Visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York City
By Meg Brunson
Out of my family, I'm the only one who's ever visited New York City in the past, and I've never been out to Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty, so these are things I definitely wanted to do with the family! Both are islands and are only accessable by boat. It's really important to note that while many boats may take you out in the harbor to get a closer look at Lady Liberty and Ellis Island, only ONE will actually dock at the islands so you can get out and see the sights.
You will want to book your cruise tickets with Statue Cruises - the only boat that will dock at Ellis/Liberty Island. It's important to note that if you want to go UP into the pedestal and/or crown, you will want to purchase these tickets in advance. I was able to get pedestal tickets the week before our visit, but at that time crown tickets were booking 3+ months away. Honestly, my family would not have had the stamina to survive climbing up to the crown (there are no elevators, it's a narrow winding staircase of 162 steps from the pedestal and you have to be over 4' tall).
Statue cruises can transport you to the islands from either Manhattan (Battery Park) or New Jersey (Liberty State Park). Because we were staying in New Jersey, that port made the most sense for us, and I am happy we took it - it was far less crowded than the Battery Park location and that also meant that the boats were less crowded. It also meant that we waited longer for a boat to return us from the islands, but that did not bother me as much as the crowds would have.
When we arrived at Liberty State Park, we got to experience a memorial that I had not prepared to see. It's called "Empty Sky" and it's pictured to the right. When you stand at the front of the monument, and look at Manhattan, you see the part of the skyline where the Twin Towers used to stand... but now it's Empty Sky. Inside the tunnel formed by the monument are the names of people who lived in New Jersey who lost their lives on 9/11/01. The memorial is located right near the parking lot, along with a beam from the towers.
You will have to proceed through security to board the boats - that process was typical of an airline secutiry checkpoint and the rules were similar. We booked tickets for early in the day in an effort to avoid major crowds, and were pleased with how well that seemed to work. The boatride was relatively quick - though there were snacks and beverages offered on the boat. We opted to sit upstairs to get a good view as we approached the islands.
We visited Ellis Island first. The island has a museum and if you go to the information desk and ask one of the rangers, they will provide you with a Junior Rangers book. These books are fantastic. They have a variety of puzzles, games, and worksheets to guide children through learning the content. When the kids complete the material required for their age, they can turn it in for a badge! There was a children's room within the museum that the kids enjoyed and provided them with some basic info to refer back to as we made our way through the other exhibits.
When we arrived at Liberty Island, we also started with the Ranger Station to get the Junior Ranger book for the Statue of Liberty. We started our experience at the Statue of Liberty Museum. This museum opened in 2019 - prior to that the artifacts were all located inside the pedestal! The museum was great! The kids loved the scale models of different parts of Lady Liberty, like her ear, foot, and face. I loved seeing the original torch. Everyone also loved the pop culture references!
After spending time at the museum, we headed over to get a closer look at the statue and enter into the pedestal. They do not allow purses or backpacks into the pedestal, but there are lockers available to lock up your belongings - just have a quarter on hand for the deposit (change machines are on site).
We loved the views from the pedestal - it was very crowded though, especially the elevator. I just did NOT want to have to climb the 215 steps to the top of the pedestal with little kids. We took some pics with the NYC skyline behind us, then returned to the ground-level to take some more pics before heading back on the Statue Cruises boat!
We loved the history lessons learned at Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty Museum, and experiencing the Statue of Liberty in person (from the ground, and inside the pedestal) was amazing - definitely a MUST if you are visiting New York City! Learn more about Statue of Liberty National Monument at https://www.nps.gov/stli/index.htm
Read about some of the other adventures we're having on our Year-Long Road Trip!
© 2019 Meg Brunson
All opinions expressed are my own. See more on Instagram!
Meg is a mommy blogger, Facebook marketer, and much more. She is a mom to four kids who live full-time in an RV exploring the US! As a former Facebook employee, Meg remains a Facebook addict and handles KidsOutAndAbout.com's Social Media Marketing in addition to providing freelance services for other small businesses on how to best leverage Facebook as a part of their marketing strategy. Meg also hosts the FamilyPreneur Podcast, a podcast for parent entrepreneurs raising entrepreneurial children. Learn more about Meg at MegBrunson.com!