UPDATE: Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty are once again open to the public. Ellis Island remains closed.
The Weather Lady said it was going to be a beautiful day, so we went to the Statue of Liberty.
For many visitors to New York, going to Liberty Island is a required event. While there are a few boats that provide service to the island, the one sanctioned by the National Park Service is Statue Cruises. Ferries depart to Liberty Island and Ellis Island from the Battery Park area of Manhattan, as well as Liberty State Park in New Jersey. Be aware the lines will be extremely long, especially during peak season. Your best bet to avoid a long wait are to visit off-season and early in the morning. Be aware security measures are very tight, and you will be required to pass through an airport-style metal detector before boarding the ferry.
Round-trip fare from Manhattan or New Jersey is $12. Limited "appointment" tickets are available online, but these only save you the time waiting at the ticket window; you still need to go through the metal detector.
As for entering the statue itself, a limited number of free "monument passes" are given to ticket holders on a first-come, first-served basis. While entry to the monument is free, there is an extremely long wait time (up to 2 hours) to get through yet another security checkpoint and enter the statue (NOTE: while you can procure a "monument pass" in advance online, you still must stand in the lengthy security line with everyone else). Note also backpacks are not allowed; free lockers are provided at the entry to the security line. Once inside the pedestal, you can see a modest museum and are allowed to climb to the top of the base. You are not allowed to climb inside the statue, however. Personally, I didn't think it was worth the 90 minutes we waited to get through security.
Food and beverages are available on Liberty Island, but the food is rather expensive and the quality is mediocre at best. I choked down a greasy and cold burger that cost $8. Your best bet is probably to buy a snack on the boat (hot dog $3, nachos $5).
Ofthe 12 million immigrants that passed through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954, the first was Annie Moore, a 15-year-old girl from Cork, Ireland, on January 1, 1892. She and her two brothers were coming to America to meet their parents, who had moved to New York two years before. The last person to pass through Ellis Island was a Norwegian merchant seaman by the name of Arne Peterssen in 1954. Today, over 100 million Americans can trace their ancestry to the immigrants who first arrived in America through the island before dispersing to points all over the country.
There is a myth that immigrants were compelled to take new names upon entry to America.There is no historical record existing that supports this. A more plausible explantion is that many of these immigrants were illiterate, or whose foreign names were misunderstood by the officials recieving them. Passenger lists from the arriving ships were the only official record.
Symbols were chalked on the clothing of potentially diseased immigrants following a brief medical examination.Heads were de-loused or shaved. If quarantine was needed, facilities were available and compulsory. Behaviour was carefully noted, as was physical disabilty. Some were refused entry because of undesirable criminal records , and deported home.
Standing in the vast , cold halls of Ellis Island today-and seeing photos of the hopeful but bewildered faces of these millions that came to America with a dream in their hearts-was for me one of the most emotional moments I have ever experienced. One can almost hear the voices and the cacophy of many languages as they waited in line like cattle, waiting to be processed.
My family was part of the Diaspora, and although their final landfall was not America, they must have had the same hope in their hearts. It was a time of brave decisions. Families were wrenched apart by necessity, and for most- their hopes and dreams came to fruition..They prospered, assimilated and became Americans. In the Land of the Free.
The main building houses the Immigration Museum. A 30 minute film "Island of Hope, Island of Fears" introduces visitors to Ellis Island and the immigrant experience. Museum exhibits occupy three floors and display possessions that immigrants brought from their homelands, including baggage used on the voyage to America, information on famous immigrants, and historic photographs, newspaper clippings, and political cartoons based on the history of Ellis Island and immigration. .
The museum is designed to be a self-guided experience, and brochures are available to help visitors navigate through the exhibits.
The boats to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are quite expensive and can involve some long waits, especially in tourist season. A free alternative is to view them from the Staten Island Ferry. This ferry, primarily designed to connect the boroughs of Manhattan and Staten Island, is also very useful for tourists, as you pass quite close to both Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Coming from Manhattan, your best views are from the top deck ("hurricane deck"), starboard (right-hand) side. You'll get a similar view on the port (left-hand) side coming from Staten Island. The opposite side gives you a nice view of Brooklyn and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
Boats depart from Whitehall Ferry Terminal (co-located with the South Ferry subway stops) 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Departures range from every 15 minutes weekdays, to every 30 minutes weekends, to every hour late nights (midnight to 6 AM Monday- Saturday, midnight to 9 AM Sunday). Travel time is approximately 25 minutes. You are allowed to make an immediate return trip, but you are required to exit the ferry and re-enter from the end of the line of those waiting at Staten Island (so there's a slight possibility you'll need to wait for the next ferry if the boat is full). Passage in both directions is free.
