In this post, we detail how to visit the National September 11th Memorial, also known as the 9/11 Memorial, World Trade Center Memorial, the Ground Zero Memorial, or the Twin Towers Memorial, including tours you can take, and nearby attractions you may want to see.
Whether to pay their respects or learn more about the event that changed this country, millions of people visit the 9/11 Memorial each year. In addition to the memorial itself, there are several monuments and other notable locations nearby that make this one of the most popular sites in NYC. This section will provide all the details you need to know what to expect, find the memorial, and choose the best time to visit.
Use this map for specific directions to the 9/11 Memorial.
The easiest way to get here is via the subway. The following lines will get you within walking distance of the memorial:
• A, C, 1, 2, 3 to Chambers Street
• A, C, J, Z, 2, 3, 4, or 5 trains to Fulton Street
• 2 or 3 trains to Park Place
• E train to World Trade Center
• R or 1 train to Rector Street
• R train to Cortlandt Street
Visitors who plan on using a hop-on-hop-off bus will be happy to know that most services offer stops very close to the 9/11 Memorial. Alternatively, you can also take a public bus (lines M5, M20 & M22) to get here.
The 9/11 Memorial is free to visit, so you won’t require timed tickets or wait in any lines. You can come pretty much anytime during operational hours.
9/11 Memorial Plaza Hours
The 9/11 Memorial can get pretty crowded no matter when you come to see it, but there are times when it is easier to get a good look at the site. If you’re trying to avoid the crowds, you may want to consider coming either as early or late as possible. Many visitors recommend coming between the hours of 7:30 am – 9 am.
Alternatively, you may also want to consider coming at night in order to see the memorial light up after dark. Some visitors indicate that seeing the memorial from 7 pm – 9 pm can be a completely different experience. Even if a crowd does gather to see the landmark at night, chances are it won’t be too difficult to manage.
Additionally, visitors who choose to come on September 11th should keep in mind that the plaza will be closed until later in the day. The plaza will open up once again at 3 pm and remain open until 12 am. Once the sun goes down, two spotlights representing the Twin Towers will light up the night sky. These lights can be seen up to 60 miles away, but it’s an entirely different experience to be there when this event takes place. Check our guide below for more details about this activity.
No matter when you come to see the 9/11 Memorial, chances are that you’ll run into large crowds. Thankfully, there is a lot of space in the area, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble seeing the monument. Many visitors take this chance to reflect on the event and the lives lost.
Although a quick trip can take anywhere from 15-30 minutes, some guests may want to set aside a little more time to experience the memorial.
There are also several additional monuments nearby which are directly related to the events of 9/11, so you may want to ensure that you have at least 1 hour to see everything. This is the exact time it will take you to complete our audio walking tour.
The 9/11 Museum is located right between the two monuments and you will require tickets for entry. This location includes several exhibits covering the history before, during, and after the events of September 11th. For more information, make sure to read our post about visiting the 9/11 Museum.
If you want to take things a step further, you should also consider visiting One World Trade Center. Located right across the street from the 9/11 Memorial, this is one of the tallest buildings in the world and it has observation decks providing some of the best views in New York City.
Read our post about the Freedom Tower for more details.
Anyone who is considering a trip to the memorial, the museum and the One World Observatory should set aside at least 5-6 hours for the entire trip. You’ll also want to purchase tickets in advance to make sure that you can get in when you want and avoid having to wait in line.
If you’re planning on spending the day in this area, consider dropping into Brookfield Place to grab a bite to eat. This shopping center has a huge food court with several different restaurants to choose from.
There are several options for guided tours and some include admission to the National September 11th Museum and/or One World Observatory as well. Even if you can’t manage to book a trip with us, there are quite a few affordable options out there, including our anytime GPS audio tour.
Every 9/11 Memorial tour on this list is highly rated and well received by guests. Most tours are offered daily. Although these excursions typically include some sensitive historical information, some families really enjoy the experience of visiting this important monument of American history.
Below is a handy calendar of tour availability.
Note: There is a 45-minute official tour of the National September 11th Memorial, which is both highly rated and, after our pay-what-you-like tours, the most affordable, at $15/person. It runs 4 times daily.
It’s also free for New York Pass holders and a discount for those with the CityPass booklet. Be sure to read our post on New York tourist passes.
Free Tours by Foot
We offer several pay-what-you-wish tours as well as an anytime GPS tours that include the 911 Memorial as a part of the main focus of the tour. We are one of the highest rated tour companies in New York City. Read our reviews.
We offer a World Trade Center Tour, which focuses on the Memorial and runs Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2 pm (14:00) from May through October, ending in time for guests to line up for free Tuesday admission for the museum.
We have 4 other tours plus an anytime GPS audio tour that include the 911 Memorial and the World Trade Center as a stop on the tour. We have listed them, with the daily tours listed first.
