Lady Liberty – visiting the Statute of Liberty and Ellis Island with Kids

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 Lady Liberty was originally made in France and gifted to the USA by France to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 

3FE7FDD3-FC8D-4257-A272-23CFB0BA68AFEllis 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 

FA0BF861-6D92-41E5-959C-E49931F0C8DDIf 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

4EF49EF9-2AED-4148-AC40-677D6F69389FMany 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. 

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Top Tips for visiting Lady Liberty

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. There’s not great food options (and rather pricey) so bring a picnic, there are plenty of places to sit and eat.
  4. Book in advance – especially if you want to see the crown, they often sell out 3 months plus in advance.
  5. 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.

Battery Park 

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.

Broadway Disney Theatre Tour and Broadway shows – the home of bright lights and dreams

NYC with kids

If you’ve had any sort of a look at our blog or insta you will know that we are big theatre fans in our house. Musicals are life for the kids (maybe a bit for me too!) So getting to see Broadway was high on the list. In fact, Miss 10 birthday cake was all about the shows. 

Times Square ready to explore Broadway

I came across the Disney on Broadway walking tour on Viator, so signed us up. We met our wonderful guide Jocelyn and off we headed (we were a small group of about 8 which was perfect) around the different theatres in Broadway. Broadway is the name of the street in Manhattan which has become the world leader of theatre entertainment. As we walked the streets, we learnt about the first NYC stage in the 1700s in Massau Street. Standing in the midst of Times Square look down at your feet and you will see a handy map of all the theatres in the area. The 2.5 hour walking tour is pitched just right, enough history about the growth of Broadway in 1800s, the impact of the Great Depression, and the more recent growth again. It was active, and seeing the range of the theatres kept the interest, even on a cold NYC morning. A good balance of history and modern day knowledge pitched for all ages- perfect. 

Then, what Miss 10 had been waiting for, a visit to New Amsterdam Theatre, where Aladdin is currently showing. We got a VIP tour of the beautiful and majestic theatre, then got taken to the stage to stand, look out at the lights and dream of being on Broadway. Well for Miss 10 anyway. She was totally taken with seeing how it all worked and getting that backstage view after her summer performances with the touring company of Evita in the Grand Opera House in Belfast. We were then taken to a room and shown a fantastic array of the props from a range of Disney shows  including The Lion King, Mary Poppins, Aladdin and The Little Mermaid. We got to try on the costumes, learn all about the props and take lots of photos. It was a fantastic, inspirational morning! I strongly recommend it for any one with a love of Musical Theatre and of Disney, and if you love both like us it is a dream come true. 

Since we were staying a few days in NYC, we used the opportunity to ourselves experience the wonderment, excitement and spectacle that is Broadway. 

Frozen the Musical – just ‘Let it go’ and enjoy the show

Miss 10 was obsessed with Frozen a few years ago, now a big 10, is a little past it, but still was keen to see the show. Frozen is a story inspired by Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Snow Queen of two sister princesses, one with ice making powers. They are close until Elsa accidentally hurts her younger sister Anna while playing. Anna’s memory is erased by some trolls, and the two are separated by their parents. Tragically like many a Disney story, their parents die, and Queen Elsa is crowned. Overwhelmed by her magic Elsa turns the town to ice, and takes off. Through an icy kingdom, Anna seeks out her sister accompanied by iceman Kristoff and Sven the Reindeer. Elsa learns to ‘let it go’ and sisterly love saves the day. It’s different than the traditional male prince saves the day storyline.
It was a good show full of music, dance, likeable characters and lots of ice and snow. It was transformed to the stage well, close enough to the movie and with some extra songs thrown in. Miss 10 enjoyed it, was engaged with the music and impressed by the set design. A perfect introduction to Broadway theatre for any little Disney fans, and a good adaptation of the movie that will engage older kids (and adults too).


School of Rock – super talented kids

Miss 10 was super keen to see this one, anything with kids on the stage makes her want to get up there too! We had great seats in front row of the dress circle, and we were so impressed by the talent of the children in the show. A great energetic production, telling the story of Dewey, a musician recently banished from his band. Living with his long term mate Ned and his wife Patty, Dewey is told to get a job and pay rent or he’s being kicked out. Desperate, Dewey poses at Ned to get a job as a substitute teacher at a posh private school. No idea what he is doing, he uses music to get his way through preparing the pupils for a battle of the bands competition. The kids are phenomenal and steal the show – amazingly talented.

