Editor's note: The museum of the National September 11 memorial had its grand opening in May of 2014. This is an account from 2012, when just the site was open. For more information and to plan your own visit, click here.
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As the National September 11 Memorial & Museum crossed the one millionth visitor threshold, I had the fortunate opportunity to visit the site and experience what I had only seen in photos and media reports. Growing up in the suburbs of New York City (in New Jersey, admittedly), I was well aware of the news that it would be months, if not years, before I could expect tickets to become readily available to the general public. Surprisingly, however, it was relatively easy, and the visit was something I will remember for the rest of my life. Here are a few tips on how to obtain tickets and what to expect in a visit to the National September 11 Memorial.
Get there early: You can begin queuing up to enter the site up to a half hour in advance of your scheduled time. If you’re a planner and want to be in the site at the moment your pass allows you, absolutely arrive a half-hour early. Security is tight, and you can expect to wait up to a half hour to get through three different lines and a security checkpoint.
What to expect: At this time only the memorial site is open, not the museum, however, that shouldn’t hinder a visit. The solemn, but inspiring, memorial is breathtaking, with enormous waterfalls spilling into the footprints of the two towers. The rush of water drowns out all surrounding sounds of the city, and what’s left is an uncommon solitude amid one of the largest cities in the world. The memorial does a fantastic job at monitoring how many people are on site at any given moment, and given the scale of the site, there is plenty of space allowing for private reflection and avoiding the feeling that you’re in a crowd like Times Square. You can take as much time as you like to explore the site.
How to navigate the site: Once you’re on site, there are several maps available that outline where the north and south tower stood and how the names of victims are arranged around the waterfalls. If you’re looking for a specific name, there are a series of kiosks available near the museum (yet to be opened) that are easy to use and print out a little personalized map to help guide you.
Travelzoo Tip: Consider visiting toward the end of the day, around dusk, to see the change from day to night when the waterfall lights create a very different experience as the sky darkens.
It’s hard to describe the emotional magnitude of my experience at the memorial and for some that visited the site with me, it was overwhelming. But whether you want to pay respects or explore the fascinating architecture of the site, the memorial is a remarkable commemoration and a worthwhile stop during a visit to New York.