9/11 Ground Zero Tours
Despite the fairly simple names, this is actually one of the highest rated tour companies in New York. They offer a total of 6 different tour packages which include a visit to the 9/11 Memorial.
One of their best deals is the All-Access 9/11 Experience, which includes a guided tour of Ground Zero, a trip to the 9/11 Museum & Memorial, and admission to the One World Observatory. Prices range from $35 for shorter trips to $109 for their all-day excursions. See their full list of tours.
Ratings and reviews for 9/11 Ground Zero Tours and their tour packages are very high, ranging between 4 and 5 stars on average. Few customers have had enough of a problem with their experience to warrant giving this company a negative review.
Most guests really appreciate their tour guides and suggest that these trips are an absolute must for visitors from out of town. Several reviewers indicate that you will most likely get emotional while hearing harrowing tales of this event, but they also feel that the experience you will have is worth the difficult journey into our nation’s past.
9/11 Memorial and Ground Zero Walking Tour
9/11 Memorial and Ground Zero Walking Tour + Museum Admission
9/11 Memorial and Ground Zero Walking Tour + One World Observatory Admission
All-Access 9/11 Experience
Lower Manhattan Tour
Statue of Liberty and 9/11 Memorial Tour
Full-Day NYC Small-Group Tour
Half-Day NYC Small-Group Tour
Walks of New York
Much like New York Tour 1, this company also provides a variety of walking tours and combo packages which feature a visit to the 9/11 Memorial. Their most affordable option is a guided tour of the memorial which comes with tickets to the 9/11 Museum.
Alternatively, you can also take advantage of their NYC in a Day tour and explore the entire city. Although prices are a bit more expensive than you’ll find with their competitors, ratings indicate that this is a very highly respected service in New York City. You can find all of their tours here.
All of the tour packages offered by Walks of New York enjoy ratings higher than 4 stars on TripAdvisor. So far, only one customer has complained about their experiences with one of the following services, indicating that most guests are very pleased with their trip.
Reviewers tend to show quite a lot of appreciation for their tour guides, stating that they are very professional and knowledgeable. Some visitors were surprised to discover how many details they had yet to learn about, and they were very impressed with all of the information provided on their tour.
Guided 9/11 Memorial Tour w/ Museum Tickets
One World Observatory and World Trade Center Tour
Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Tour w/ Lower Manhattan Sightseeing
There are two options for this tour package. One option includes access to the 9/11 Museum while the other includes access to the One World Observatory. Each package includes a visit to the 9/11 Memorial.
NYC In a Day w/ Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty & 9/11 Memorial
The 9/11 Memorial is inside a large public plaza and can be easily accessed from the surrounding streets. It is open to the public daily from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. There is no cost to visit the Memorial. The plaza is sparse and serene. Its openness helps emphasize the focal point of the Memorial which is the Reflecting Pools.
You could also download a more extensive version of this tour as a GPS enabled audio tour.
Our self-guided tour begins at Zuccotti Park. Prior to September 11th, 2001, this park was named Liberty Plaza Park (not to be confused with the new Liberty Park in the memorial). This was a popular area for workers from the World Trade Center to sit and have lunch or just to relax.
The park was damaged by debris from the fallen office towers and was subsequently used as a staging area for the recovery efforts and then later as a place for ceremonies commemorating the events of 9/11 as well as dedications of statues and sculptures.
In the northwest corner (closest to the WTC) sits an everyday man. The sculpture is called Double Check, and despite the destruction around him, he would survive, a seeming metaphor for the people of NYC and the country. On a side note, Zuccotti Park would later serve as the center of the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011.
The FDNY Memorial Wall
Located on Greenwich Street at the corner of Liberty Street, just southeast of the 9/11 Memorial hangs the FDNY Memorial Wall by artist Joe Petrovics. This 7000 pound (3200 kg) bronze wall is attached to the wall of Engine and Ladder Company 10, the local fire station and is a memorial to the 343 active NYC firefighters who lost their lives on September 11th, 2001 + 1 local attorney who was a volunteer firefighter outside of the city.
The 56-foot (17 m) long bas-relief sculpture depicts the World Trade Center towers in flames and scenes of firefighters executing their duties. For more information on the memorial, please visit http://www.fdnytenhouse.com/. Listen to firefighter Lt. Mickey Kross tell his story of surviving the tower collapse (audio).
Standing 25’ (8m) tall and comprised of 52 pieces of bronze, weighing 45k lbs (21k kgs), set on a base originally designed to rotate once every 24hours, the Sphere is certainly an eye-catching sculpture. Designed by German artist Fritz Koenig to represent world peace through world trade, the Sphere was originally installed in a plaza between the two World Trade Center towers. Considering its location at the time of the terrorist attacks of 2001, it survived the devastation battered and bruised but standing.
