Standing in all her glory in the middle of New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty is amongst the top tourist destinations of New York City. The 93 meters high Statue of Liberty (Lady Liberty) was a gift from France given to the US in 1886 to commemorate the friendship between the two countries and to celebrate the abolition of slavery after the American Civil war.
The official name given to the Statue of Liberty by the French was ‘Liberty Enlightening the World’. Taking inspiration from the Roman goddess Libertas goddess of freedom Lady Liberty is a symbol of liberty and freedom. The statue was strategically placed where it stands today, as it was the first thing encountered by the immigrants entering the New York Harbor via ships before stepping foot on American soil. Today more than 4 million people visit the Statue of Liberty annually.
To access the Statue of Liberty and the grounds beside it (Liberty Island), you will have to cruise in boats and ferries. Scheduled for rides every 20 minutes, the boat tours have two departure points; one from Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey and the other from Battery Park in Lower Manhattan, New York City.
Due to the high number of visitors all year round, it is highly advisable that you make prior online reservations for the scheduled boat tours if traveling independently. On the other hand, you can also opt for guided group tours and leave all the reservations for them to worry about.
If you are tight on a budget you will be relieved to know that it is still possible for you to view the Statue of Liberty – but from a distance. All New York Sightseeing cruises and Staten Island Ferry rides provide great views of the Statue of Liberty for you to admire from a distance – however, with this option you cannot access the statue or the Liberty Island. Battery Park within the New York Harbor area is another great place to get a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.
What to Explore
It is on the grounds of Liberty Island that the famous Statue of Liberty stands. You will be required to clear security upon arrival. Once that is done, you can start exploring the area starting with admiring the Statue of Liberty from up close. If you are up for it, the Park rangers on Liberty Island give you free-guided tours of the grounds daily. Your kids can enjoy and keep themselves busy with their own Junior Ranger Program offered by the Island. Once the kids are done with their activities, they receive a Junior Ranger badge as a token of appreciation.
However, if you feel a guided tour is not your cup of tea then you can opt for an audio tour and explore the area at your own pace. Available in 12 languages for adults and kids the audio tour comes free with your ferry tickets and can be picked up at the Acoustiguide Booth located on Liberty Island. Once you are on Liberty Island you have the option to explore the Liberty island Museum, the Pedestal of Lady Liberty, the Crown of the statue, and Ellis Island.
Pedestal and the Liberty Island Museum
Opened recently in May 2019, the Liberty Island Museum sheds light on the history of the iconic monument – Statue of Liberty and its significance. Besides learning interesting facts about the Statue of Liberty, visitors also get to see the original torch of the statue that was removed and replaced in 1986 after 100 years. The museum also features an immersive theater and interactive multimedia displays.
The 47 meters high pedestal on which Lady Liberty stands is also worth visiting. A building in itself, the 10 stories high Pedestal offers great views of the New York Harbor and the New York skyline from its observatory – a perfect landscape to capture on camera. Before you head out on your trip go to bestgimbal for the right equipment. It is worth noting that no backpacks, strollers, and food items are allowed in this area and you will have to keep your belongings in the lockers provided on-site. You can access the different levels of the pedestal by stairs or an elevator. Even though there are no extra charges, you still need a special ticket to access the pedestal and the Liberty Island Museum.
Inside the Statue: Exploring The Crown
Visiting the Crown on top of Statue of Liberty is a journey in itself. Unlike the Pedestal, there is no elevator available to access the Crown. You will need to climb up 162 steps of a confined double-helix staircase to access the Crown from the top of Pedestal. This is like climbing a 22 story building. It is for this reason that the National Park management requires the visitors of the Crown to be physically fit and healthy. It is advised for people suffering from vertigo, acrophobia, mobility impairment, heart conditions, respiratory conditions, and claustrophobia to avoid visiting the Crown.
Not only the tickets to the Crown cost a little extra, but they are very limited too. The excess of people visiting the crown is limited to a few hundred daily. With millions of tourists paying a visit to the monument annually – the tickets to the Crown are usually sold out months in advance. For this reason, it is highly recommended that prior online reservations are made at least three months before your actual visit.
Once you reach the top, take a few seconds to soak it all in. Being the highest accessible point of the statue, it provides unobstructed views of the harbor, Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, and New Jersey. Being inside the statue also allows you to witness the internal structure and supporting framework of the statue designed by Gustave Eiffel. It is ideal to carry just your camera, water bottles, and medications (if any) with you while going up to the Crown.
Ellis Island, which is another national monument to visit, is close to Liberty Island. For 62 years (1892-1954), Ellis Island was America’s most active and major immigration station. Here, more than 12 million immigrants were processed to try their luck at the American dream. It is for this reason the island is also known as “Island of Hope”.
The ferry ride ticket to the Statue of Liberty also includes access to Ellis Island and its landmarks. Once you reach Ellis Island via a 10-minute ferry ride from Liberty Island, you can explore the island grounds; visit the National Museum of Immigration and the American Immigrant Wall of Honor. Again, you have the option to explore Ellis Island with the rangers or on your own.
What to Expect & What to Prepare for
Ticket options &Reservations
When planning to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, you must do thorough research on the pricing, types of ticket options available, and access areas allowed on particular tickets. Special tickets are required for you to access the Pedestal, museum, and the Crown. More importantly, it is advisable to book your tickets in advance to avoid any sorts of cancellations and heartbreak of not finding tickets at all.
With millions of people eager to visit the monument and tight security checks, long queues and waiting is expected. To avoid this situation, you should arrive 30-40 minutes early than the time mentioned on your tickets. Also, arriving earlier than stated will grant you early and easy access to the monuments and you will have time to explore at your own pace.
Prepare for the heat
There is quite a bit of walking and exploring involved in this excursion which can be quite exhausting – especially during the summers. Also, for those of you who would like to visit the Crown area should keep in mind that the inside of Statue of Liberty in not temperature-controlled and can get quite hot and stuffy in there. Also, let’s not forget the 162 step climb up the stairway. Considering all this, make sure you wear light and airy clothes, hats, comfy shoes and carry water bottles at all times to keep you hydrated.
Have a picnic
Although food and beverages are not allowed inside the pedestal and museum, you can eat on the grounds outside of the Liberty and Ellis Islands. Get together with your family and friends and have a small picnic whilst enjoying the epic sights.
Spare some time
If you plan to visit the Liberty and Ellis islands and visit the museums on both islands then you need a good 5-6 hours for sightseeing not to forget the security checks and queues in ticket booths. Hence, it is ideal that you keep a whole day aside just for this trip.
The colossal Statue of Liberty continues to grab people’s attention even to this date. Liberty Island Museum further enlightens you with the symbolism and passion behind the existence of the Statue of Liberty. Honestly speaking, a trip to New York City is incomplete without a visit to this historic monument.