People come from all over the world to experience this iconic beauty in Upper New York Bay. The Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island and the Museum of Immigration on Ellis Island stir up personal connections to history that leave a mark on your soul. Our family has visited on more than one occasion for educational, patriotic and personal reasons. However, we have only climbed the top of Lady Liberty once. The statue has been closed for long periods for safety concerns after 9/11 and also restoration work. There’s also been the recent scare of closing parts of the park due to the current president’s decisions about national parks. (Don’t worry, NYS is funding this national park to avoid such a calamity.) Climbing up to the Crown became a family goal that we persevered to reach, not just in obtaining the tickets and having good weather, but climbing all 393 steps to get to the top. If you live in New York, don’t miss your opportunity to visit this goddess of liberty.
We read all of the warnings about being in “good physical shape”and that the “climb is strenuous and not without risk.” The official website even lists the physical and mental conditions that might impair you to complete the climb. Our family looked at this as a challenge similar to hiking up a mountainside (local Catskills, not Everest). We have had tons of experience climbing lighthouse towers, but none of those were more than 182 steps. Climbing from the main lobby to the crown platform is 377 steps. That’s double and there are no elevators inside the statue. And remember, you will have to come back down when you are done. However, considering the website allows children four feet tall to do this trek, we were pretty confident we could triumph.
If you’re not ready for a climb of 377 steps, don’t worry. There is an elevator from the lobby to the top of the pedestal which will shave off 215 steps for you. Now you’re back to 162 steps, equivalent to climbing slightly more than the Montauk Point Lighthouse, but less than the Fire Island Lighthouse.
The Liberty Island Museum is located in the lobby of the pedestal. You will definitely want to spend some time here whether you are a history buff or just like checking out cool stuff. My son’s favorites were the giant statue replicas he could take funny pictures with. The rest of us enjoyed the variety of historical photos, displays, and art.
Climbing the Pedestal was pretty straightforward and uneventful. You just keep going up flights of stairs like an ordinary building. We didn’t see too many people going up or coming down. I assume the rest of the crowd opted for the elevator. As a bonus, the emptiness of the stairwell made it pretty easy to take a quick break from the climb when needed. Bring a water bottle because there are no water fountains on this part of the tour.
Once we arrived at the base of the statue, we were in awe of our surroundings. The view on the inside of the thin statue walls is an intricate system of supports and a columnar spiral staircase that stretches to the top. That’s it. Nothing to entertain you or dress up the area except the reverse image of Lady Liberty as you climb up to her crown. It’s the perfect effect. The double spiral staircase is an intelligent one-way traffic design. One spiral climbs straight up while the other interwoven spiral brings you back down. (If you’ve climbed a tall lighthouse on a single spiral staircase with traffic trying to pass you to get down, you know why this double spiral is so great.) The staircase is very narrow (18″) and although the height says six feet, a six foot tall member of our group felt the need to crouch as he went along. You will be tempted to lean over the staircase rail and take photos of the incredible engineering. Go for it! But maybe consider having some security for your camera or phone.
The Crown! We felt so lucky to have made it to the crown. For me, personally, it draws up a lot of emotion to achieve not only something that has been on my bucket list for so long, but to experience such a profound piece of history with my children. This symbol of our country representing not only freedom and democracy, but the battles fought to achieve them, watches over New York Harbor vigilantly. The viewing platform of the crown is small with a curved ceiling. You’ll have to work to get a good group photo, but it’s possible. We had the assistance of one of the very friendly park rangers to take our photo. Outside of the crown windows, you can see all the way to Brooklyn, lower Manhattan, Staten Island and the Verrazano Bridge. You will have to negotiate around the pieces of Lady Liberty for each of the views. Her arms, crown, and tablet block some of the scenery, but they were our favorite parts of the view. We enjoyed being so near to the tablet and torch that we could enjoy their details and feel a stronger connection to her.
The grounds of Liberty Island are park-like. You can rest, you can walk, you can eat. They have coin operated binocular stations around the park. If you go in the winter, you may even see the harbor seals resting around the island. Park Rangers offer free guided tours that last about 35 minutes. There is also a Statue of Liberty Junior Ranger program that kids can work on. You can get these details in addition to park maps and ferry departures in the Information Center building. Selfie sticks are easy to joke about, but they really help get great photos when you’re at a national park with so many great backdrops.
If you still have some time after all of this exploration, you can take the ferry over to Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration. The Museum of Immigration closes at 5:15pm so plan ahead to give yourself enough time to take the ferry over and explore. An audio tour is available for this museum as well. We scheduled our day to begin at the first scheduled time and we found we had ample time to explore both islands. The museum is an incredible experience that you can pursue at your own speed by picking and choosing what you want to spend time on. If you have a real curiosity for family history you will probably want to come back just to review everything again and spend some time in the Bob Hope Memorial Library to do a little research. Our family still talks about the Word Tree. Did you know “raccoon” is a Native American (Powhatan) word? How about “stoop”, “hunky-dory”, and filibuster? You can thank the Dutch for those colorful words. And our favorite, Yiddish- “schlepper”, “schnook”, and “futz”. Have some fun connecting with your ancestors!
Some important things to note:
- the only restroom for the statue is at the bottom, in the lobby- check it out before you go up!
- you’re only allowed to bring a camera, water, phone and any necessary medication inside the statue
- National Park Passes are not valid here because there is no entrance fee, only a transportation fee. Liberty and Ellis Islands are fee exempt.