Today, with its eternal flame, it stands as a memorial to the lives lost on that fateful day. Koenig at first resisted the idea of turning the sculpture into a memorial but later had a change a heart, stating “it was a sculpture, now it’s a monument… it now has a different beauty, one I could never imagine. It has its own life – different from the one I gave to it.” If you look off to the north, you can see the new towers of the World Trade Center rising day by day.
America’s Response Monument
Popularly known as the Horse Soldier Statue, this monument stands on the west end of Liberty Park, just south of the 911 Memorial. Officially titled America’s Response Monument, and subtitled “De Oppresso Libor” (liberate from oppressor), this 18 foot (5.5 m) tall commemorates Task Force Dagger of the Green Berets, U.S. Army Special Forces, who were the vanguard of the American military forces to enter Afghanistan to target Taliban forces just weeks following the 911 attacks.
Due to the difficult terrain of where they started from, U.S. soldiers were required to operate on horseback. The statue commemorates all of those beyond first-responders who answered the call of duty.
The Waterfalls and Reflecting Pools
These 2 enormous pools with cascading waterfalls, designed by architect Michael Arad, and titled “Reflecting Absence”, are set into the exact footprints of the original North and South World Trade Center Towers, which were destroyed on September 11, 2001.
At 1 acre (4000 m2) in surface area and 32 feet (10 m) deep, these are the largest man-made waterfalls in North America. The pools are one of the most moving memorials in the world. These pools represent the void left in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, both with the loss of life as well as in the soul of the city and the country. It is nearly impossible to view the pools without experiencing overwhelming emotions. We recommend visiting at twilight or night to see the pools illuminated.
The Memorial honors those who died on 9/11, including those who perished at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and the victims of hijacked Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania. Also included are the oft-forgotten six victims of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
The victims’ names are inscribed around the bronze edges of the pools. Instead of being arranged alphabetically, the names are organized by “meaningful adjacencies.” Names are grouped together based on their relationships with other victims, such as co-workers, family members, friends, and even those who commuted together. As with the voids represented by the pools and waterfalls, so are the names indented.
To find specific names, you can access kiosks in the plaza or download an official Memorial app.
When you are at the pools, you may notice small white roses. These roses are placed by Memorial staff members at the names of victims who would have celebrated their birthdays today. One sad statistic is that 13 victims died on their birthday, September 11th.
Swamp White Oaks and The Survivor Tree
Throughout the memorial are several hundred swamp white oak trees, which, according to the 911 Memorial website, were chosen for their durability as well as their variety of heights and leaf colors.
However, there is one particular tree that stands out. Among the rubble of the fallen towers, an 8 foot (2.5 m) Callery pear tree was found alive, but just barely. Removed from the rubble, the tree was nursed back to health and replanted in the plaza. It has since flourished and has grown to 30 feet in height. The tree embodies the story of survival and resilience important to the history of the World Trade Center and 9/11.
Download a free Survivor Tree e-book on iTunes.
From the Survivor Tree, walk towards the glass atrium of the museum where you can view the Tridents.
The National September 11th Museum
Read more about the museum here. Placed inside the Museum, but visible from the Memorial Plaza, are two 70-foot (21 m) high, 50 ton (45 mt) steel beams that were part of the base of the North Tower. These beams, salvaged from the wreckage of the fallen towers, are known as “tridents” because of their three-pronged tops (from the God Neptune).
The Oculus, designed by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava, is a transportation hub that connects the New Jersey PATH Trains to the NYC Subway. At 800,000 sq. ft (75,000 sq. m), it is the 3rd largest hub in the city and a rival of both Grand Central Terminal and Penn Station, and like those two stations, this structure also houses numerous retail shopping stores.
Originally envisioned as a smaller station, changes to the original plan brought into existence the structure that you see today, which according to Calatrava, was inspired by an image of a girl releasing a bird. The original plan for this location was to be an area that allowed the morning light of an early rising sun to shine down directly into the memorial pools at approximately the time the planes crashed into the old towers. Take a quick look inside.
The World Trade Center Cross
Just days after the towers’ collapse, recovery workers discovered a 17 ft (5 m) tall intersecting beam among the wreckage that unmistakenly resembled a Christian cross. This cross was installed here on the side of St. Peter’s Church as a temporary holding spot before being transferred to the National September 11th Museum.
This transfer was not without controversy, as a national Atheists Association opposed the use of government funds to accommodate the transfer, but they lost. The court ruled that the cross did not violate constitutional restrictions on church and state.
The current cross was installed in 2011 and was designed by Jon Krawczyk. Its polish is intended to reflect the sky, crowds and the emerging World Trade Center. The new cross is filled with notes, letters and other symbols of loss.
