The 9/11 Memorial and Museum are two of New York’s most beloved and emotionally moving attractions. If you’re planning on visiting the city, I’d definitely recommend adding both of these to your itinerary.
Wondering when these two sites are open? With COVID-19 precautions and the anniversary of September 11th approaching, things are a little different at these two attractions.
That being said, visiting is still possible, you just have to know what to expect. This guide has all of the information you need about openings, closures, new hours, anniversary events and rules of conduct. Keep reading to ensure that you’re prepared when it comes to planning your visit.
The 9/11 Memorial: What to Expect
The 9/11 Memorial is made up of two 1-acre pools set in the former footprint of both the North and South Tower. Each pool has a waterfall that drops 30 feet down and then pours into a second opening, dropping another 20 feet to an unseen location.
The pool will never fill and it is impossible to see the bottom, representing the feeling of absence felt by so many people after the attacks.
Inscribed on the bronze parapets surrounding the pools are the names of the 2,977 victims of September 11th and the six victims of the 1993 bombing of the North Tower. The names are grouped based on their location the day of the attacks, but they are not listed alphabetically. Instead, friends, family, colleagues, flight crews and first responder units are placed beside one another in “meaningful adjacencies.”
The 9/11 Survivor Tree and Memorial Glade
Also standing in the memorial is the Survivor Tree, a Callery pear tree recovered in the wreckage of the towers and brought back to health. Today, it stands beside the South Pool as a symbol of strength and resilience.
Behind the tree is the Memorial Glade. In the years since 9/11, thousands of people have passed due to sickness or toxin exposure related to the attacks. This memorial is dedicated to those people as well as the many recovery and rescue workers who risked their health in order to help the city.
The Memorial Glade pathway features six stone monoliths, embedded with World Trade Center steel remnants.
Is the 9/11 Memorial open on 9/11?
Every year, the 9/11 Memorial is closed to the public on September 11 until 3 p.m. That time is reserved for the anniversary tribute to the victims, a ceremony only open to family members.
From 3 p.m. until midnight, the memorial is reopened to the public for the Tribute in Light, which all are welcome to attend.
The Tribute in Light is a moving spectacle, shining two giant beams of blue light into the darkness. Each beam reaches up to four miles in the sky and can be seen from a 60-mile radius around Manhattan. This represents the images of the Twin Towers, part of the World Trade Center that collapsed during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
When is the 9/11 Memorial usually open?
Typically, the memorial is open seven days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. After 9, the plaza area is roped off and guests are not permitted.
Even during holidays, the memorial is open. The only time it closes is for the anniversary of September 11th.
Visiting the 9/11 Museum
Located underneath the memorial, the 9/11 Museum is an in-depth examination and re-telling of the events of September 11, 2001. When you’re paying your respects at the 9/11 Memorial, a stop by the adjacent museum is a great way to add context to your visit.
Various exhibits describe the impact of 9/11 and its continued significance in American history. You’ll hear very personal and intimate accounts of the attacks and see artifacts and remnants recovered from the Ground Zero site. Walking through the museum takes you on a deep dive into the 102 minutes that changed New York City forever.
Is the 9/11 Museum open on September 11th?
The museum is closed to the public all day on September 11. Only family members are permitted inside.
The day before, September 10, the museum will close early (usually around 3 or 4 p.m.) to host a Community Evening and prepare for the anniversary.
Guide tip: If you’d like to visit the museum for the 9/11 anniversary, I recommend going the morning of Sept. 10 and then returning on Sept. 11 to view the Tribute in Light spectacle at the nearby memorial.
When is the 9/11 Museum usually open?
Sunday through Thursday, the museum is usually open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays, it is open for an extra hour, closing at 9 p.m.
The last entry is allowed two hours before closing to ensure that everyone entering has the proper amount of time to see the museum.
As with the memorial, it is only completely closed on Sept. 11, but open for all other holidays.
Visiting the Memorial & Museum During COVID-19
The 9/11 Memorial officially reopened to the public on July 5 with some new limitations. Visiting hours are currently 1-8 p.m. only. The rest of the time is used for regular deep cleanings.
Anyone visiting the memorial is required to wear a mask and follow social distancing guidelines, maintaining a distance of 6 feet from all other visitors and staff.
Hand sanitizer is available throughout the memorial plaza, and you should apply some after touching the parapets. And as always, if you’re not feeling well, please stay home.
The museum is opening on Sept. 11 for 9/11 family members only. It will officially reopen to the public on Sept. 12. Like the memorial, hours will be more reduced than normal. From Thursday to Friday, the museum will be open from 12-7 p.m., and from Saturday to Monday, hours are 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the museum will be closed.
Masks and social distancing will be required when the museum reopens. There’s some additional protocols for safety, too:
- All museum tickets must be purchased in advance for timed visits.
- All visitors will undergo a temperature screening before entry.
- Museum capacity will be reduced to 25% to allow for proper space between guests.
- The cafe, coat check, and water fountains will be unavailable.
- Some museum exhibits may remain closed.
Once the museum opens, the memorial hours will be adjusted as well. After September 11, the memorial will be open seven days a week — 12-7 p.m. Thursday to Friday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday through Wednesday.
How to Visit Ground Zero
There is no other event in New York City history with an impact as big as September 11. But to really understand just how emotional and significant the day really is, you have to hear from the people who experienced it firsthand.
The best way to visit Ground Zero and the 9/11 Memorial is to go with a local. All of our guides for our tour of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum were here in New York during the attacks. Each one has their own personal account of 9/11, a unique perspective different from anyone else in the world.
Their stories — whether that includes hearing about it for the first time, watching it happen, or managing the chaos that ensued throughout the remainder of the day — will bring you face to face with the reality of that morning.
The memorial and museum are compelling for anyone who visits, but talking with someone who experienced 9/11 personally adds a layer of depth and meaning to your 9/11 Memorial and Museum experience. Who better to learn from than those who lived it?
Beyond the personal anecdotes, you’ll hear about the aftermath of the attacks, the rebuilding of the World Trade Center, how we recovered as a city, and the meaning these monuments hold for the rest of the country so many years later.
All of our tours include a guided walk through Ground Zero and the memorial, but there’s more to see if you have time. You can add on the museum or the One World Observatory or both, if you choose.
What to See Nearby
If you miss your chance to get a ticket to the museum or visit the memorial, there’s plenty of other places to see in Lower Manhattan. The Financial District is full of historical and famous sites and you can easily walk to any of them.
Here are some of your options:
- The New York Stock Exchange
- Federal Hall
- Battery Park for views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
- The Charging Bull
Even within the World Trade Center there are fun things to do. Explore The Oculus and follow the tunnel going underneath the memorial to Brookfield Place: a food court and shopping mall.
Right next to the memorial is One World Trade Center, otherwise known as Freedom Tower. The top of the building houses the One World Observatory, an indoor observation deck with breathtaking views of downtown and the Hudson River. You can easily squeeze in some time for the observatory along with a visit to the memorial and museum.
A Perfect Time to Visit
There is no denying that 2020 has been a difficult year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to discover the city in new ways.
In the case of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, the hours might be different, and the social distancing might feel strange, but that’s OK. Seeing the memorial in person reminds us that we’ve been through tough times before and have come out stronger and more resilient on the other side.
So, in many ways, 2020 might actually be the best time to see Ground Zero.
We look forward to welcoming you — safely — when you visit.