10 Tips for a Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Visit

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If there is one view that can compare to seeing the Statue of Liberty standing proudly across the Upper New York Bay, it is seeing her up close on a visit to Liberty Island. Coming in by boat, you watch as she slowly grows larger – until she completely fills the frame. You catch your breath as her details become tack sharp and her colossal size becomes more evident. Her immense beauty is best appreciated as you gaze raptly upward and try to comprehend the sheer magnitude of her frame. Lady Liberty commands raw emotion as she stands 305′ 6” from pedestal base to torch tip – and her 35 foot waistline makes me feel better about the croissant I had for breakfast!

She’s been called many things…America’s Gateway, The Eighth Wonder of the World, Mother of Exiles, The New Colossus, and Liberty Enlightening the World. To those of us living in America, she’s our shining symbol of welcome and refuge to those who need it most.

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“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Emma Lazarus, 1883 The New Colossus

When you visit the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island, you’ll also have the opportunity to see the incredibly moving Ellis Island Immigration Museum. You should plan for 3-5 hours to see both parks well. There is a lot to take in, and you don’t want to miss a thing, so we’ve put together 10 Tips to Make the Most of your Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Visit.

  1. Tickets. Statue Cruises is the only provider authorized by the National Park Service to take visitors by ferry boat to Liberty and Ellis Islands. One ticket takes visitors to both islands. Departure points are located in Battery Park in New York and Liberty State Park in New Jersey. You may buy your tickets online ahead of time here at Statue Cruises Ticket Office as the lines to purchase tickets in person can be very long. And during busy periods, tickets might not be available at all. If you already have your voucher in hand or go to Will Call, you’ll find a much smaller line and be one of the first in line for the boat.
  2. Climb Lady Liberty’s Crown. The Crown Access tickets are most popular and sell out early. Since 2011, the restrictions have gotten quite strict, so please read all of the current requirements. Crown tickets must be picked up at the ticket office Will Call window at either Liberty State Park or Battery Park by the ticket purchaser. Crown tickets may not be printed at home. 4 are allowed per household. And you should note, there are 354 narrow and tight steps from the bottom of the pedestal to the crown. There is no elevator access from the top of the pedestal to the crown platform (from the Statue’s feet to the Statue’s head). Children must be at least 4-feet tall and able to climb the stairs on their own. Names of all ticket users must be provided at the time of purchase to be printed on the tickets. When presenting the tickets to access the Statue on Liberty Island, each ticket holder will be required to show photo ID (except minors without ID) matching the name printed on the ticket. Only one reservation is allowed during any 6 month period.
  3. Pedestal Access or Not? Tickets to Liberty Island are designated either with or without Pedestal Access. The Statue Museum inside of the pedestal provides a wealth of information about the building of the Statue of Liberty and many interesting and ever-changing exhibits concerning life and times of the statue’s creation. If you only have very limited time to walk around the Statue of Liberty outside, then you would not need Pedestal Access – however, the Museum and various overlooks high above make for a valuable addition to the visit.
  4. Best Photo Opps. From the boat, find a seat on the upper deck, right (starboard) side near the back. You’ll have a great view of the skyline leaving NYC and of Lady Liberty as the boat comes around to dock. Once on Liberty Island, take a right as you leave the boat and you’ll soon be face-to-face with a true American icon, the Statue of Liberty herself! At the Ellis Island Museum, head up to the 3rd floor for the Registry Room overlook and give yourself a moment to just listen and imagine…
  5. Early Boat is Best. The first boat of the day is often the best choice. You’re first on Liberty Island and it feels as though you have Lady Liberty entirely to yourself (and a hundred other friends from your boat) 😉
  6. Expect Heavy Security. Security for those visiting Liberty Island is a serious business. Expect airport-style security before you embark on the ferry AND before you enter the pedestal for the Crown and Statue Museum. Watches and belts have to be removed each time. No open liquids, except bottled water with a lid. For those with Crown or Pedestal Access, the following items must be secured in a locker: all food, all drinks, all backpacks (including over-sized bags), strollers, tripods, non-folding umbrellas, laptops, tablets, and pocket knives. Lockers are available at the entrance to the monument. Lockers can be rented for 2 hour blocks and cost $2 each. Locker rentals use single dollar bills only. There is a cashier on site and an ATM on the island.
  7. Best Views of the City. Lady Liberty isn’t the only treat to be seen on this trip. Spectacular views of the NYC skyline can be captured both from the boat and from the Statue herself. Panoramas from the Crown are truly breathtaking – and Pedestal Views are quite nice as well. Be sure to bring your camera to take in the expansive city views as the ferry leaves from and returns to her berth on Battery Park.
  8. Take a Break Between Floors at Ellis Island Immigration Museum. After the excitement of Liberty Island, now you’ll be visiting the place where over 12 million immigrants were processed into the United States from 1892 to 1954. This incredible museum has three floors, audio tours, guided tours and programs. To try to see it all and process everything can be exhausting. If time permits, take a break between floors and just sit. Must-sees are the first floor Baggage Room – the very place where all immigrants entered once they left their ships. All belongings piled here to be picked up after they were allowed entry. Treasures From Home on the third floor displays over 2,000 possessions immigrants brought from their homelands. And the great Registry Room on the second floor where immigrants underwent medical and legal examinations asking their name, home town, occupation, destination and how much money they carried. If allowed to pass, more than 1/3 settled in New York City. This museum is a treasure.
  9. Audio Tours. Your ticket includes a free audio tour at both Liberty Island and Ellis Island. Use it! The tours are very informative as you walk around Liberty Island and also are a great help navigating the expansive Ellis Island Museum.
  10. Talk to the Park Rangers. This is a National Park, after all. We found the rangers quite friendly and very accessible. In fact, we learned more from chatting with them than from our pre-trip guidebooks. Park rangers know the best stories!
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View from Ellis Island

 

About the author

Cheryl MacDonald

Cheryl MacDonald left the corporate world in 2007 to pursue a dream of living life to the fullest. She and her partner, Lisa Chavis continue to travel the world inspiring others to Live Their Dream!

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