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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Visiting the 9/11 Memorial

We are just back from visiting the new memorial at the World Trade Center site. Since many of our walking tour clients have asked about the memorial, we thought we'd share our experience. It is well worth a visit and one of those moments when the reality of the design is better than the architectural renderings. And, despite the prediction that this will be one of the most visited places in New York, it manages to stay (mostly) serene.

Having printed out tickets in advance, we arrived about ten minutes before our 5:45 p.m. reservation and there was no line; there were, however, about 30 people in line who had 6:00 p.m. reservations and had arrived early. At least right now, there's no need to get there in advance (and, indeed, they explicitly ask on the ticket that you don't arrive more than 30 minutes before your reservation.)

The very first memorial staff member you encounter will ask you to keep your ticket handy as you will need to show it at least four times as you wend your way through security and into the memorial itself. Despite this admonition, we saw numerous folks scrambling to find their tickets. It's only about ten minutes from the time you arrive until you enter the memorial; just keep your ticket in hand. And while life sometimes doesn't allow such advance planning, if you can leave all your bags at home, it will speed up the security line.

The staggered ticket times ensure that the memorial doesn't feel crowded. If you are looking to find a particular name (or names), you can look that information up online before you get there or go to the information kiosks located outside the Memorial Museum. (Note that the museum is not yet completed and won't open till next year; this fact seemed to surprise a number of visitors.) At the kiosks, you can either print out a map with the location of the name you are trying to find, or have that information sent to you as an email or text message. However, when we tried to send the information to a phone it didn't work. Maybe that was just us.

It took us about a half hour to walk around the entire area, looking at the memorial waterfalls from all sides. We could have lingered longer--there are benches and a number of visitors were sitting amid the trees, just soaking it all in.

If you don't have tickets, but still want to go down, there is a visitor's center at the corner of West and Albany streets where you can see artifacts found at the site and watch a video. (And buy gobs of 9/11 memorial paraphernalia.) Just outside the visitor's center is a staircase leading up to the pedestrian walkway to the World Financial Center. Take this passage until you are over West Street and you'll get a view into the memorial. You'll see the trees and get a peekaboo view of the waterfalls.


Read more about the World Trade Center in
Inside the Apple: A Streetwise History of New York

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