us a national tragedy had happened. That was all we knew. I remember the confusion, not understanding what the word “terrorist” meant, and watching my classmates get pulled out of the room one-by-one to go home. Since our school was just over the New York/Connecticut border, many of us had family who worked in NYC.
Our nine and 10-year-old selves had no clue what was going on until we learned the truth by watching the news after school. I have a vivid memory of watching the news and seeing people flee over the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan.
Today, we remember the tragic events of 9/11 at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. The memorial and museum are dedicated to honoring the victims and educating visitors about the events leading up to, during, and after the attacks on the World Trade Center.
I recommend purchasing 9/11 Memorial Museum tickets to learn more about the history and honor the victims while you visit the city. But before you do, you should understand what to expect from your visit, if the museum is appropriate for children, and how to plan your visit.
- Before You Go: Purchasing Your Tickets and Planning Transportation
- Getting Into the Museum: What to Expect
- Inside the Museum: Rules, Exhibits, & Emotions
- Is the 9/11 Memorial & Museum Appropriate for Kids?
- Nearby NYC Attractions
Before You Go: Purchasing Your Tickets and Planning Transportation
How to Buy 9/11 Memorial Museum Tickets
If you only plan on visiting the outdoor 9/11 Memorial, you do not need to purchase tickets. While it once required a reservation, the memorial is now free for public viewing.
Those who wish to view the exhibits inside must purchase 9/11 Memorial Museum tickets. To do so, you can either purchase tickets on-site or online. I recommend purchasing your tickets online in advance. Not only can you take advantage of discounts, but you’ll also be guaranteed entry and skip the line. Make sure you print your tickets or have the barcode readily available on your phone so the museum staff can scan them for entry.
The museum tickets operate on a schedule and your ticket will have a specific time for entry. If you purchase tickets day-of, you may not have an entry time until later in the day depending on crowds.
In addition, you can also obtain free 9/11 Memorial Museum tickets on Tuesdays starting at 4:00 pm. These tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.
How to Get to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum
Once in the city, you’ll need to determine how you’ll get to the museum. If you’re staying in the city for a few days, see which subway line is closest to the hotel. During my visit, I took the 5 train from Grand Central Terminal to the Fulton Street Station and walked the rest of the way to the museum.
While you can hail a taxi or a ride-sharing service such as Uber, it’ll be far more expensive than taking the subway. Using the subway is super easy and affordable!
If you’re staying in Lower Manhattan, walking may be your most advantageous mode of transportation to the museum.
Getting Into the Museum: What to Expect
As you can imagine, security at the 9/11 Museum is strict. Once you scan your 9/11 Memorial Museum tickets, you’ll walk through a security checkpoint to enter the museum.
Much like an airport or sports stadium, you will be required to remove any bags, jackets, and electronics from your person before walking through metal detectors. At this point, you must also throw away any outside food or beverages as these are not allowed inside the museum.
Inside the Museum: Rules, Exhibits, & Emotions
After you complete the security checkpoint, you can either walk upstairs to the Museum Cafe to grab a bite to eat or head downstairs into the museum. If you elect to start with the museum, you’ll also be presented with the choice to participate in a free audio tour lead by a museum staff member or docent.
As you make your way down into the museum, a hush comes over the room as the gravity of the situation becomes clear via the tridents still standing from the original building. You’ll learn more about these tridents and their significance as you browse the exhibits.
This quiet, somber ambiance is evident throughout the entire museum. You’ll notice few words are exchanged between parties as visitors mourn, honor, and remember those lost in the attacks. This silence allows the narration in several exhibits to ring out throughout the museum, recalling memories of the day and of loved ones.
Prepare for Emotions
Due to the context of the museum and exhibits, you may find yourself overwhelmed with emotion at certain points. For me, listening to the passengers’ calls from the plane to their loved ones brought tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat. There are tissue stands at various places in the exhibits, should you need them. However, I also recommend bringing an extra travel pack of tissues, just in case.
The museum recommends planning to stay at least two hours to experience each exhibit to the fullest. During my visit, we spent over three hours inside the museum, absorbing as much information as we could. And, with live talks and special exhibits also included in the museum, it’s easy to spend several hours learning more about the victims, volunteers, events, and more.
The exhibits throughout are incredibly detailed, so there’s no need to rush through the museum. Take your time to fully understand the wealth of information presented.
Download Museum Guides
If you wish, you can download museum guides prior to your visit. These guides include audio tours, PDF maps, and guides created just for kids. While not required, these guides may enhance your museum experience.
No Photos, Please
While you are allowed to take pictures in specific parts of the museum, others have a strict no photography policy. This is out of respect for the victims and their families. Please follow these rules and put your cameras and smartphones away when viewing the exhibits.
Talk to the Docents
Throughout the museum, you’ll find docents who are happy to share their wealth of knowledge with you. At one point, we learned all about the structure of the building along with the steel used from a docent ready to answer our questions.
Is the 9/11 Memorial & Museum Appropriate for Kids?
Families visiting New York City often want to bring their kids to the museum. However, it may not be suitable for all children and families. Prior to purchasing your 9/11 Memorial Museum tickets, determine if your children will be able to handle the museum’s content, exhibits, and nature.
While the museum is not recommended for visitors under the age of 10, I’d increase the age to 12. With so much information to take in, it can be frightening and overwhelming for children, especially those with limited information about the tragedy. And while no gore or graphic images are explicitly shown, the exhibits do not sugar coat the events.
If possible, speak to your kids about the 9/11 attacks in NYC prior to your visit. Gauge what they’ve learned in school and answer any of their questions truthfully and honestly. If you do believe your children are mature enough to experience the museum, also be prepared to answer their questions throughout your museum visit.
Also, keep in mind the museum is somber and quiet the entire time. Younger children who cannot handle a 2+ hour visit to a silent museum will not do well inside the 9/11 Museum. It may also be in your best interest to have a conversation with your kids about expected and appropriate museum behavior prior to entering the museum.
If you believe your child isn’t ready for the museum, but would still like them to learn about what happened on September 11th, visit the free memorial outside. This is an excellent time to talk to your kids about the attacks, answer their questions, and stress the importance of remembering and honoring the individuals listed on the memorial.
Nearby NYC Attractions
After your visit to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, you’ll be close to several NYC attractions located in Lower Manhattan, Tribeca, and the Lower East Side. Depending on how long your museum visit took, you can also visit top destinations such as:
- One World Observatory
- The Brooklyn Bridge
- Liberty Helicopters Sightseeing Tours
- Statue of Liberty
- Ellis Island
- The Downtown Experience
Although this area of Manhattan has several places to visit, organize your itinerary around a trip to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. Remember, your museum visit will take up to several hours, so plan accordingly.
Plan Your 9/11 Memorial & Museum Experience
For a memorable experience, buy your 9/11 Memorial Museum tickets online, plan to spend several hours inside the museum, and be respectful throughout your visit.
Have you visited the museum before? What tips would you want future visitors to know? Add yours below.