In honor of the Union’s defeat of slavery and the Confederate south, France gifted the United States with a colossal neoclassical statue. Her real name is “La Liberté éclairant le Monde” or “Liberty Enlightening the World.” She cost the French government 2,250,000 francs or 250,000 U.S. dollars back in the 1875s and took nine years to build.
Meanwhile, Americans struggled with funding and forming the pedestal. The American Committee of the Statue of Liberty fell drastically short of the $250,000 goal – around $6.3 million in current US dollars. So they ran a Kickstarter the old-fashioned way — classic crowdfunding that included more than 160,000 donors, including business people, children, and wealthy politicians. More than 75% of the donations amounting to less than a dollar. In roughly six months the Committee raised funds. While American workers finished work on the pedestal, Lady Liberty patiently waited in France, ready to be shipped across the Atlantic.
On June 17, 1885, she reached the New York harbor, albeit in separate pieces. Workers only spent four months to re-assemble Lady Liberty and finally on October 28, 1886, government officials dedicated and unveiled her to the world.
Today the Statue of Liberty proudly stands welcoming crowds of tourists. Along with Ellis Island, Liberty Island and the Statue are formally known as the Statue Of Liberty National Monument. I’d feel that our tour of States wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t pay a visit to this icon of American history.
New Jersey or New York?
We needed to make a decision: which city to leave from to reach the Statue Of Liberty National Monument. With family waiting for us in Washington D.C., we knew our time would be short. We picked Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey as our departure point. We found a decently priced RV park a couple of hours away, plus we quickly found parking at Liberty State Park.
Your other option is Battery Park in New York, which is the best option for those staying on Manhattan Island. Public transportation is pretty good with subway lines and bus routes to take you there.
Regardless of which port you go with, you’ll have to reserve ferry and tour tickets. Conveniently, they’re all rolled into one. Not so convenient is that you have to book early, especially if you want access to the Pedestal museum or Crown.
Pick Your Liberty Tour Package
The official concessioner for transport and tours is Statue Cruises. They have ticket offices at both Liberty State Park in New Jersey and Battery Park in New York, but I highly suggest reserving online weeks in advance — may be more in the Summer. They offer four packages:
Reserve Ticket – Also known as Ground Access Only, this ticket gets you passage on a ferry to Ellis Island and then to Liberty Island. This basic package lets you walk around Liberty Island, but not into the Pedestal nor up to the Crown. You’ll also get access to Ellis Island and the Immigration Museum. This type of ticket is the most straightforward ticket to obtain, and they pretty much never run out of them. They cost $18.50 per adult.
Pedestal Reserve Ticket – For the same price as a Grounds Access Only, you’ll get entry up to the Fort Wood section of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. You’ll, of course, be able to view the New York skyline from the Pedestal Observation Level. If you’re fit and want a cheap thrill, take the stairs up. Otherwise, look for the elevator that goes to the Pedestal Observation Level.
Crown Reserve Ticket – This one lets you go all the way up to Lady Liberty’s Crown, in addition to Pedestal access. It only costs $21.50 per adult, that is If you are lucky enough to snag tickets. That doesn’t include the $2 you’ll need for the storage locker. There is no elevator from the top of the pedestal to the crown platform, and visitors must climb 377 steps up and then back down. Children 4 feet (1.5 meters) or taller are allowed access, any shorter, and they’ll have to stay behind. Also, you can’t print out your ticket for this tour. You have to pick up your tickets at the office.
Ellis Island Hard Hat Tour – Also called the Hospital Complex Tour. If you don’t like the crowds or enclosed spaces of the Liberty Crown tour, try the tour of Ellis Island’s Hospital. It takes about 90-minutes and costs about $58.50. You’re led around by a Park Ranger or volunteer who will give you a detailed history lesson. A portion of the fees go towards preservation and restoration efforts. You also get access to Liberty Island Ground Levels, like in the Reserve Ticket package.
All tours come with a self-guided audio tour hand-held device, which you pick up at a kiosk. Meanwhile, Ellis Island’s Immigration Museum offers free Ranger-Guided tours.
The ferry leaving from Liberty State Park in Jersey City will first take you to Ellis Island. The boat from Battery Park in New York will first stop at Liberty Island. Connecting ships between Ellis Island and Liberty Island are frequent, so you don’t need to worry about waiting long.
Government statistics estimate that 40% of all current U.S citizens can trace at least one ancestor to Ellis Island. The U.S. Government opened this Federal Immigration station in 1892. For 60 years it processed millions of immigrants, many of whom were escaping destitution.
The Ellis Island Immigration Museum offers three floors open to the public. The ground floor houses the Baggage Room and several exhibits featuring the journies of immigrants throughout the decades. I highly suggest getting an audio guide device before wandering off too far. You’ll get a detailed description of each station without the rush of a guided tour. Also be sure to stop behind the museum and view the Wall of Honor and to Fort Gibson.
On the second floor, you’ll find the Great Hall, where immigrants were processed and inspected. Doctors studied immigrants as they ascended the stairs from the baggage area and note those who had difficulties getting up. In the Great Hall itself, doctors would check immigrants for other physical, mental or social problems. Also on the 2nd floor is the Hearing Room where the Board of Special Inquiry heard and passed verdict on cases.
On the third floor are various dorms, once filled to beyond capacity with detained immigrants. If there were a problem, island officials would hold immigrants in crampt quarters until their case was heard or deported. The NPS restored the now open rooms to their 1908 appearance, where you can view some of the wire-mesh bunks on which past immigrants slept.
Overall, I enjoyed visiting Statue Of Liberty National Monument. Both Ellis Island and Liberty Island offer a wealth of history. I would suggest spending two days visiting — one for each island. I also highly recommend bringing your food. Like many other NPS park concessions, the food offered is disappointing and overpriced. I would say that the most annoying part is getting through security checks. Treat it like you’re going through a TSA airport security check and bring enough cash to store stuff in a locker if you go up to the pedestal or crown. Just a bit of preparation will ensure a fun time to two beautiful icons of American history.