How to Visit the Statue of Liberty in New York
Oh, Lady Liberty.
As a transplanted New Jersey girl for the last 5 years, I’ve considered myself an “almost New Yorker” long before, having come to the city every summer since I was a child to visit my grandmother who lived by herself in Lower Manhattan. So, when my parents came to town this month and requested to take my kids to the Statue of Liberty National Monument, I was surprised that I didn’t actually know how to see the iconic copper lady already. And with Alec Baldwin’s recent Statue of Liberty faux pas this weekend where he and his wife Hilaria Baldwin–two savvy New Yorkers–were duped into buying a bogus tour of the Statue that really only took them on a shuttle bus jaunt TO NEW JERSEY(!?*/!!), I wanted to share my own tips from our recent trip to the Statue (which coincidentally, my family and I did on the very day that the Baldwins attempted to).
There’s a lot of information out there to sift through, and it can be difficult to know what’s what. And visiting the Statue of Liberty is not as straightforward as you’d think. I hope my Statue of Liberty travel guide helps you out––because, like Alec Baldwin said on social media yesterday, “NOONE EVER MENTIONED NEW F***ING JERSEY!!!” Keep reading below for a full breakdown of how we planned for our trip.
Planning Your Visit to the Statue of Liberty
One // Choose your departure location to leave by ferry to Liberty Island and Ellis Island.
Decide which ferry location you want to depart from: Liberty State Park (Jersey City, NJ) or Battery Park (Manhattan, NY). We chose to depart from Liberty State Park because we live in New Jersey so this location is convenient to us, and because parking here is ample and only $7. If you choose Battery Park, you will be better off getting here via public transportation due to extremely limited parking in the city. My kids loved exploring Liberty State Park after we returned from the State of Liberty; the historic Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal has old tracks and trains that they loved climbing on!
Two // Buy a ferry ticket, choose your level of access.
When you purchase a ferry ticket, you are also choosing which level of access you want to be included at Liberty Island. You can select from three ticket options: Grounds Reserve Ticket, Reserve with Pedestal Ticket, and Reserve with Crown Ticket.
1. Grounds Reserve Ticket: includes roundtrip ferry service, Ellis Island Immigration Museum, Statue of Liberty Grounds on Liberty Island, and Self-guided Audio Tour.
2. Reserve with Pedestal Ticket*: includes roundtrip ferry service, Ellis Island Immigration Museum, Statue of Liberty Grounds on Liberty Island, Self-guided Audio Tour, and access to Statue of Liberty Pedestal and Museum.
3. Reserve with Crown Ticket*: includes roundtrip ferry service, Ellis Island Immigration Museum, Statue of Liberty Grounds on Liberty Island, Self-guided Audio Tour, access to Statue of Liberty Pedestal and Museum, and access to Statue of Liberty up to the Crown.
Three // What are the pros and cons of each ticket type?
The pros are pretty obvious––You get to ride a ferry! You get to go inside our nation’s most famous statue!––so I’ll keep it simple. The Crown is very narrow and tight and has 162 steps up to the top. Only children taller than 48” and who can climb steps on their own are allowed Crown entry. Personally, the Crown doesn’t sound fun to me at all (I have claustrophobia) so I decided it would be better to wait on this when my kids are older (and taller). The Pedestal does have elevator access; however, the Pedestal gets crowded, the walkways are not wide, and small children will not be able to see over the high walls. And finally, well, the obvious downside to the Grounds Reserve ticket is that you don’t have access to the Statue–but if your kids are like mine, the ferry ride and gift shop (and audio guides which they had fun pretending were phones!) made up for things.
Tickets to the Pedestal and the Crown, in particular, are extremely limited and need to be secured in advance. Crown tickets typically sell out three months in advance, so if you’re thinking you can take a spontaneous family getaway to see Lady Liberty next weekend, think again––and PLAN AHEAD! Currently, all Crown tickets are sold out until January 2020. (During peak summer months, Crown tickets are reserved up to six months in advance.)
You could probably snag a Pedestal ticket if you plan just a few days to a week in advance, although you may find limited reserve entry times available on the day you choose. On the other hand, the Grounds Reserve tickets are the most widely available and you can likely secure them even just one or two days before. This is what we ended up with last weekend when I realized the night before we were planning to visit, that Crown and Pedestal was sold out. #MOMFAIL.
Four // Go purchase your tickets.
Now that you’ve considered things and decided on what type of ticket is right for you and your family, where do you get tickets? You can purchase ferry tickets online through Statue Cruises, the only official ferry service provider allowed to access the islands––ya know, not Freedom Cruises or Sphinx Transport or Tours R Us (ahem, Alec Baldwin), or any of the other scammers making a pretty penny off of tourists just to take them on an overpriced ferry ride that doesn’t actually stop on Liberty Island. Go online to the Statue Cruises website, or buy in person at the ticket office in Battery Park, NY (located inside historic Castle Clinton) or Liberty State Park, NJ (located by the historic Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal). So, if there’s nothing else you take away from this post, remember these two words: Statue. Cruises.
When selecting your reservation date and time, please be aware this is simply your entry into the Security Facility at your departure point and not a specific ferry departure. Ferries depart from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. approximately every 20-35 minutes.
Five // Decide your trip strategy.
Do you want to go to Ellis Island Immigration Museum first, or to the Statue of Liberty? If you’re departing from NJ, the ferry’s first stop is Ellis Island (the ride takes about 15 minutes). You can choose to get off here or stay onboard for another 15-minute ride to Liberty Island. For my family, the main attraction was seeing the Statue, so that’s where we headed first. I also recommend skipping Ellis Island and going straight to Liberty Island so that you can beat some of the crowds. The downside to doing this is that if you do want to stop at Ellis on the way back later in the day, it could add on another 1.5/2 hours getting on a return ferry to New Jersey. (This is what the ferry attendant told us when we were deciding whether to go to Ellis afterwards.)
Other Tips for the Ferry Ride and the Statue of Liberty
What Not to Bring // All visitors bound for the Statue of Liberty must pass through an airport-style security checkpoint before boarding the ferry at Liberty State Park and Battery Park. So, basically anything that you couldn’t get past TSA, don’t attempt to bring onboard the ferry––drugs, weapons, firearms, pocket knives, etc, but also luggage, drones, skateboards, and scooters, much to my kids’ disappointment. Bring anti-nausea medication if you are prone to sea sickness (the day we went was extremely windy and rocky). Don’t forget to bring jackets or layers as being on and near the water can feel much colder.
Where to Eat on Liberty Island // On Liberty Island, you can grab cafeteria-style food at the Crown Café, which is located in the Gift Shop. It’s pretty chaotic in the ordering lines and if you have hangry kids in your family, be prepared to allow an extra 15 to 20 minutes for ordering and picking up your food before getting in another line to pay.
Have you visited the Statue of Liberty, or do you have plans to soon? Tell me about your experience below!