Tuesday, June 05, 2007

How to Visit the Statue of Liberty

Visiting the Statue of Liberty is a big hassle - the main reason why I have never been to see it before. Not only does a visit require pre-planning, but it also involves waiting in long lines.

If you are interested in visiting, here are some tips that might help in your planning.

The first hurdle to successful visit is navigating the websites.

One website for the Statue of Liberty, one website for Ellis Island, and one website for the ferry boat.


You can only get to Liberty Island and Ellis Island by ferry boat. Currently, only one ferry boat company operates between both islands, lower Manhattan, and New Jersey.

Here is what they don't make very clear - you can visit both Liberty Island and Ellis Island with just the ferry ticket.

If you would like to climb up to an observation deck on the Statue of Liberty pedestal and visit the Statue of Liberty museum, you must get a 'Monument Pass'. The Monument Pass is only available on the ferry boat website. They typically sell out pretty far in advance, so if your visit dates are not flexible get your passes early. The Monument Pass is free, but does have a minimal handling fee - it is purchased along with your ferry boat tickets.

We picked up our tickets at 'Will Call' on the day of our tour. Make sure you have your confirmation number and valid ID -they check.

Once you have your tickets you wait in line for the ferry. To get on the ferry you must pass through a metal detector and have your bags run through an x-ray machine. Our wait was only about 10 minutes, but we were lucky. The lines can be up to two hours long! Your best bet is to get there early. The lines are always shortest earlier in the morning, New Yorkers don't seem to start moving until about 10am on the weekends.

First stop Liberty Island. Get off the ferry, even if your Monument Pass time is for later in the day. The day we visited the Park Ranger told us they don't look at the ticket times on the pass - you can get in line for the Statue of Liberty museum and observation deck at any time. As this policy might differ from day-to-day I recommend you ask before waiting in any lines.

This line is very slow. Each person goes through an air puff security device and bags are run through and x-ray machine again. You cannot bring large bags or backpacks in to the museum or on the observation deck, if your bags are too big you must rent a locker to hold your belongings while you are on this part of the tour.

Once again, it did not seem very crowded on the day we visited yet this line still took about 30-40 minutes. You may stay in the museum and on the observation deck as long as you like. The view from the deck is great, take your time and enjoy the fresh air.

Once inside the museum, your first stop is the actual torch that used to be on the Statue of Liberty.

It is beautiful, but looks very delicate. It is hard to believe people used to climb out on the small balcony. The current torch is a reproduction built using the original plans. The flames are covered in gold leaf.

You get to see a life size reproduction of Lady Liberty's face.

And her feet.

You see models, original plans, how the Statue was made and how it has been refurbished over the years. The picture below shows the metal pieces that are welded together to make up the support structure of the Statue.

The museum is really interesting and it has great bathrooms!

We climbed up the 156 stairs to the upper observation deck. It would have been much easier to take the elevator. Just take the stairs up, you only miss being out of breath on your arrival at the top. Once you are at the upper deck the views are good, but the deck is small and crowded. On our visit the Park Ranger seated at the top was very knowledgeable - go ahead, ask a question.

Take the stairs down and stop at the two lower decks along the way. They offer the same great views but without the crowds.

Liberty Island has almost all of the same information that you see inside the museum posted around for the general public. You don't get to see the models or life size reproductions but you do get the same information - so if you can't get those Monument Passes the visit will still be very interesting.

Liberty Island also has an extensive food court, two gift shops, and information center and some stunning views of lower Manhattan.

When your visit to Liberty Island is complete take the ferry to Ellis Island (make sure you don't get on the ferry to New Jersey).

Ellis Island only has one building open to visitors. The displays are interesting and educational.

Both Liberty Island and Ellis Island have free tours run by Park Rangers. They run throughout the day and while prior planning would be a good idea, it isn't necessary.

After your visit on Ellis Island is complete, board the ferry to New York. The ferry boats run continuously. The lines seem long, but the boats hold 575 passengers on 3 decks (2 indoor and one outdoor). They move people efficiently from island to island.

While this is a very touristy thing to do, it is definitely something you should see at least once in your life.