- don’t forget your National Parks Passport for your stamp at the Visitor Center if you’re a collector
- wait time to board the ferry during peak times (April-September) can be over an hour long
- there is a free mobile app, Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island (Torch icon), you can download to help navigate and learn fun stuff
- most items won’t be allowed past security, but they offer lockers (cash only)
- of course they have a gift shop (don’t forget to add to your collection of memorabilia)
- they have an eatery, but you are welcome to bring food as long as it stays outside
Planning Your Trip
The Statue of Liberty (Liberty Island) and Ellis Island are separate islands, but they are both in the same park. Together, they are one of six national monuments you will find in New York State. Their national monument status was granted in 1924. If you can plan it out, you can get the full experience with both of them in the same day. We booked the first tickets of the morning for the Crown and found we had enough time to relax and enjoy our visit for both islands. (This included us climbing all the way to the crown, however we are in pretty decent physical condition and seldom stopped to rest.) I suggest getting as early of a start to your day as possible to enjoy the full benefits.
Tickets to the crown are very popular and can only be purchased by advanced reservation. They are very limited, so plan well in advance. Pedestal tickets are also limited and advanced reservations are also required. Both the crown and pedestal tickets include and allow access to the Liberty Island Museum. If you wish to only access the grounds (no access inside any part of the Statue/pedestal), you can purchase a Reserve ticket, but it’s the same price as the Pedestal. All options include round trip ferry service. Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration is included in all of the options and you can come and go as you please within operating hours. Bottom line, try to plan in advance so you can make advanced reservations for the experience you want. You can easily purchase your tickets online. (Note: There have been reported scam artists selling fraudulent tickets in Battery Park. Only buy your tickets online directly through Statue Cruises, by calling (1-877-LADY-TIX) or in-person at the ferry departure points. The ticket window for Battery Park is inside Castle Clinton National Monument.)
The New York ferry departure is located in Battery Park. (This park can easily have its own blog due to the enormity of historic content available. I put a few mentions below.) You will need to go through a mandatory airport grade security screening prior to boarding the ferry to the islands. All Reserve Tickets allow you priority entry to the Screening Facility and save you some wait time at the departure point before boarding the boat. You should plan to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to your scheduled reserve time. If you want some time exploring Battery Park, arrive even earlier. There is a second security screening for all visitors entering the Statue of Liberty. Make sure to dress in layers since your experience is both indoors and outdoors. Self-guided audio tours are included or you can enjoy a 35 minute Park Ranger guided tour for free.
Our visit to the Crown was in November. This is considered off-peak. The lines and crowds were comfortable, but there was still a lot of people. All of our wait time was short, but there were still enough people to have lines. This was a great time for our family to go. We would prefer to wear a hat and jacket than wrestle with a mob or stand on line for extended periods of time.
The Reserve Ticket Prices with/without Pedestal:
- Adults 13-61 $18.50
- Child 4-12 $9
- Senior 62+ $14
The Reserve Crown Ticket is only $3 more for each person! The trick is planning ahead to get the time and day you prefer.
Locker Rental Information: Lockers are available at the crown/pedestal check-in tent. An attendant is available to make change for large bills. Only bills are accepted (no credit card).
Rental Cost: $2
Rental Time: 2 hours
Locker Sizes Vary
For more information, visit: https://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/
State Street and Battery Place
New York, NY 10004
Castle Clinton is a circular sandstone fort built in 1811 in anticipation of the War of 1812 to protect New York City from the British. It’s located at the southern tip of Manhattan, now known as Battery Park. “Following its near–total demolition in 1941 and a major preservation battle, the original fort walls were declared a National Monument by an Act of Congress in 1946. Restored to its fortification appearance by the National Park Service in 1975, the Castle currently houses a small interpretive display and the ticket office for the Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island ferry.”- Visit: http://www.thebattery.org/
Our favorite attractions at Battery Park are the Seaglass Carousel, the American Merchant Mariner’s Memorial, and the Universal Soldier.
Fun Facts: Visit National Park Service
Family Adventure Rating ♥♥♥♥♥
Cost- This trip is comparably low in price (considering what you get out of it) if you live close enough to travel for the day. For a family of five going to the Crown, this trip starts at $84. You can keep costs down by bringing your own snacks, drinks and lunch. Taking the train and subway will add costs, but it’s my suggestion. The “1” line (red) takes you directly to the South Ferry from Penn Station. (Remember to ask for the Family Fare to pay only $1 per child!). Driving into the city is always a gamble with the traffic and you have specific time reservations to adhere to, not to mention the cost of gas, tolls, and parking. It’s also helpful to give everyone an allowance before you go so they are more considerate when passing the cafeteria or gift shops.
Parking & Transportation– If you’re coming from the New York area, refer to the travel information above. If you’re coming from the New Jersey side, driving and parking at Liberty State Park is easier, but visitors still have options for public transportation.
Location- This park is located in the best city in the world. You can get in and out or make yourself at home. If you’re not tired out from the day, you can shoot up to Little Italy for some dinner (or whatever your taste buds desire). Battery Park is quiet and clean for you to enjoy. We consider the ferry ride a bonus because we love any chance to ride a boat on the water. The views all around are amazing!
Day Trip or Overnight- This is an easy day trip if you live within commuting distance. However, this is also a trip that people make from every part of the world, so many do make a longer stay of it. You can plan out your adventure accordingly. You’re already downtown so you could visit the One World Observatory (former World Trade Center) and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.
Experience- This is an experience that doesn’t exist anywhere else on this planet. The history of the area is extensive and rich. The emotions invoked by the statues and memorials are specific and most people will have a connection to their history either directly or generations back.
Combination– Yes, you can definitely combine this adventure with just about anything if you stay in Manhattan. I’m not familiar with what’s in the surrounding area of the New Jersey side, but there is plenty to experience in Liberty State Park.