The image on the left – By James Tourtellotte, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (http://www.cbp.gov/: Gallery, Page) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
St. Paul’s Chapel
This is the only colonial-era house of worship still standing in New York City and it is also the oldest public building that has been in continuous use since it was built. It served as an extension of Trinity Church located a few blocks south and included in this tour. St. Paul’s has a sacred and inspirational place in history. George Washington prayed here after his presidential inauguration at nearby Federal Hall in 1789.
St. Paul’s also served as a place of comfort and solace for the rescue workers at the World Trade Center in the days following 9/11. Despite being located directly across the street from the Twin Towers, St. Paul’s survived the tragic events of 9/11 without even a broken window.
The back of the chapel that faced the Towers was shielded by a huge sycamore tree the stood between the chapel and the collapsing buildings. The tree caught large amounts of falling debris and was uprooted. The tree’s heroic roots have been memorialized by a two-ton bronze sculpture that stands in the courtyard of Trinity Church. Spend some time inside, as they have small displays commemorating the heroes of September 11th.
Unlike the Memorial, you must purchase tickets to enter the Museum. Through interactive technology, archives, narratives and a collection of artifacts, the Museum recounts the events of 9/11. To see a preview of what your visit will be like, here is a virtual tour created by the Museum itself.
Hours: Daily from 9 am to 8 pm. The last entry time is at 7 pm.
Tickets: Tickets are “timed-entry” meaning you must select a specific date and time when you make your purchase. Tickets can be purchased up to three months in advance. You can purchase tickets by clicking here.
Several tour companies combine a walking tour of the 9/11 Memorial and Ground Zero with tickets to the 9/11 Museum. Learn more.
TIP: Admission to the museum is included for free with the purchase of either the New York Pass, the Explorer Pass or the CityPass booklet. Read our post comparing the different tourist attractions passes in NYC.
NOTE: Prices below do not reflect $2 service fee per ticket.
Free admission will be available for all visitors every Tuesday, from 5 pm to 8 pm (last entry at 7 pm). A limited number of advance tickets for these free Tuesdays will be available online, starting two weeks in advance of each Tuesday. A limited number of tickets are available every Tuesday on a first-come, first-served basis.
Get more detail on this cost-saving opportunity at our post – Free Admission 911 Museum.
Join us for our Tuesday World Trade Center and 911 Memorial Tour from 1 pm till 3 pm, after which you can pick up tickets for free entry.
CitySights NYC Tours also offer a deal that gives you tickets to One World Observatory (plus)
Online Price: $84/Adult, $74/Child
One World Trade Center, nicknamed the “Freedom Tower” is the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere and, as of 2016, is the 6th tallest in the world. It’s no coincidence that its height is 1,776 feet. That number has great significance in American history as it was the year America declared its independence from Great Britain.
The Observatory on the 100th and 101st floors is open and is quite an amazing experience. For information on visiting click on this link: One World Observatory (“Freedom Tower”).
Floors 1-19 are the base of the building with a 65-foot-high (20 meters) public lobby. Rented office space begins on the 20th Floor and continues to the 64th Floor. On Floor 65 is a sky lobby and then office floors resume on Floor 65 to Floor 90. Floors 91–99 and 103–104 are mechanical floors.
2 World Trade Center is – after 15 years – still not complete due to many delays in design. The currently agreed upon design is a 90-story tower standing 1,270 feet tall encompassing 2.8 million square feet. 3 World Trade Center is near completion and will be 80 stories tall rising to 1,079 feet. The completed and opened 4 World Trade Center is a light, ephemeral vision, facing directly onto the World Trade Center Memorial Plaza. Rising 977 feet, by Maki and Associates, the 72-story tower is intended to assume a quiet but dignified presence at the site. 7 World Trade Center was completed in 2006 and was the first tower rebuilt after the attacks. Standing 741 feet and 52-stories tall it sits on the same site as the original 7 World Trade Center.
St. Paul’s Chapel Located outside the Memorial site on Church Street (see the map above), directly across the street from where the Twin Towers stood, this small chapel built in 1699 amazingly withstood damage from the collapsing buildings. The chapel is open to the public and inside is a tribute to the rescue workers who came to assist the search for survivors after the attack on September 11, 2001.
The 9/11 Tribute Center at 120 Liberty Street offers visitors a historical timeline and honors the aftermath of rescue and recovery, and shares a personal memorial tribute from 9/11 families. This Center was founded by the September 11th Families Association and is not part of the 9/11 Memorial or National September 11th Museum. The Center galleries allow for an intimate look at the event through films, artifacts, and photos. The 9/11 Tribute Center gift shop offers authorized commemorative WTC collectible items, books, and apparel. Entry to the 9/11 Tribute Center costs $15, or free with the New York Pass and the Explorer Pass. For more information see The 9/11 Tribute Center. Read our post on which New York City tourist pass is right for you.