Overview : This should be the first stop on your list if you are visiting New York City for the first time. There are more things to do in New... more »
This should be the first stop on your list if you are visiting New York City for the first time. There are more things to do in New... more » York City than many residents are even able to do in years, but the trip to Liberty Island and Ellis Island cannot be missed.
You will ride on a ferry through the New York Harbor while seeing great views of the New York skyline on the waterfront. You will meet Lady Liberty up close and will learn about the long passage that millions of immigrants to the United States once had to go through. Today millions of Americans can trace ancestors back to Ellis Island, so it can also be an emotional trip for some.
Give yourself at least three hours to see everything quickly. Ellis Island can take several hours alone if you plan to see the films about immigration and give all of the exhibits their deserved attention. Don't rush this part of your trip, the history is too rich and there is so much to see.
Head over to Battery Park at the tip of Manhattan to catch the ferry and start your trip through the American history books. less «
Tips: The first ferry leaves for Liberty Island (and then onto Ellis Island directly after) at 8:30am and the last ferry leaves Ellis Island... more » at 6:15pm. The islands are only closed on Dec. 25, Christmas Day. less «
Walk across Battery Park toward the water where you will see signs (and likely large crowds) leading to the ticket counter.
While in Battery Park, look for the sculpture of the world made from metal. This sculpture was below the towers of the World Trade Center, and you can see some damage was done to it. Today there is a flame below it to... More remember the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Ferry tickets for Lady Liberty and Ellis Island are sold by Statue Cruises, which is authorized by the National Park Service and operates the landmark.
It is free to go up into the Statue of Liberty pedestal and museum, but you must reserve ahead of time.
Seniors 62+ $10
Kids 4-12 $5
($3 additional to go into crown, which must reserved ahead of time)
Hours: May 28 - September 5, First ferry departs at 8:30am, the last ferry departs the island at 6:15pm
Once you buy your ticket follow the line to board the ferry to Liberty Island. The ferry will first go to Liberty Island, then to Ellis Island and finally back to the dock at Battery Park, but you will want to get off on both islands to walk around and explore.
The boat can be quite packed, especially during peak tourist season, but you will get ... Morethe best views of Lady Liberty from the top deck, on the right side of the boat. You may get some of your best pictures from the ferry ride over because all pictures taken from on the island will be looking up at the statue, rather than from straight on.
When you get off the ferry (it may take a while for everyone else in front of you to get off) walk around the edge of the island until you meet the Statue of Liberty face on.Less
The Statue of Liberty was given to the United States by France more than 100 years ago to honor the friendship formed between France and the United States during the American Revolution. However, the meaning has since changed and today Lady Liberty stands tall as a symbol of democracy and liberty; she is the most recognizable symbol of freedom and... More liberty in the world.
It is 305 feet from the bottom of the pedestal to the tip of the torch, and the statue alone is 151 feet from head to toe. To give you an idea of how large the statue is, the index finger is 8 feet, the eye is 2.5 feet wide and her nose is 4.5 feet long.
The statue was designed by Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, and constructed with the help of Alexandre Gustave Eiffel in France in July 1884. It was then completely disassembled and shipped to the United States, where it arrived a year later and was put back together over the next four months. It was finally opened to the public and dedicated on Oct. 28, 1886.
The statue stands on a large pedestal that is hollow inside. Copper sheets were placed on molds and shaped using hammers before being attached to the inner frame; it was quite an amazing structural and engineering feat for the time.
There are bronze statues on the back left of the statue representing a few people who played key roles in making the Statue of Liberty a reality.Less
Near the back left of the statue (from the statue's perspective) you will find bronze sculptures by Edouard de Laboulaye, who had the original idea for the statue. He saw America as one of the hardest fighters for democracy (especially after the Civil War), and he helped give the statue as a gift in the hopes that France would also develop a... More strong democracy with America as its example.
Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi was commissioned to design the statue but did not work on it for quite some time. When he came to New York and saw Liberty Island he knew it would be perfect. He created the statue by taking large 4-by-4-foot sheets of copper and placing them on a wooden mold, then hammering the metal until it formed the shape of the mold.
Bartholdi hired Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, architect of the Eiffel Tower, to create the iron skeleton that would hold the many sheets of copper on the outside as a "skin." Eiffle designed the skeleton in such a way that it could move back and forth in the wind without breaking or collapsing.
It was agreed that the statue would be a joint effort between France and the United States. While France created the statue, the United States was responsible for creating the large pedestal to hold the statue high above the harbor. The government was unable to raise enough public funds to pay for the pedestal, leaving Joseph Pulitzer to raise the remaining money with his highly profitable newspaper the World.
Together these men helped create the Statue of Liberty, each in his own way, and you can see their statues near the base of Lady Liberty.Less
Before you catch the ferry to Ellis Island you may want to stop off at the gift shop for some souvenirs. There is also a cafe here where you can replenish your energy for the next leg of your trip.
After you have seen enough of the statue, head back to the dock where you first got off of the ferry and wait for the next one. The next stop on the tour is Ellis Island, where all immigrants first stopped before entering the United States.
For many visitors, the trip to Ellis Island can be an emotional one, especially when you consider that many millions of Americans today can trace their roots back to an ancestor who passed through Ellis Island on the journey to a better life in America.
The natural island is only a little larger than the current museum; the rest of the island was... More constructed from landfill between 1890 and 1892 using dirt from the excavation of what became the New York subway system. The other section of the island was used as a hospital for those who did not pass the initial health checks when entering the checkpoint. This part of the island is closed to the public today because the buildings have not been renovated.
Enter the main building to see where 12 million immigrants once stood between 1892 and 1954 with the hopes and dreams of starting a better life. Some were allowed in, but many others did not pass the necessary health checks and were either sent back home or treated at the nearby hospitals.
First- and second-class passengers to the United States did not have to go through Ellis Island on their way to America. Instead, they had to go through a courtesy check on the mainland (the belief was that if they could afford first- and second-class tickets then they wouldn't cause any problems). It was quite different for the third class passengers, or "steerage" as they were called. These people had significantly worse travel conditions and were often traveling with everything they owned, which was very little. They gave up everything for the chance to start over in America, but some never got that chance.
If their papers checked out and they were in reasonably good health the process took about five hours at Ellis Island. Because so many people came to the island, doctors were only able to give extremely quick health checks, called "the six-second physical," which could not have been very thorough. However despite the limited time, doctors were able to spot people with illnesses remarkably well.
The island is also sometimes referred to as "The Island of Tears" for the crushed hopes and dreams of those who could not continue. In reality, only 2 percent were turned away and the most frequent reasons were health or crime. You can immagine how frightening the process must have been for some families who spoke not a word of English, being herded here and there and not knowing if everyone would stay together or see each other for the last time.
Today the building serves as an excellent museum about the history of the island and its immigrants. There are several films ("Island of Hopes, Island of Tears") that explain much of the process and you can walk around various rooms to see the entire process of immigration. The displays cover everything from posters of immigrants packing in their home countries, to the medical checks and legal checks at Ellis Island, and even what life was like for immigrants after they entered the United States: where they went and what they did.
One can easily spend hours here and the museum's contents deserve taking the time to see such an important piece of American history. The immigrants who came through this island shaped what America has become today.Less
If you have extra time before the next ferry arrives, walk around the side of the island to the long wall with the names of the thousands upon thousands of people who passed through Ellis Island before entering the United States.
They are alphabetical and it's fun to look for the names of relatives.
After a long, day full of history you are probably ready to get back to the main land. Board the ferry for the last time and ride back to the dock near Battery Park where you started.