I recently found myself in Jersey City with a free afternoon, driving by signs for Liberty State Park. The New York skyline had me feeling inspired, as it dawned on me that this would be the perfect opportunity to visit the Statue of Liberty…
Having grown up on the east coast, I have frequented NYC plenty, but never quite made it over to the Statue of Liberty itself. I’ve seen it from car rides and airplane seats, but knew I wanted to make the full ferry journey to see it in-person.
Some quick Google searches brought me to the Liberty State Park, gazing at Manhattan, and purchasing roundtrip tickets to visit Ellis Island and the Statue from the Jersey side.
On that note…get ready for a history-lesson of a post 🙂
Tickets to the Statue of Liberty
I followed signs to the ticket office to purchase a ticket that would include ferry rides and Statue entrance.
Initially, I had hoped to climb the whole way up to Lady Liberty’s crown…but it turns out you need to buy those tickets 3-4 months in advance!
I settled for the 200+ stair-climb to the pedestal.
It was a Thursday afternoon in the Spring, and apart from not being able to visit the crown, I really didn’t run into any other issues with wait times or sold out tickets, which was great considering the spontaneity of the trip. Maybe it also helped to travel from the Jersey side, rather than from New York.
You can catch a ferry through Statue Cruises from either Liberty State Park in New Jersey along the Hudson, or Battery Park in Lower Manhattan. I parked for $7, and paid $18 for the ferry and admittance to Ellis Island and the Pedestal. I think the Crown was only $2 or $3 more. It seems like a bargain for visiting such a world renowned landmark.
It was one of those Spring days that was annoyingly cold and drizzly, but I found myself not really minding. I felt a real buzzing excitement on the boat. I was reminded of the symbol of hope and second chances that the United States has represented for so many, over the course of its relatively young existence.
First Stop: Ellis Island
I followed the swarming crowds into the National Museum of Immigration. It was hard to know where to go first…
I wandered into an exhibit that overviewed the largest in-pours of immigrants, starting with the 16th century. How some groups came for work, some came to flee oppression, and so many didn’t even come willfully — forced into slavery. Ellis Island was the first stop in the US for about 12 million immigrants when it operated between 1892 and 1954. It’s estimated that up to 40% of Americans can trace at least one ancestor back to the docks of Ellis Island!
Our entire nation is truly built by immigrants.
I had known this before, and heard it a million times since grade school, but this museum helped me contemplate the gravity of that fact, especially considering the negative views immigrants face in today’s political climate.
I stepped into the Registry Room. This grand hall was the first place newcomers gathered. They would undergo medical and legal exams before being admitted into the country — there were even “Six Second Specialists” that would have to quickly screen a person for disease in under 10 seconds in the crowded lines of the main hall.
All sorts of nonprofits would help immigrants with language and cultural barriers as they underwent screening on Ellis Island. There were dining halls and dormitories for those that needed additional medical or legal attention before passing through.
I was surprised to learn that in all of the time Ellis Island was operating, only about 2% of immigrants were ever turned away and sent back to their home countries.
The Ellis Island Immigration Museum had tons of other exhibits. I took a Citizenship test (and passed!), and walked through preserved halls from the early 1900s.
Then reboarded the ferry…and feeling perfectly inspired and intrigued, onto the Statue of Liberty herself.
Next Stop: the Statue of Liberty
After another short and scenic ferry ride, I found myself trekking up a narrow, winding stairs (there was also an elevator, but I preferred the staircase journey). Posted signs helped me countdown the number of stairs to go. …200…100…30…and I finally reached the pedestal.
There I found perfect views of the Hudson and Manhattan, as I wove through the small, packed area — waiting my turn for photo ops!
After climbing back down to sea level, I took a walk around the statue, snapped some more photos, then re-boarded the ferry home.
The sun finally came out as the ferry pulled away from the docks, and bathed the Statue of Liberty in glowing warmth. Just as my phone died — no more pictures.
But so it goes with spontaneous day trips…you learn to appreciate what you can get and go with the flow, in order to find that sense of freedom.
Hello. impressive job. I did not anticipate this. This is a impressive story. Thanks!
Really informative blog. Fantastic.
[…] Fast forward maybe 8 years, and I found myself planning a trip to the Finger Lakes with some great friends living in Syracuse. (I've been frequenting NY a lot these days!) […]
Muchos Gracias for your post.Really looking forward to read more. Fantastic.