Phantom of the Opera – a classic

This one was my choice – I saw it in London years ago and loved it so was keen to introduce Miss 10 to it and see it on Broadway.  It’s based on the classic novel by Gaston Leroux, the story of a man born with a horribly deformed face. He hides in the bowels of a Paris opera house where he torments the occupants. However, when he hears Christine Daae sing he dedicates himself to nurturing her talent. Soon the Phantom is overtaken by his desire and love for her, and he becomes reckless. He reveals his love for her, and she responds well to him until she sees his face. She then falls for Raoul, resulting in the Phantom declaring war on the Opera house. The music, the staging, the fantasy, hopes and dreams draws you in. It is a stunning production, totally and utterly engaging, even for a 10 year old. She was transfixed throughout.

Anastasia – fantastic Russian spectacle

Set in the beautiful and grand Broadhurst Theatre, Anastasia and her royal family are captured by the firing squad of Romanov, who kills her entire family. The girl is said to be dead, but the truth is that Anastasia survives. However, she has lost her memory, and is wandering the streets of St. Petersburg. Her grandmother, who left to Paris before the family murder, offers a reward to anyone who finds Anastasia- so she becomes a living legend without any awareness. Many a girl pretends of be her, and two tricksters, Dmitry and Vlad are plotting a scheme to secure that money. Through this these meet Anya (Anastasia’s name now) and finally realise that there are memories there that she did not know she had. It is enchanting and the set design feels truly Russian and French. The costumes are fantastic, and the music enthralling. A wonderful musical, that is well worth seeing. Miss 10 loved it.


Top tips to getting Broadway tickets 

Tickets for shows are never cheap. You need to weigh up are you happy to go with what is available and on offer, or if you have certain things in mind you may need to prebook. Super popular shows like Hamilton and The Cursed Child are sold out for months ahead. Many of the Disney ones such as Frozen, the Lion King and Aladdin will need pre-booked. I’ve outlined other tips to get discounted tickets.


1. The classic visit to TKTS (Under the red stairs in Times Square) 

The classic way to get discounted tickets is to wait in line, on the day of the show at the TKTS booth under the red stairs in Duffy Square (47th Street and Broadway). Most are 50% discounted. However, there’s also two other booths in the city – one at Lincoln Centre’s David Rubenstein Atrium which is only 15 blocks away from the original one , and South Street Seaport. Generally the earlier you get there the better, and often less queues in the non Times Square ones, so head that way. You can buy up to 6 tickets, and fees are around $5-$6 per ticket. 

2. Online 

Rather than standing in a queue, you can get discounted tickets from your phone from TodayTix.app up to a month in advance. There’s discounted ones alongside regular priced one. There’s a few other websites too  New York Show Tickets (it’s a membership one costing $4 per month). Good discounts can be also be found at BroadwayBox, TheaterMania and GoldStar, and there are even some discount deals Time Out New York Do shop around these options – but there are online ticketing fees of around $10 to $15 which you need to take into account. 

3. Rush and lottery tickets 

Many productions offer same day rush tickets – which can be the only way to get reasonably priced tickets for shows that are otherswise sold out. Sometimes they are as little as $20 a piece. You need to get to the theatre for 10 am (Sundays 11am) on the day of the performance for them. School of Rock is a good one for Rush tickets. Wicked holds a in person lottery but most others have digital lotteries – you can sign up online for them. Hamilton offers 36 $10 seats per day, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has the Friday forty. Playbill and Broadway for Broke People has the full line up. 

4. Buy at the box office 

If you are trying to see a popular show right now, you probably won’t get a discounted ticket. However you can save a few dollars by buying at the box office and not having to pay as much in fees and you might get good seats. 

For us, we were quite particular about what we wanted to see so pre booked Frozen and School of Rock. We kept an eye on numbers of tickets available, and bought Phantom of the Opera a few days in advance from  Broadway Box, and Anastasia on the day.