It is a deeply personal decision when to take your kids to Ground Zero—or whether to bring them there at all. Ultimately though, all children will learn about the horrific events of September 11, and the 9/11 Memorial Museum can give the tragedy context and meaning.
We've already written about visiting the 9/11 Memorial with kids. But now that the museum is open, we thought it warranted a trip back to see how appropriate it is for children, how best to navigate it and what else parents might need to know before heading to Ground Zero.
1. Are your kids ready? This is a personal question and will depend on each child's sensibilities, but there are some things that are good to know. The main rooms of the museum are pretty innocuous, including remains of the actual buildings. You'll see lots of kids of all ages at the museum and they seem to mostly like it and not find it disturbing, though they may find it sad.
The heart of the museum is the In Memoriam exhibit, which is located in a closed hall and is not recommended for children under age 11. There is nothing really graphic in this area, but there is an overwhelming amount of material, from first-person narratives of the morning of September 11, to many images and videos of the buildings on fire and collapsing.
2. Preparing your kids Before visiting Ground Zero with your kids, you may want to check out the Talk to Your Children section of the 9/11 Memorial website. It has tips for discussing the somber topic with kids as well as a printable museum guide ostensibly for children ages 8 to 11 (I actually think it skews younger than that). The illustrated children's book America Is Under Attack: September 11, 2001: The Day the Towers Fell helps familiarize kids with the events so they can better absorb what they see at the museum. Younger kids might respond to Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman, which is a gentle take on the heroism of the day from the point of view of a boat.
3. Navigating the museum Guided tours of the museum are available for an additional fee when you purchase ticket,s but they are recommended for teenagers and adults. Instead, download the FREE 911 Memorial Museum app, which offers a children and family tour that does a great job of adding context to the exhibits. The family audio guide doesn't include the In Memoriam exhibit, but it is covered in a different guide in the same app.
4. Handling the lines Kids and lines are natural enemies but there are a lot of them at the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Not only do you wait to buy tickets and get into the museum, once inside there are additional lines for the films. Buying tickets online costs an extra $2, but it might be worth it to avoid showing up and finding tickets are sold out. Tickets are sold with timed entry on the half hour so if you don't buy in advance, get them first before checking out the memorial. The staff actually starts letting people in about 15 minutes before the ticketed time, so standing in line will get you in the museum faster. However, if instead you buy your tickets, go see the memorial and come back 10 minutes late for your timed entry, you can probably walk directly in without waiting on line at all.
5. Strollers, snacks, security and FREE Tickets The museum is stroller-friendly and accessible. There is a cafe inside for light bites if you need a break. Before entering the museum, you have to go through TSA-style security. FREE tickets are available on Tuesday evenings and can be reserved online two weeks in advance.
Check the website for tickets, directions and hours at 911memorial.org.
Find out where to eat near the 9/11 Memorial Museum or read about other things to do in the Financial District with kids.