While still in Arizona, I decided to buy advance tickets for the Liberty Statue and Ellis Island tours -- I did this through the official site and I decided to buy the FLEX plan where I can go anytime from 3 days on the date I put on the tickets. I also got the one that had additional entry into the Liberty Science Center -- something that ended up about $25 per adult and about $15 for the kids.
Thank God I reserved tickets because the line was sooooo long on that Sunday! We passed the ticket booth and went directly to fall in light into this building which was like an airport security check. The guards were very good in egging people to move along -- of course the jumping family moved fast....we were excited! Security check lasted about 25 minutes for us...no cell phone or camera use inside. And there are several understandable restrictions – like no big luggage (see website of Statue of Liberty for further details).
The boat we had was Miss Circle Line (there is a Miss New York, Miss New Jersey and other Misses)...It is a 3 level boat and we just opted for the second level because my wife wanted a little shade, and I wanted the sun! Beautiful Day!
The Liberty does satisfy once more...it has changed since I last saw it 16 years ago. Now I was not able to go up the more than 300 steps inside to go to the crown...you need to buy MONUMENT passes to get inside, but it was sold out online and I did not want to fall in line anymore...
But just walking around the Statue is awesome and we got a lot of pictures. Ellis Island can be reached by riding the ferry again and as always, it's nice to see this place where the immigrants started their journey into the USA.
However, the Liberty Science Center is on NJ according to the guard and we did not want to go on another ferry and just wanted to go straight back to NY.
So get this. If you want to go to the green lady you should check out this site. http://www.nps.gov/stli/
It tells you more than you need to know. To go to the statue you need to ride the ferry (unless you are like a really good swimmer). You can get your ticket at Battery Park. If you plan on going in the lady (where few have gone) you need to book a ticket. They have time slots. This can be done on the Internet. You can do this by going to this site. www.statuereservations.com
There are two tours you can take. The first tour is the PROMENADE TOUR - This option takes visitors through the monument lobby, past the original torch to the Statue of Liberty Exhibit for a 20-30 minute Ranger-guided tour. Visitors will then proceed outdoors on the lower promenade and Fort Wood for a brief talk with great views of the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor. The second tour is the OBSERVATORY TOUR - This option incorporates the promenade tour plus a visit to the pedestal observation platform for an interesting new experience allowing visitors to view the Statue's interior framework through a new glass ceiling portal and taking part in a ranger-guided program learning about the Statue's design.
Take the second tour its better, and it does everything the fist one does. These tours are free, you just have to register for them and purchase your ferry trip (nothing like the smell of diesel smoke from a boats engine).
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The Statue of Liberty is possibly the iconic sight of New York, though the competition for that role is tough. Built in 1886 she became the symbol of the United States, welcoming immigrants from the old world to the new. A famous poem, “The New Colossus” (written by Emma Lazarus in 1883) captures the statue’s significance:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
The full name of the statue, rarely used, is “Liberty Enlightening the World". It was a gift from the people of France to commemorate the first centennial of the War of Independence and the friendship that had been formed between the two countries at that time. Because of this, the tablet in her left hand reads (in Roman numerals) "July 4th 1776", the date of American Independence.
When we last visited New York, in 1982, we were able to ascend right up to the crown of this venerable old lady for an amazing view of the harbour. Sadly these days this is not allowed; concerns about terrorism closed the whole island for a while, and although visitors are now allowed back, the top of the pedestal is the highest point you can reach. You must be quick off the mark even to get a ticket for this – numbers are limited and when we arrived at Castle Clinton in Battery Park to purchase our tickets at around 11.00 AM, all of these “Monument Access” passes for the day had been sold. This didn’t worry us, as we’d already decided to visit only from the outside on this occasion, but if you want to go inside you should plan to go first thing in the morning, just in case, or buy in advance online.
A Monument Access pass will also allow you to go inside to see the exhibition, which includes the original torch and full scale replicas of the Statue's face and foot (a great way to appreciate the scale of the statue). The exhibition also tells the history of the statue from conception to the present day.
