Since 1886, the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, as she is formally known, has welcomed millions to America from atop her pedestal in New York Harbour. A gift of friendship from the people of France to the US which has become a global icon of freedom and democracy, the Statue of Liberty is visited by more than 4.4 million people each year. Some come to contemplate her symbolism, others to admire the structure’s unique architecture – but all find themselves in awe of her beauty and legacy. Here are five tips to help you make the most of your visit.
When to visit
One of New York’s top destinations, Lady Liberty is rarely without company. The monument is open daily except on Christmas Day, with hours varying by season. By far, the summer months (June to August) are the busiest, along with major holidays (e.g. Memorial Day and Thanksgiving through to the New Year). During these periods, the wait time to board a ferry to Liberty Island can run as long as one hour. If you don’t mind the cold, January and February see the fewest tourists – just make sure you wrap up warmly! And since inclement weather can influence ferry operations, check the Statue of Liberty website for updates.
Visiting Liberty Island is one of the most rewarding experiences of any trip to New York City – and thanks to regular ferries provided by Statue Cruises, getting there can be relatively stress-free. Ferries depart from Castle Clinton, located in Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan. Battery Park is accessible via public transit or by car, although parking is limited. Statue Cruises’ New Jersey departure dock is located in Liberty State Park near the historic Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal (CRNJT), which offers plenty of parking for a modest fee. Prior to departure, every visitor must go through airport-style security screening. Ferries depart throughout the day in accordance with the monument’s operating hours, which fluctuate based on the time of year. During peak season, boats run from 8:30am until 6:30pm, with departures every 20 minutes – so if you miss one, the wait isn’t long for the next one.
Get the ticket
A ticket is required to board the ferry to Liberty Island. Buy them online at www.statuecruises.com, or on the day at the Statue Cruises ticket booths in Castle Clinton and CRNJT. Each ticket provides access to the grounds of Liberty Island, with free Park Ranger-led tours available throughout the day. Approximately 40 minutes in duration, the tour chronicles island history during the busiest years of immigration of 1892 and 1924. An audio guide is included with the purchase of each ticket if you’d rather make your own way round. Fancy climbing to the Statue’s crown and/or touring the pedestal museum? These require a reserved timed ticket; tickets are limited and must be purchased in advance via the Statue Cruises website.
Beware of independent ticket sellers
Statue Cruises is the only authorised seller of tickets to the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island. Beware of independent ticket sellers, who are often located on the streets surrounding Battery Park in New York City. These tickets do not bring visitors to Liberty Island, but rather offer boat rides that merely sail past the island. While the view is great, to ensure the full experience, purchase tickets only via Statue Cruises.
What to expect
Visiting the Statue of Liberty is pretty much an outdoor experience. Begin your journey at the Liberty Island Information Center, where you can watch a short film about the creation of the Statue of Liberty. Here, younger visitors can also learn about the National Park Service’s Junior Ranger programme. To make your way to Lady Liberty’s famous Crown, you must be at least 1.2m tall and able to climb 377 steps. Remember to reserve your tickets in advance. The Statue’s Torch though, has been closed to the public since a World War I explosion in 1916.
An exhibit about the Statue’s history and cultural impact is located within the monument’s pedestal. In 2019, its contents will move across the island with the opening of the new Statue of Liberty Museum. This 26,000 sq ft museum will allow visitors to experience the history and grandeur of Lady Liberty and consider the role of liberty in their world today through a series of galleries, film and interactive exhibits. A fundraising campaign is currently underway to support the new museum. To learn more, go to StatueOfLibertyMuseum.org.
Best photo ops
The ferry ride to and from Liberty Island presents the perfect opportunity to capture a photo of the Statue of Liberty in all her glory. Once on Liberty Island, there are interesting views at every turn as you walk along the pathway that loops around the island. Many visitors strike a pose with a peace sign, emulating the famous photo of John Lennon in front of the Statue. For a fantastic view of the Manhattan skyline, head to the north side of the island. Those with pedestal tickets can position themselves on its outdoor promenade for spectacular 360-degree photo opportunities of New York Harbor.
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.