July 4th is approaching and one of the major attractions in New York City is visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Combine the fun of the Macy’s Fireworks with the history of America with a visit to The Statue of Liberty and/or Ellis Island Museum of Immigration.
Who Runs the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island?
Both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are part of the National Park Service and accessed by ferry from either Manhattan or New Jersey. Private yachts are prohibited from docking at either Liberty Island or Ellis Island. Plan to go early to avoid the crowds.
What is the Statue of Liberty?
The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the United States. She is the largest public sculpture in New York Harbor and is a symbol of freedom and democracy.
What Should I see?
The Statue of Liberty can be viewed from the grounds with a general ticket. Special limited tickets allow guests to gain admission to the museum exhibit in the pedestal or access The Crown. The climb to the crown is a strenuous journey that encompasses 393 steps or approximately the height of a 27-story building. The staircase is an enclosed area with warm temperatures in the summer.
Note, The Statue of Liberty is not air-conditioned; however the pedestal museum is air-conditioned including the first floor of the exhibition space. All crown visitors must be able to climb up and down the 393 steps unassisted. There are 162 narrow, small steps from the top of the pedestal to the crown. There is no elevator access from the top of pedestal to the crown platform – the Statue’s feet to the Statue’s head.
The Statue of Liberty Exhibit opened July 1896 and is located on the second floor in the pedestal of the Statue. It traces the history of the symbolism of the Statue using old photographs, prints, videos and oral histories. A full scale replica of the Statue’s face and foot are on display.
Note: The grounds on Liberty Island are fully wheelchair accessible. For those with reservations to enter the monument, wheelchair access is provided to the museum and the exterior of Fort Wood. A wheelchair-accessible lift is available from where the main pedestal elevator stops to the top of the pedestal. The interior of the top of the pedestal, which offers views of the Statue’s inner skeletal structure, is wheelchair accessible. However, the outdoor observation deck and balcony is not wheelchair accessible.
Obtaining a ticket in advance means that you will arrive and go through the equivalent of airport security, then board a ferry operated by Statue Cruises, with approximately 800 other passengers. Boarding takes approximately 15 – 20 minutes and there may be long lines. If you secure your tickets in advance, you gain priority access to clear security. If you purchase the ticket at Castle Clinton in Battery Park, the lines could be long and up to three hours.
The following items are prohibited at Liberty Island: book bags, backpacks, coolers and glass bottles; plastic bottles are permitted.
Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration
What to see on Ellis Island?
Ellis Island Museum of Immigration is a terrific way to learn about immigration. There are three distinct sections to explore in the main building. In addition, one new exhibit called the Hard Hat Tour is located in a separate area on the island and is not handicap accessible and requires a separate ticket.
Section #1: Pre Ellis Island:
From the 1500’s through 1892 when Ellis Island opened, people arrived for various reasons: to escape war, famine, poverty, to join family members who had arrived previously or were brought here against their will as slaves. The State controlled immigration through quotas.
Section 2: Ellis Island Immigration Center
From 1892 to 1924, Ellis Island was America’s largest and most active immigration station, where over 12 million immigrants were processed. On average, the inspection process took approximately 3-7 hours. For the vast majority of immigrants, Ellis Island truly was an “Island of Hope” – the first stop on their way to new opportunities and experiences in America. For the rest, it became the “Island of Tears” – a place where families were separated and individuals were denied entry into this country.
Section 3: Post Ellis Island Processing
From 1954 through the present, most people arrive by plane. Processing immigrants now takes place at the airports. The newest section just opened May 20, 2015 and is called The Peopling of America Center. It focuses on the time from 1954 through the present describing the challenges and opportunities that immigrants confront when they start their new lives in America. Video installations include immigrants from a variety of different countries describing their own person journey to become an American and take the Oath of Citizenship.
Guests should allow a minimum of one hour in each section to hear the different stories; plus view the free 15-minute movie called “Island of Hope, Island of Tears”.
Audio tours are included with every ticket purchase. The Audio Tours are available for the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island Museum of Immigration. The Audio Tour is available in different languages including Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Russian and Spanish.