Outside, take the time to make a complete circuit of the statue as she looks different from every angle (as my photos show). On the far side of the island from where the ferry docks you will get a spectacular view back across the water to Lower Manhattan. There are plenty of places to sit and admire the views and the statue itself, and also a café and snack bar where we bought a couple of sandwiches and some cold drinks for a light lunch.
NB There is no entrance fee to enter the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island, you pay only for the ferry: $12.00 for ages 13+, $10.00 for Senior Citizens (62 and over and $5.00 for children 4-12. As National Park Passes only apply to entrance fees, pass holders will have to pay the full amount.
For more about the ferry and ticketing arrangements please see my separate Transportation tip.
The Statue of Liberty is one of the great attractions in all the United States, not just New York City. A symbol of all that made the United States a great country and set it apart from all others should serve as a reminder that this distinction does not come as matter of entitlement and must earned. I could tell you about how tall it is, who designed it and France's role in its coming into being, but you can read that elsewhere and all I would be doing is regurgitating facts others know better than me. I will tell you that if you want to go into the crown of the lady of liberty you better reserve it far in advance. This area was off limits after the 911 attacks and has only recently been reopened.
I had done the crown many years ago and it didn't require anything aside from just showing up and climbing the many stairs. I would not have really cared about doing it again but this was my wife's first time and she had just recently received her US citizenship. Unfortunately, the trip was done on very short notice and despite my attempts to get a special permission for this very special citizen it would not come to pass. The NYC trip was a short one and we left the visit to the last day, in fact we were flying home that evening and it would have been easy to bypass it altogether but we got a gorgeous day and we went in early hoping to get a crown ticket last minute. There were none at the box office but it would have been crazy to get so close and not go so we boarded the ferry and enjoyed the stunning views of the NYC skyline before turning our eyes to not only lady liberty but also the very moving approach to Ellis Island. Anyone whose family arrived in the US via this route is bound to get a bit choked up on first seeing the historical first stop of immigrants arriving in the US in the early 1900s. I had done a bit of research on my family coming over and Doreen was even more excited at the prospect of a visit than I was. In fact, it overshadowed the visit to the Statue of Liberty for both of us.
The audio tour is quite good and we would have liked to spend even more time on Ellis Island but with our time being constrained and the Statue of Liberty awaiting, we did the tour quickly and headed to the dock to catch the next ferry. It is actually free to visit Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty but you can only legally reach it via one of their ferries which cost $20 which includes the audio tour.
The Statue of Liberty is the most recognisable icon of New York. She stands on Liberty Island in New York Harbour.
It was a gift from the French government for the 100th birthday of America's Independence.
At the time of our visit to New York, you were not able to go inside the statue, so instead we caught the (free) Staten Island Ferry, which passes close by. It has since been open to the public, book tickets at: www.statuereservations.com
It was a little difficult to take photos, but so exciting to see her, especially with the sun setting in the back ground.
It gave me shivers.....though that could have had something to do with the cold night air!!
On our previous visit to New York, the immigration centre on Ellis Island stood neglected and half in ruins. We were able to visit and explore its labyrinth of rooms left largely as they must have been the day the centre closed, with dust thick on the desks and benches, odd pieces of equipment lying around and a spine-tingling haunted atmosphere. We were told then that there were plans to turn the centre into a museum, so on our return to the city a visit to that museum was high on our agenda.
Ellis Island opened on January 1, 1892 and was in operation until 1954. The buildings that now stand there date back to 1900 as a fire destroyed the original wooden building. In that time the station processed over 12 million immigrant steamship passengers. Today, the descendants of those immigrants account for almost half of the American people.
I’ve adapted this account of the immigration process of that time from the National Park website:
Steerage or third class passengers travelled in crowded and often unsanitary conditions near the bottom of steamships with few amenities, often spending up to two weeks seasick in their bunks during rough Atlantic Ocean crossings. Upon arrival in New York City, ships would dock at the Hudson or East River piers. First and second class passengers would disembark, pass through Customs at the piers and were free to enter the United States. The steerage and third class passengers were transported from the pier by ferry or barge to Ellis Island where everyone would undergo a medical and legal inspection.
