I’ve been to New York City a lot. CycleGuy used to live there. I’ve traveled there for work. And vacation. I’d been there many times before September 11, 2001. And every time I just figured there would be a “next time” to go see the Statue of Liberty.
It’s hard to miss “seeing” her. The beautiful and majestic lady stands at one of the gateways to America to welcome all. Lady Liberty’s been greeting people since 1886. And here I am, in 2014, decades after first seeing her, just now going to visit. I shouldn’t feel bad considering how many friends I have from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut who’ve never visited her. They see her all the time, what more could there be?
I think we take for granted many of the things we have. In Paris, there are Parisians who’ve never gone to the top of the Eiffel Tower! To me, that’s just crazy. Then again, I know quite a few people in Arizona who’ve never been to the Grand Canyon. We figure these will all be around forever and we’ll get there “someday”. Ah, the proverbial someday.
We decided to take BabyGirl to New York for Spring Break and asked her what things she really wanted to see. On her list were a few things her BFF had seen last year – Central Park Boathouse, FAO Schwartz, and Dylan’s Candy Bar. But, BabyGirl also wanted to go to the Statue of Liberty. So, I set out to make that happen.
Going to the Statue of Liberty (which, if you didn’t know, was constructed with help from Gustav Eiffel) isn’t as easy as just hopping on a ferry. There’s quite a bit of planning involved since the tickets are timed for a specific date. None of this last minute decision-making, especially if you want to include a visit to the Crown or Pedestal. The only way the public can access Liberty Island is by buying a ticket through Statue Cruises (a contractor for the US Government since the island is maintained and managed by the US National Park Service). The ticket includes both Ellis Island and Liberty Island.
I bought what are known as “Reserve + Pedestal” because “Reserve + Crown” had sold out by time I went to buy ours. That was about 90-days out and they were sold out in a very short time. Reserve tickets are the base-level tickets and gets you the audio-tour and access to grounds (and the various free tours by Park Rangers) only at Liberty Island. All tickets include Ellis Island. The pedestal tickets get you access into the pedestal the Statue stands on, whether it’s by elevator or the 231 steps. It’s in the pedestal where you get to see the original flame and gain information from the museum-like displays. We’d wanted to get Crown tickets but with only about 100 sold each day you have to be on top of it when planning your visit. And since we wanted to go a specific date, the lack of flexibility meant we couldn’t go.
Although we were staying in New York, we took a ferry over to Liberty State Park in New Jersey to begin our visit to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. There are only two locations you can board Statue Cruises, from Battery Park in lower Manhattan or Liberty State Park in New Jersey. Both are small boarding areas, but with timed tickets and having to go through airport-style security (yes, take off coats, remove everything from your pocket, send your things through the scanner, you go through the scanner) we decided the smaller crowds would be better since waiting outside in the 20-ish degree weather for the shortest amount of time would be best. Waits at Battery Park, especially during peak season, can exceed two hours so you have to plan accordingly. When we went, the wait to get through security at Battery Park was over an hour while our wait at Liberty State Park was about 20 minutes.
From New Jersey, the first stop is Ellis Island. Most people don’t get off the ferry but it’s their loss. Ellis Island is magnificent. Due to superstorm Sandy, most of the building is off-limits. Ellis Island and the buildings on it were badly damaged by the storm. Much of the historical information stored in the buildings was damaged and it’s taking quite a bit of time to clean and restore them. However, having the opportunity to walk into the giant, open building is something that has to be experienced at least once.
We spent most of the day touring both islands. It was a very cold and windy day, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying our visit. Seeing Lady Liberty and the is one thing, but being able to visit and stand upon their soil is one of those thing you have to experience to understand. It’s cool to see them, which you can from many places along the river in New York or New Jersey. But both are places you have to stand upon to truly get a sense of how it must have felt to the millions of immigrants, some of whom are people we know and love.
For many people, going once is enough. For us, though, I think we’ll be going again when BabyGirl is older. She learned a lot, and, like visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa, it’s not just a check-off on the bucket list. I want her to get meaning and experience it so she remembers it, but I don’t really have control over that. It’s up to her. But I can give her these experiences, so that one day she’ll look back on them with fond memories.
Note: all photos were taken with our cell phones. BabyGirl had her own so she could create her own travel memories.