Our world changed on 9/11. I didn't know any of the victims or heroes personally, but September 11, 2001 remains an important date in my memory.
The new 9/11 Memorial and Museum opened just a couple of weeks before our family trip to New York City, and for my husband and me, it was a must-see. We also hoped that it would be meaningful for our children (ages 10 and 7), who didn't personally experience 9/11.
Is the 9/11 Memorial Museum a good choice for your family? Here is what you can expect, plus tips for saving money on tickets.
Two waterfalls have been constructed in the footprints of the twin towers that were destroyed by terrorists on September 11, 2001. They begin at ground level and fall into the earth. I could not see the bottom. The names of the people who were killed are engraved all around the waterfalls on a wall about waist high. The new One World Trade Center building towers overhead and new construction continues on nearby blocks.
It costs nothing to visit the Memorial and visitor passes are no longer required. I recommend the Memorial plaza for families with children of all ages.
The 9/11 Museum is one of the most moving places I have visited. It is largely dedicated to the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001, but it covers the attack on the Pentagon and the hijacked airplane that was brought down by passengers in Pennsylvania as well. The museum also honors the victims of the terrorist bombing at the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993.
Much of the museum is underground, between the original Twin Towers. I was fascinated by stairs from one tower that were used by escapees, and the last column, which remained standing after the buildings collapsed and became a symbol of strength. The column was made into a memorial by many who helped in the aftermath of the destruction. Tribute gifts from friends and families of 9/11 victims are on display nearby.
The museum tells the story of the terrorist attacks in detail, from the terrorist bombing at the World Trade Center in 1993 to rebuilding afterward. Audio and video technology are used throughout the museum to take visitors through the morning of September 11, 2001 moment by moment though the eyes of those who were there. Artifacts large and small, including a smashed fire truck, are on display. Photos and biographies of the nearly 3,000 victims are honored. I wish I'd had time to read every plaque and experience every media presentation.
The 9/11 Museum houses the unidentifiable remains of some of the victims of the World Trade Center attack. They are encased behind a huge wall covered with one tile for each of the victims of the attack, each painted a different shade of blue. It represents the color of the sky.
Ways to Save
Access to the outdoor Memorial is free, but admission fees for the Museum can add up for a family. Here are several ways to save on admission.
Free Admission Tuesdays – There is no admission charge for the 9/11 Museum after 5 PM on Tuesdays. You may pick up tickets on a first come, first served basis starting at 4 PM. Last admission is at 6 PM – two hours before closing time.
Discount Passes – We used CityPASS on our NYC trip, and found that it was a good way to save money on popular New York City attractions. CityPASS includes fewer attractions than the other passes, but it's less expensive, and it included the activities we wanted to do most.
Compare passes to see which is right for your family. The 9/11 Museum is included in the following passes.
- New York CityPASS – Best price for 6 big attractions
- Go City – New York Explorer Pass – Includes 9/11 Museum Guided Tour and 9/11 Tribute Museum (a different museum) too.
- New York Pass – 100+ attractions. Includes 9/11 Tribute Museum too.
- New York Sightseeing Pass – Only pass that includes One World Observatory.
Special Groups – The following groups get free or discounted admission to the 9/11 Museum
- 9/11 Family Members (free)
- 9/11 Rescue and Recovery Workers (free with registration)
- Active and Retired Military (free with ID)
- FDNY/NYPD/PAPD ($12 with ID)
Related: My Review of New York CityPASS
Is the 9/11 Museum good for children?
There are two ways to ask this question.
- Is there anything in the museum that I didn't want my children to see?
- Did my children appreciate the experience?
Our children were ages 7 and 10. The museum is dedicated to a terrible event in history, but we saw nothing that we felt was too scary or graphic for our children at the 9/11 Museum. The outdoor Memorial is appropriate for all ages.
Did my children get anything out of the 9/11 Museum experience? My 10-year-old daughter definitely did. She has learned about the events of 9/11 at school and at home, and I think that the museum helped her better understand what happened that day. She enjoys history and museums and was fascinated by the exhibits.
My 7-year-old son was not excited to visit the 9/11 Museum and was ready to leave much sooner than the rest of us. Now he tells me that he liked it and he learned some things, but he did not enjoy it much at the time.
Family tours and activities for children are available. Learn more at https://www.911memorial.org/learn/youth-and-families
For me, visiting the 9/11 Memorial Museum was one of the most meaningful experiences of our New York City trip. I strongly recommend it for families with older children and teens.
Families with young children may need to adjust expectations, or just visit the outdoor Memorial and save the 9/11 Museum for another trip. I hope that our experience helps you make the decision that is best for your family!
Good to Know
Where: World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan, New York City. Use of public transportation is encouraged. Here is a map and information about local transportation: www.911memorial.org/getting-here. Expect security screenings.
- Open Sunday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. (6 p.m. last entry)
- Open Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (7 p.m. last entry)
How Much: There is no cost to visit the outdoor 9/11 Memorial. Ticket prices for the museum start at $26 for adults (updated March 2020) Guided tours are available for an extra charge of $15-20, including a tour for families.
Admission is free for all on Tuesdays after 5 PM. Discounts are available through CityPASS and other providers. Scroll up to the Ways to Save section of this article for details.
How Long: 2-3 hours
Amenities: There are no restrooms at the Memorial, but there are restrooms inside the Museum for paid ticket holders. Find gift shops inside the museum and on Vesey Street. Photography is limited inside the museum.