If the immigrant's papers were in order and they were in reasonably good health, the Ellis Island inspection process would last approximately three to five hours. The inspections took place in the Registry Room (or Great Hall), where doctors would briefly scan every immigrant for obvious physical ailments. Doctors at Ellis Island soon became very adept at conducting these "six second physicals." By 1916, it was said that a doctor could identify numerous medical conditions (ranging from anaemia to goitres to varicose veins) just by glancing at an immigrant. The ship's manifest or passenger list (filled out at the port of embarkation) contained the immigrant's name and his/her answers to numerous questions. This document was used by immigration inspectors at Ellis Island to cross examine the immigrant during the legal (or primary) inspection.
Despite the island's reputation as an "Island of Tears", the vast majority of immigrants were treated courteously and respectfully, and were free to begin their new lives in America after only a few short hours on Ellis Island. Only two percent of the arriving immigrants were excluded from entry. The two main reasons why an immigrant would be excluded were if a doctor diagnosed that the immigrant had a contagious disease that would endanger the public health or if a legal inspector thought the immigrant was likely to become a public charge or an illegal contract labourer.
You can read much more about the history of Ellis Island on that website if you’re interested (link below) but it is the period described above that has left the strongest mark on the island and is now captured in its excellent museum. The impressive Registry Room on the first floor (US second floor), where these inspections took place, has been restored to its former appearance and lies at the heart of the complex. From here various corridors lead to smaller rooms, now mostly used to hold display cabinets chronicling all aspects of activity in the immigration centre – the arrival of immigrants, the medical inspections, conditions for those forced to stay in detention etc. A few rooms have been restored, like the Registry Room, to show what they would have been like at that time. These include a dormitory and the Hearing Room, where hearings were conducted to determine if detained immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States or returned to their country of origin. There are regular re-creations of these hearings staged in this room, in which members of the public are invited to act as the panel and decide the fate of a “real” immigrant – and then learn if they made the same decision as the original panel. We saw part of one of these events and found it really interesting.
On the ground floor the exhibits focus on more broader aspects of immigration, with models designed to make some of the statistics more interesting (which they failed to do for us!). More interesting were the displays showing mementos of the immigrants’ homelands such as ornaments and clothing. There is also a area devoted to the American Family Immigration History Center, where those descended from immigrants can search their own family history and find out more about their ancestors.
Ellis Island is part of the same National Park as the Statue of Liberty and is reached by the same ferry, which stops first at Liberty (where you are free to get off or not) and then makes the short crossing to Ellis. Strict security arrangements are in place. There is no entrance fee to enter the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island, you pay only for the ferry: $12.00 for ages 13+, $10.00 for Senior Citizens (62 and over and $5.00 for children 4-12. As National Park Passes only apply to entrance fees, pass holders will have to pay the full amount. An audio guide will cost you an additional $6.00.
The most important and interesting historical site to visit in the New York City area has to be Ellis Island, where about 40% of the countries immigrants passed through.
The American part of my family managed in true Sourbugger style to avoid the place completely by first being forced by nefarious events to live on a plantation in Cuba, before they upped sticks and moved to Alaska.
Three things I found surprising about Ellis Island were :
1) It may be the land of the free, and despite what it says on the statue if liberty, the First and Second Class passengers avoided the place completely because they were processed on board ship before arriving.
2) The Stairs up from the boarding points were cleverly used to give an early indication of those who were not fit enough to start a new life. Rather ironically many of their descendants now probably can't make the stairs due to being too obese.
3) Much of the complex is still unrenovated from it's days as a a mental asylum. An excellent report about this can be read at :
Entry is free, alough the ferry to the site is around ten dollars - details on the website
Liberty State Park includes the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the Central Railroad of New Jersey Train Terminal. The train station isn't featured very often, but we found it an interesting way to approach the city. We drove in from the New Jersey side...plenty of parking..viewed the train station, and boarded a ferry to Ellis Island. We later returned by water taxi from a stop which is close to Ground Zero.
This train station was built in 1889 and became the greatest concentration of freight and commuter rail services in the New York Harbor area. Tens of thousands of daily commuters were transported on more than a hundred ferry boat crossings to and from the terminal. Ellis Island increased the traffic by several thousand each day. It was the Gateway to America for all who came during the massive migration at the turn of the century.
When the tunnels and bridges opened, it hastened the decline of the New Jersey railroads. They declared bankruptcy in 1967, and the terminal closed its doors until it was purchased and restored as a cornerstone of Liberty State Park.
It's a beautiful structure...and one can imagine the hustle and bustle as the thousands of immigrants passed through.
When the immigrants were getting ready to leave Ellis Island, many were boarding trains for various parts of the country. The clock tower was probably a very welcome sight to these men and women as they boarded the train heading for their new life.
