We went on the Statue Cruises cruise to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island on our first full day in New York City. I don’t like to leave things to the last minute, but I am also afraid of setting up a schedule that turns out to be unfeasible once I get on my trip. When planning my trips, these two sort of sit in tension with one another until eventually I decide that the time is right to make definite plans. July is one of those months where tickets to the crown of the Statue of Liberty tend to sell out six months ahead of time. As a result, by the time I scheduled our Statue of Liberty day, there were no tickets to the crown available. However, I was the one who really wanted to climb to the top. My son wasn’t enthusiastic about climbing 377 steps. So I got pedestal tickets, which turned out to be an excellent compromise. From the indoor part at the top of the pedestal, you can see the inside of the statue (which was designed by Gustave Eiffel, who would go on to design the Eiffel Tower six years later), and which was what I wanted my son to see.
Since we had our tickets already, we could have just gone to security and then onto the boat, but I didn’t want to take any chances, so when we arrived in Battery Park, the departure point for the cruise, we stuck our head into Castle Clinton (the fort in Battery Park, where Statue of Liberty tickets are sold) just to make sure that there wasn’t anything we’d missed.
Then we had to go through security. We ended up going through security a lot on this trip. I guess it’s understandable that the people of New York have this attitude after the events of September 11 and all, but if you are planning a trip to New York and haven’t been there since 2001, be warned that you will spend quite a bit of time in security lines in a number of locations. And at the Statue of Liberty, if you get tickets for access to the statue or the pedestal, rather than just the statue grounds, you will have to go through two screenings, once at Battery Park and once at the statue. My son had a backpack which he had to leave in a locker, and there are not a lot of lockers in the area., You also have to pay to rent them. As a result, if you are only going into either the pedestal or the statue, pack as lightly as you can afford to. Try not to bring any bags or backpacks to the island (the backpack had our umbrellas in it, because they were predicting rain for the day) and you can avoid the lockers entirely.
Part of your ticket price goes for an audio tour, but we bypassed this. I can read the interpretive signage faster than the audio tour can tell me about them.
The base of the pedestal is an old fort called Fort Wood. Today, Fort Wood is home to the original torch of the Statue of Liberty (see image) and the museum about the statue. The museum has casts of the face and feet, so that the visitor can see the scale of the statue up close. Among other things, the museum also contains information about the development of the design and about the campaign to raise money for the pedestal, because without a pedestal, the statue could not be erected.
The sign at the bottom of the statue gave an estimate of how long it would take to climb to the top of the pedestal. There wasn’t a crowd or anything, so my son and I took that as a challenge. I don’t know if we actually made it to the top in less time than the sign indicated, but we did take them pretty quickly.
For those who are not up to the 215-step climb to the top of the pedestal but who are able to navigate short staircases, there is an elevator that goes almost all the way to the top of the pedestal. There are short staircases before and after the elevator. The exterior areas of Liberty Island are wheelchair-accessible, but the only part of the Statue of Liberty that is wheelchair-accessible is the inside of the pedestal.
The view from the top of the pedestal is lovely, and you can see the structure of the inside of the statue from the room at the top of the pedestal. When I first stepped outside I noticed an odd smell, which I am pretty sure was the smell of the copper of the statue itself.
Groups of around ten people are taken to the crown every 20 minutes. No one was going up to the top when we were there, so we got a chance to talk to the guide at the bottom of the statue. She was very informative.
After descending from the pedestal, you step out onto the roof of Fort Wood itself. There are very nice views and also a few interpretive signs, which I found to be very interesting. After we finished exploring the top of Fort Wood, my son and I went back to wait for the next boat (which turned out to be the same boat we took out) to go to Ellis Island, which will be the subject of my next 2015 Vacation Destinations post and will probably be posted next week.