A gift of friendship from France in 1886, the National Park Service has protected and maintained the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island for the public since 1933, welcoming an average of 12,000 visitors each day, with 25,000 people visiting in peak summer season. Liberty Island is open 364 days a year, with seasonal hours (check here). The Statue of Liberty is one of 11 locations that are a part of the National Parks of New York Harbor.
The easiest way to get to the island is to take a Statue Cruises ferry. There are some private charters, but Statue Cruises is the official way to explore both Liberty Island and Ellis Island. You can take a ferry from Battery Park (New York) or Liberty State Park (New Jersey). The New Jersey port is often less crowded, meaning you’re more likely to get a seat, and a view, on the ferry.
Ferry boats have three levels, restrooms, and concessions. The top level is the most popular (at least, on a sunny day) and offers the best views; the second level has indoor and outdoor spaces, but only seating indoors. The lower level is all enclosed seating and concessions. The starboard side of the ferry is best for photos of the statue in the background when the ferry gets close to Liberty Island.
It takes about 20 minutes to get from Battery Park (New York) to Liberty Island; 10 minutes from Liberty Island to Ellis Island; 25 minutes from Ellis Island to Battery Park.
If you travel through lower Manhattan, you’ll enter through Castle Clinton National Monument. Take a moment to check out the exhibit on the history of the island and collect a passport stamp for your National Parks passport. There are ranger led tours, tons of green space and areas to picnic and enjoy the outdoors, and many festivals, pop up shops, and street vendors.
I strongly recommend purchasing tickets online ahead of time. You can purchase tickets at booths inside Castle Clinton, but on the day we visited, the lines were long, and tickets for access to the pedestal and crown sell out months in advance.
Traveling With Kids:
Security: You’ll pass through two security checkpoints and you’ll need to empty pockets, take off belts, and put all packages and bags through a scanning machine. The first security checkpoint is before you board a ferry,; the second checkpoint is before entering the monument base.
Restrooms: There are restrooms located inside Castle Clinton, aboard the ferry, and on Liberty Island (inside the in the Crown Cafe and inside the base of the statue).
Storing Stuff: You aren’t allowed to bring more than a small purse and sealed water bottles inside the statue, so you’ll need to store backpacks, packages, and food in a locker at security check in. Lockers operate on a fingerprint, cost $2 for an hour, and can only be opened once to retrieve items. Strollers can be checked with security.
You are allowed to bring strollers and small bags and food onto the island. I would recommend easily collapsible umbrella strollers for little children if you plan on walking around the island. You won't be able to guarantee the stroller’s security if you go up to the pedestal or crown (although I don’t recommend a crown trip with young children). There are plenty of options for food, but I’d bring drinks and snacks to cut back on cost.
10 Ways to Explore Liberty Island:
1. Walk (or take the elevator) to the pedestal. You’ll need a special ticket (the cost is included with your ferry fee) and I strongly advise purchasing tickets in advance- months in advance- as they sell out quickly. Check availability and purchase tickets here. Once inside, it’s 195 steps to the pedestal. There is an elevator, but it only fits 8-10 people, with a Park Ranger as an operator, and there is often a wait. Once inside the pedestal, you can look up into the staircase leading to the crown, and then walk outside around the entire pedestal. The path is narrow- at most two people wide-and high, so little children won’t be able to see over the wall. You’ll get better views of Lady Liberty by walking down to the floor and out onto the platform on the promenade. Your best bet for a photo with Lady Liberty in the background is on the ground level on the east side of liberty island. Plan on 30 minutes to walk up and around the pedestal.
2. Walk (or take the elevator) to the crown. You’ll need a special ticket (there’s a nominal additional fee) and will definitely need to purchase these tickets months in advance as they are the most popular ticket. You also need to be able to independently walk up a narrow, spiral staircase, so it’s not recommended for young children. You’re limited to what items you can bring on your walk to the crown- check here for the list. Plan on about an hour to walk ; walking from the base to the crown is equivalent to walking up 20 story building!
3. Visit the monument museum; it’s include with your crown or pedestal ticket and located inside the base of the pedestal. The museum offers a detailed history of the building and delivery of Lady Liberty and the relationship between America and France. Plan on 30 minutes to explore the museum.
4. Walk around the base of the statue. It’s about ten miles and about 1/4 mile.
5. Grab an audio tour and take your own tour of the grounds and museum. Audio tours are offered in a variety of languages and there is a child friendly tour option.
6. Take a 30-40 minute ranger led tour, offered every hour in season. Check the schedule here. Tours are free and rangers provide lots of information on the history and construction and 1980s reconstruction of the statue and island.
7. Get your National Parks passport stamped and pick up a Junior Ranger booklet (and earn a badge) at the National Parks building located to the left of the ferry dock.
8. Ward off hunger by grabbing a snack at one of the outdoor concessions (we spied lemonade, ice cream, smoothies, snacks) or a full meal at the Crown Cafe. There is plenty of outdoor seating overlooking the boat dock- just be sure not to feed the pigeons! There is also limited indoor seating.
9. Purchase a souvenir of your visit at one of the two gifts. A smaller gift shop is located at the base of the statue and a larger, indoor store is located at the Crown Cafe building. There is a wide variety of books, apparel, and mementos for sale.
10. Bonus: Anticipating a spring 2019 opening, The Statue of Liberty Museum is expected to “ explore the philosophical concept of liberty and how Lady Liberty serves not only as an American symbol but as the interpretive and iconic symbol of liberty around the world” (according to the website). Museum admission will be free with ferry ticket.