9/11 Memorial Reflection Pool

9/11 Memorial and Museum: Tips You Need to Know from a Local

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum remembers the events of September 11, 2001, and honors the victims who lost their lives. The museum and memorial area are in Lower Manhattan at the site of where the twin towers stood.

This written-by-a-local guide has tips and information to help you get the most from your visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. 

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9/11 Memorial & Museum: Tips You Should Know Before Your Visit

As you arrive at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum area, the first things you’ll notice are the massive reflection pools with their cascades of water dropping below street level.

These reflection pools sit on both sides of the 9/11 Museum and occupy the exact footprints of the North and South Towers. Engraved in the black stone along the perimeter of the pools are the names of the victims.

As you walk through the grounds of the 9/11 Memorial area, notice the Callery Pear tree, different from all the other trees that have been planted as part of the memorial. It’s been named Survivor Tree because it was pulled from the wreckage and nursed back to health by the Parks Department in New York City.

9/11 Memorial Reflection Pool

You enter the 9/11 Museum at ground level and descend the escalators passing a steel beam monument salvaged from the rubble of Ground Zero. The Twin Towers had a vast underground area of shops and transportation lines. The 9/11 Museum’s rooms and exhibits are in this cavernous area below ground.

There are 2 main exhibitions that account for the majority of the 9/11 Museum, In Memoriam and the Historical Exhibition. These exhibits have their own rooms within the museum.

Outside of these rooms, you’ll find information about how the towers were constructed, see pieces of steel and a smashed fire truck, and learn some of the untold stories of 9/11 like those of the K-9 units who helped rescuer workers at Ground Zero.

As someone who lived in New York City on September 11, 2001, and in the days that followed, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum is an especially emotional place. I’m instantly transported back to the smell of jet fuel in the air and the “Missing” posters wallpapering the city. I lived alone back then and I can recall riding the subway the next day to get to my now-husband’s apartment. It was just myself and one other woman in a subway car and we both were crying as we saw flipped through the pages of a newspaper with photos of what had happened just 24 hours prior.

9/11 Museum NYC

Today, New York City has been rebuilt and even the museum’s exhibitions end on a note of hope. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is a place to reflect, remember, and learn. Use the 9/11 Memorial and Museum tips below to prepare for your visit and fully take in the experience.

Get your 9/11 Museum Tickets in advance.

The museum uses timed-entry tickets to limit the flow of people moving through the museum at any given time. You also avoid wasting time by not having to wait in line for tickets or security or to discover the museum is at capacity and you need to wait until later to enter.

This is especially important if you only have a few days in New York City.

Show respect while visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

This seems like an obvious thing to say but, unfortunately, reminders are necessary. You can take photos of the 9/11 Memorial but keep it respectful. This isn’t the place for selfie sticks or to pose for the gram. 

Inside the 9/11 Museum, remember this is a somber place to reflect and learn. You can take photos of some of the artifacts outside the In Memoriam and Historical Exhibits. But once inside these exhibits, please put away your camera and phone and take the time to honor the people and remember the events of that tragic day.

911 museum NYC

Be ready for sensitive exhibitions.

The 9/11 Museum aims not only to remember but also to educate. There are personal objects belonging to the people who lost their lives on that day. The museum has newspaper clippings and real-time television footage of the planes hitting the Twin Towers, the Pentagon on fire, and of the Towers collapsing. You’ll hear survivor interviews and last phone calls made to loved ones from office buildings and hijacked planes. 

For visitors who don’t want to see this Historical Exhibit, there’s a way to exit the museum before entering. Keep in mind, though, this leaves just a small area to visit.

Decide if the 9/11 Museum is appropriate for your children.

Given the content of the In Memoriam Exhibit & The Historical Exhibition, these areas of the 9/11 Museum aren’t recommended for children under 10 years old.

As a teacher, I agree. The museum is hard for adults. Only children who are ready to learn about the events of that day in detail should enter. It’s absolutely important for children to learn about history but not all history is pleasant. Parents should exercise caution in the same way you would if you were in Washington D.C. visiting the Holocaust Museum.

Ask yourself if your child is ready for this type of subject matter. Also, consider what your emotions may be and how that could potentially impact your child.

For help in talking about the events of 9/11, there are picture books like America is Under Attack: September 11, 2001: The Day the Towers Fell.

You can also download the 911 Memorial Museum app where you’ll find an abbreviated Discovering History Tour told from a child’s viewpoint for children 8-11 years old. This tour does not visit the most sensitive areas of the museum.

911 museum NYC Fire truck

Plan to stay a couple of hours.

Visits to the 9/11 Museum typically last 2-3 hours. The Historical Exhibition is full of artifacts, personal accounts, and media from that day. In order to truly take it in, you’ll need at least 2 hours from the time you enter the museum. This makes getting your 9/11 Museum tickets in advance even more important if you’re trying to maximize your New York City itinerary.

Visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum is an emotional experience that’s likely to linger with you long after your visit is over. These tips will help you prepare for your visit so you can take the time to truly absorb the magnitude of the events of that day.

What questions do you have about visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum?

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