Visitors to New York City every day flock to one of the most iconic sights the city has to offer. Visiting the green Statue of Liberty is a rite of passage for tourists wanting to take in the sight of the most famous woman in the city. I am almost ashamed to admit that I only made it out to see Lady Liberty on my third trip to the city, though I had done the cheaper version of a Statue of Liberty cruise and spied her from the distance on the ferry on the way to Staten Island.
How to get to the Statue of Liberty
Because the famous statue is located on an island, the only way out there is by the ferries operated by Statue Cruises. These ferries run from Lower Manhattan or from New Jersey. Ferries depart every 15-20 minutes, but I’d definitely recommend pre-booking tickets in advance to avoid queueing up when you arrive at the Battery Park ticket booth. The ferry timetable can be found here.
Getting to the ferry boarding point
From Lower Manhattan, the closest subway stations to the Statue Cruise boarding point are South Ferry or Bowling Green. From Midtown, the number 1 train will get you straight down to South Ferry. Otherwise, you could get the 7 train to Grand Central and then change to the 5 towards Bowling Green. From the East Village, the M15 bus to South St/Whitehall Street will get you within 7 mins walking distance of the ferry port.
How to Get Tickets for the Statue of Liberty
Now that you know how to get to the Statue of Liberty, the next step is to think about how to get your tickets. There are a few types of tickets you can get for your visit to the Statue of Liberty. Definitely ensure you pre-book for your day on Liberty Island, because this is an incredibly popular tourist attraction and lines can get huge. Also note that all tickets include a ferry stop at Ellis Island, so if you have enough time to stop and see where immigration processing used to take place.
- The Reserve Ticket – this gets you the return ferry trip to/from Liberty Island and access to wander around the island for as long as you like, taking in awesome views of the statue and back over at Manhattan. It also includes a free audio tour. Liberty Island is wheelchair accessible.
- The Pedestal Ticket – this gets you access to everything the Reserve ticket gets you, plus access to the pedestal that the Statue of Liberty stands atop as well as the museum. The interior view of the Pedestal is wheelchair accessible, however the outside isn’t.
- The Crown Ticket – this is the one you really want to pre-book as early as possible because it can sell out weeks in advance. This gets you access right up into the crown of the statue, but beware that there are no elevators inside – so be prepared to climb 162 steps to the top.
- New York City Pass – this pass includes access to the Statue of Liberty (though not the Crown or Pedestal access) as well as 5 other iconic NYC activities to choose from including the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, MoMA, Guggenheim Museum, Museum of Natural History, Empire State Building and The Met. It’s a great way to save some cash and see six of New York’s most famous attractions. Book your City Pass here.
The significance of the Statue of Liberty
The enormous symbol of US Freedom was dedicated in 1886 and was a gift to the United States of America from the French. The Statue of Liberty, or Liberty Enlightening the World as the French name translates, stands 46m high and is easily visible from any tall buildings in downtown New York City.
The statue itself is made of copper, which explains its green colouring. When copper is exposed to the elements, it turns an aqua-looking green colour, so when the statue actually arrived in New York, it was originally brown. It’s hard to imagine it looking any different to the iconic green of today, isn’t it?
The metal framework of the statue was built by none other than Gustave Eiffel. No points for guessing that this famous name also built the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The sculptor of the magnificent statue is Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. The Statue of Liberty is by far his most notable sculpture.
Statue Cruises will drop you off at the wharf on Liberty Island, which since 1966 has been included on the National Register of Historic Places along with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Though technically part of Manhattan, New York, the island sits in the waters of New Jersey.
There is no limit to the amount of time you can spend on Liberty Island wandering the grounds, but the island itself is not very big – just under 6 hectares, so a couple of hours will certainly be sufficient to enjoy the Statue and also the incredible views back over towards Manhattan.
Liberty Island has been known by a myriad of other names throughout the years, including Great Oyster Island and Bedloe Island. The star-shaped base where the Statue of Liberty now sits was once a fort, constructed in 1811. Liberty Island also used to house the Immigration Museum (now on Ellis Island) and very recently opened the Statue of Liberty Museum. The finishing touches were being put on this new addition to the island when I visited in March 2019, and the museum opened in May 2019 so I missed it by THAT much!
A History of Immigration & The New Colossus Poem
The Statue of Liberty is an absolutely iconic figure in American history. This symbol of independence and freedom came to mean so much to immigrants who sailed into the United States and disembarked for processing – one of the first sights they saw was the green lady of liberty holding her torch high to welcome them.
American poet Emma Lazarus’s famous sonnet, The New Colossus, was written to represent this and is inscribed on a plaque next to the statue. It is a beautiful testament to the cultural melting pot New York City is today. Here is her poem in full:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The Statue of Liberty marks such an important part of US history, with its dedication to freedom and independence hard fought. But it also represents the hope that migrants felt coming to America to find a new home and be hopefully better off. Now that you know how to get to the Statue of Liberty, how to buy tickets and what to expect, I hope you’ll agree that a trip to the Statue of Liberty is the perfect way to really understand the beauty and power of the sculpture as well as the significance of the structure in forming the make up of modern New York.
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