UPDATE: Ellis Island is closed until further notice due to damage from Hurricane Sandy.
When you visit the Statue of Liberty, be sure to visit Ellis Island as well. This place has special meaning to many Americans because this is the first U.S. soil our ancestors set foot on. As you enter the beautifully restored building and its main hall, also take a look at the many photos and exhibits in the side rooms. Especially poignant are the relics encased in glass -- a part of the everyday life of those who spent time here, but then literally left to rot when the facility was abandoned in 1954.
While there are a few boats that provide service to the island, the one sanctioned by the National Park Service is Statue Cruises. Ferries depart to Liberty Island and Ellis Island from the Battery Park area of Manhattan, as well as Liberty State Park in New Jersey. Be aware the lines will be extremely long, especially during peak season. Your best bet to avoid a long wait are to visit off-season and early in the morning. Be aware security measures are very tight, and you will be required to pass through an airport-style metal detector before boarding the ferry.
Round-trip fare from Manhattan or New Jersey is $12. Limited "appointment" tickets are available online, but these only save you the time waiting at the ticket window; you still need to go through the metal detector.
The Statue of Liberty is the landmark of New York and of the most recognizable icons in the world! It’s located at the Liberty Island overlooking Manhattan. It was a present from France in 1886 as sign of friendship between the two countries. When I was young I thought it was a welcome to all visitors in the States but later I’ve learnt that it was basically for the immigrants that were going to the States by thousands those days and it was the first image of the United States they saw after the long journey from Europe. You can feel the size of it if you go and stand under the statue. The index finger is 2,5m and the tablet in her hand shows the date of USA declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776).
You can visit Liberty Island by ferry from Battery Park but after 11/9 you cant go up anymore. You can visit the museum if you have the access pass. I suggest you to book in advance for the ferry because there are really long lines for the tickets and then another one because of security searches.
An alternative option is to see (and take pictures) from other ferry. The Staten Island Ferry is for free and goes to Staten Island and back every 30’. The circle line cruise is a good option also because it stops for a while in front of Liberty Island for photo shoots.
The Ellis island was for 62 years(1892-1954) the main entry station for immigrants. More than 12.000.000 immigrants were inspected there (people that traveling first class were been inspected onboard). Some people were denied admission to the United States because of visible health problems, because of criminal background and some others after an interview. Almost half of the United States population can find their roots here! If you go to Ellis Island you can visit the museum, especially the big hall where all the immigrants were waiting for hours.
Pic 4 shows both islands as we could see them from a friend’s apartment
We were right at the south of the island so seeing as the weather was good thought we would take this opportunity to jump on the ferry which would take us to the Statue of Liberty. Now I had read on a few VTers pages that I needed to take the ferry to Staten Island. So when i went to the ferry terminal I was a little confused. But I was told that I didnt need to take that ferry as yes I would still see the Statue but it wouldnt take me anywhere near enough to be able to get off and walk around it. The ferry I needed to take instead was the one going to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island...obviously!!! This cost $12 and if you got there at a certain time you were given an Observatory Tour for free.
Ranger Tour through Statue of Liberty Museum.
Ranger presentation from top of pedestal with insider's view of the
Statue of Liberty.
Harbour views from observation decks.
Ranger programmes, harbour views, Statue views and photo
opportunites on Fort Wood Promenade.
The ticket is only valid for the day you buy the pass and when we went, there was a time limit which was from 1345-1445. We unfortunately were not there for those times so didnt get to see the Ranger Tour...but we had fun walking around the base of the Statue of Liberty, popping into the souvenir shops and taking a million and one photographs!
Well some people come to famous cities to see the famous sites, taste the famous foods and hopefully see some famous people, and although I was hoping to do all three of the above things, one thing which I found to be VERY important throughout the day, was to find a good hand drier, because when you have circulation as bad as mine..you're going to NEED it!!!!!
When we were waiting at the Ferry Terminal to go across to the Statue of Liberty I was in immense pain...it felt like the blood had literally been drained out of my hands and my fingers were on the verge of dropping off. Fortunately the toilets had a good hand drier and after a few minutes of glorious bliss, they were back to normal. I feel this should go under a 'first aid' tip as it really did save my life that day! You could find me on and off for the rest of the day frequently hopping in and out of the toilets for a bit of hot air!!! Please remember this tip, it will prove very useful I promise!