One of the most iconic New York City, if not American sights is the Statue of Liberty – symbolising freedom for all people. A trip to NYC is not complete without a visit to her. It was high on Miss 10’s agenda of things she would like to see and do during our trip. Lady Liberty was originally made in France and gifted to the USA by France to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence.
There are a number of ways you can visit, from the water, from the air by helicopter, or for us we climbed right to the top to stand in her crown.
A visit to Lady Liberty is high on most tourists agenda, so it can get quite busy with long queues. Book your tickets in advance. There are a number of options available :
A visit to Liberty Island and climb to the crown of the Statue of Liberty
Our chosen adventure was not only to get close and personal to Lady Liberty herself, but to get in her crown for those views. Buy your tickets to visit Liberty Island from Statue Cruises (it is also included in the New York City Explorer Pass). It is the easiest way to experience and learn about the Statue of Liberty.
You can purchase tickets on the day, but pre booking is advisable (even just to miss the huge queues). If you want to go to the Crown, they open around 5 months in advance and tend to sell out 2-3 months in advice. All tickets include a visit to Ellis Island, so you can make a full day of it.
We arrived at the dock in Battery Park, and made our way to collect our pre booked tickets for the Crown. It is also possible to go to the ferry terminal at Liberty State Park in New Jersey. We queued up, and went through airport style security, before catching a ferry over to Liberty Island. There’s a cafe and some nice places to explore and walk around on the outside, getting good views. There’s a number of tickets options, to the reserve only which includes the ferry over and back, an audio tour, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum and the Statue of Liberty grounds, you can add on the pedestal, or crown options.
The National Park Service allows only 240 people per day to climb to the crown; 1,000 daily tickets are available for the pedestal so tickets are limited.
The pedestal – once in side the Statue of Liberty you can explore the museum and visit the Statute’s original torch. The museum itself isn’t particularly large, but it offers a great deal of insight into the history of the Statue and the excitement around it. It gives you a good understanding of the importance of this national monument. There’s an audio tour, with a version especially for kids that was enjoyed by Miss 10.
The crown – the climb to the crown is strenuous – 393 steps, equivalent to 27 stories of a building– and recommended only for people in good physical health. The area inside the statue stairwell is cramped, with steep steps only 19 inches wide. The head clearance is only 6 feet, 2 inches, and it tends to get very hot in the statue; on summer days, it can be as much as 20 degrees hotter than it is outside. Even on a cold October day, we felt the heat as we climbed up to the stuff. The advice form the National Park Services recommends that if you suffer from heart or respiratory issues, vertigo, claustrophobia, fear of heights or have any mobility issues, avoid climbing to the crown. Only children who are at least 4 feet tall (around 5 years old) and accompanied by a responsible adult can climb the statue. Miss 10 was well able to make the climb, I realised how much less fitter than her I was, as I was exhausted at the top. You have to leave your bags in the lockers at the bottom. We brought some water, which was well needed as we went. Coming down is as, if not more challenging as going up.
From the top, standing in Lady Liberty’s crown, you can see the view across to Manhattan and out to sea. It’s incredible to think about the journey all the immigrants made as they arrived in their New World of opportunity.
You can also take a free, ranger-lead tour of Liberty Island daily departing from the flagpole and lasting around 45 minutes. All ages are welcome on the tour, it covers how and why the statue was made, the history of Liberty Island, and many fascinating aspects of the Statue’s importance.
Ellis Island Immigration Museum
Ellis Island was the first stop for the 12 million immigrants who arrived to NYC and were processed there. It is a short ferry from Liberty Island. The museum is beautiful and well worth the visit, especially for older kids to learn about the story of immigration in America. Most of the galleries required a lot of reading, but there were several interactive kiosks that Miss 10 could listen to the immigrant stories. We traced many from Ireland, including the North, and heard about their incredible journeys across to their new lives. There are also digital archives that we were able to search for our relatives, we found a few that were known to migrate to America during and after the Irish Famine. Miss 10 was fascinated by this all.
There is also a free audio tour at Ellis Island near the large immigration hall. With a special feature for children, you can go room to room at your own pace, listening to the narration by a young immigrant following through their footsteps of the process. There are incredibly powerful stories and photos. Miss 10 was interested in all those who were not let in, due to ill health, or possible psychiatric illness after such a journey. She was troubled by the injustice, and it has been something she has discussed many times since.
Free views from the Staten Island Ferry
If you want to see Lady Liberty for free the public ferry will take you to the borough of Staten Island, passing by the Statue of Liberty along the way.
To get there, head to the Staten Island Ferry terminal next to Battery Park. The ferry departs approximately every half hour and can get very busy, but don’t be deterred by the masses of crowds around the entrance – the ferry is huge so there’ll be plenty of room for everyone to board. For the best view, go to the right hand side of the boat to secure a viewing spot along the railing. After you’ve passed the statue, you can move to the back of the boat for some fabulous views of the Manhattan skyline.
A Harbour Cruise
Many people recommend taking in the Manhattan skyline by harbour cruise, which will take your around Liberty Island to get a good look at the statue from the water. These boats often have cafes or bars on board and are a bit more intimate than the public ferries, so hopefully you won’t have to elbow people out of the way for a good view. Cruises last an hour, and there’s not the queues and security checks required for ferry departures to Liberty Island. A good option if you are short on time, but want to get up close to the statue. Do book ahead, it gets busy especially in peak Summer times.
A helicopter tour
If you have plenty of cash, or want to splash out there are some incredible photos of people who have seen Lady Liberty from above on a helicopter tour.
Top Tips for visiting Lady Liberty
- Arrive early and allow plenty of time – you need to get through airport style security and then get the ferry over to Liberty Island. It all takes time so get there early.
- It is busy – try to visit during the week and early in the morning to avoid major queues. Tickets are time sensitive so make sure that you get the right ones.
- There’s not great food options (and rather pricey) so bring a picnic, there are plenty of places to sit and eat.
- Book in advance – especially if you want to see the crown, they often sell out 3 months plus in advance.
- It can be cold and windy on the water, yet warm in direct sunlight so be prepared for the weather. It’s a tough climb up to the top of the crown so makes sure you bring some water for that.
There’s many interesting sculptures to see around the Battery Park area, including ones depicting the Immigrants. The Sea Glass Carousel, a place were music, art, glass, and steel, all come together in a magical journey of the sea. The carousel contains 30 different types of giant glowing fibreglass fish to the tune of soothing classical music and aquatic sound effects for a virtual underwater experience. Set in the original place of the first New York Aquarium, it is $5 a ride, and a lovely activity to do with children.