Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Statue of Liberty
Visible from Battery Park is New York’s most famous symbol, the Statue of Liberty (www.nps.gov/stli), located on Liberty Island and accessible only by ferry. Despite all the clichés, sentimentalities, and ironies attached to the statue, it’s still a powerful sight. If nothing else, there’s something strangely eloquent about an enormous statue of a woman standing alone above a choppy blue-gray sea.
The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, created by sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, was given to the United States by France in the late 1800s. The French people paid for the sculpture largely because they believed in the American cause and wanted to show support. The statue was made in France and shipped to New York in 214 crates. But once here, getting the statue erected proved difficult.
In 1876, its right arm, carrying the torch, was set up in Madison Square Park in what was supposed to be a temporary exhibit. The arm sat there for over seven years, while its American supporters tried to raise money for the statue’s base.
Finally, journalist Joseph Pulitzer, himself an immigrant from Hungary, ran a major campaign in the New York World and raised the necessary $100,000. Eighty percent of that money came from contributions of less than a dollar. The statue stands 151 feet tall and has a 3-foot mouth, an 8-foot index finger, and a 25-foot waist.
The Statue of Liberty is divided into three parts: the pedestal, the statue, and the crown. The imposing stone pedestal contains a museum and has an impressive view of New York Harbor from the 10th floor Pedestal Observation Level. The museum contains exhibits on the statue’s history as well as the original torch from the statue.
The statue itself is hollow and contains a serpentine stairwell going up the height of the statue. The stairs lead to the crown with its tiny, but impressive, interior observation level, where visitors can peer out of the small windows in the statue’s crown. On Liberty Island you can take advantage of the free Park Ranger-led tours. Tours leave from the Liberty Island Flag Pole and last 45 minutes; schedules vary so check times at the Information Center.
A half mile north of Liberty Island is Ellis Island (www.nps.gov/elis), the primary point of entry for immigrants to the United States from 1892 to 1924. From a distance, the main building looks like a Byzantine castle, with red-brick towers topped with white domes. Inside, the cavernous halls still seem to echo with the voices of the 12 million immigrants who passed through here. Powerful black-and-white photographs, films, taped oral histories, and other exhibits re-create the immigrant experience.
A visit to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island is the opportunity to touch New York City’s immigrant history. Many visitors become emotional as they feel for the first time the depth of their connection to the past, realizing how their life would be different had their ancestors not walked through those very halls of Ellis Island on their arrival to America. All visitors, even those without a direct link to the islands are awed by the Statue of Liberty’s majesty and her importance as a symbol of freedom to the United States.
Getting to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Ferries (212/269-5755 or 877/523-9849, www.statuecruises.com, 9:30 a.m.–3:15 p.m. daily, with extended hours in summer, adults $12, seniors $10, children 4–12 $5) serve both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, which have no entrance fees, on the same trip. The boats leave from the dock near Castle Clinton every half-hour 9 a.m.–3:50 p.m. during peak season, and every 45 minutes the rest of the year.
Tickets go on sale at 8:30 a.m.; arrive early to avoid the inevitable long lines, and allow time for security checks. Same-day tickets to Liberty Island and Ellis Island include access to the pedestal and museum, and are available on-site at Castle Clinton.
To reserve a ticket for Crown access, you must book ahead on the website or by phone. Crown access tickets can be reserved up to a year in advance, and generally need to be made a few months in advance.
© Avalon Travel and Sascha Zuger from Moon New York State, 5th Edition