With over 9,000 people visiting everyday, the 9/11 Memorial is quickly becoming one of the most visited tourist attractions in the city. We don’t include the Memorial on our tours but it’s easy to explore on your own. Here’s some tips for making the most out of your visit and a map to help you navigate your way:
1. Plan ahead. Booking your tickets in advance through the Memorial reservation page is the fastest way to gain entry and avoid long lines. Tickets are free but booking online or by phone includes a $2 service fee. There are a couple ways to obtain tickets:
a. Ideally, print your tickets at home or your hotel and walk right up to the ticket holder security line. You’ll bypass everyone else waiting to obtain tickets and shorten your overall wait time to enter the Memorial. Alternatively, you can book online and pick up your tickets at the Preview Site.
b. If you’re unable to plan your trip in advance you can obtain same day tickets at the Preview Site or at the entry gate (on Albany and Greenwich Streets)*You’ll need to enter lines for both so plan accordingly.
2. Travel light. There are security check-points at the Memorial and you’ll want to check out the list of prohibited items before arriving. It’s also a good idea to keep your ticket handy as you’ll need to show your ticket at least 3x’s at different security check points.
3. Remember. The Memorial Museum is scheduled to open Spring 2014 so I suggest visiting (ideally prior to the Memorial) the Preview Site and Tribute Center until then. In both mini museums you’ll be able to see photographs, video footage, first hand accounts, and artifacts from September 11th. The Tribute Center is set up through the 9/11 Families Association. Admission is not free but you can book a walking tour of both their museum and the Memorial together for a unique experience.
4. Know when to go. The Memorial is open all year round from morning to dusk (8p.m. spring/fall and 6p.m. fall/winter) It’s a good idea to plan at least 1 hour for your visit (including security lines). You have a 30 min window after your booked ticket time for entry into the Memorial which gives you plenty of time to make it should you encounter delays. Remember that you’ll be in line for at least 10-15mins (maybe longer) so avoid booking in the middle of a summer day if you don’t like the heat. Stay hydrated. One of the best times to visit is actually at dusk. The lines are less crowded and the Memorial is illuminated, making it even more serene and beautiful.
5. Explore. The Memorial is simple but every detail is important and well thought out. It’s a good idea to pick up a guide booklet once inside to make the most of your visit. Talk to the Memorial volunteers. They’re a wealth of information and are happy to share their experiences with visitors. Ask about: The Survivor Tree, the white roses, and the Swamp White Oaks.
If you take anything away from this guide, let it be this: The Memorial is more than a tourist attraction. It’s not a place for posed family photos, loud talking, snacking, cell phone chatting, or Facebooking. Close to 3,ooo people lost their lives on September 11, 2001. Of those that perished in the World Trade Center attacks, only 40% of their remains have been recovered. This is a memorial but, most importantly, it’s also a cemetery. Victims’ families visit on a daily basis to pay respect to their loved ones. It is a place of quiet reflection, serenity, peace, and love. It is sacred. You’ll do yourself a disservice if you let the events of the day stir-up anger and old prejudices. There isn’t room for hate at the Memorial. It doesn’t belong. The best way to pay tribute to the souls that perished is to hug your family tight and embrace your inner compassion. People from all races and faiths visit the Memorial every day. When you’re there, you’re apart of an international community that’s come together to pay their respects. That’s humanity and love. That’s a tribute.
*Special thanks to the Memorial volunteers who generously give their time everyday to helping preserve the memory of 9/11. In particular, Tim Gibson and Jake Levin, who spoke with me about the Memorial and their experiences.