Monday, October 15, 2018

How to Visit the Statue of Liberty with Kids: Tips and Tricks

A trip to the Statue of Liberty should be at the top of the list for any family trip to New York City. It’s an iconic site that your kids will come across again and again, so how cool would it be for them to be able to say that they were actually there? On top of that, a visit to the Statue includes a round-trip ferry ride, and the island itself is a national park, so it features a Junior Ranger program (find out more about it here). 

If you want to get the most out of your experience, however, you’ll need to plan ahead. Here’s what you can expect.

How Do We Get to the Statue?

The Statue of Liberty is situated on Liberty Island, so you’ll need to hop on a boat to get there. The only ferry company that accesses Liberty Island is Statue Cruise Lines. No other ferry docks at the island. There are two departure points – Battery Park in Lower Manhattan, and Liberty State Park in New Jersey.

If you’re visiting NYC, you’ll most likely be departing from Battery Park. Try to snag a spot on the right side of the ferry to see the NYC skyline and Statue on your way over. Both ferries make two stops during their round-trip sailing, Liberty Island and Ellis Island (you can stay on the boat during the Ellis Island stop if you don’t wish to get off). Ferries depart every 20 to 30 minutes; here is the schedule. The ride to each stop is about 15 minutes, and bathrooms are available on board.

Do I Need to Buy Tickets in Advance?

There are three levels to the Statue of Liberty: ground, pedestal, and crown. (Contrary to popular belief, the torch is not accessible to the public.) If your plan is to climb to the pedestal or crown, you’ll need to make reservations in advance, as they frequently sell out. Tickets will definitely sell out during the summer, so book as early as possible.

You can buy tickets to access just the grounds on the day of your visit, but in my opinion, it’s not worth it to take the ferry ride over just to walk around under the statue. You’re better off taking the Staten Island Ferry, which also departs from Battery Park, for free. That ferry brings you to the borough of Staten Island, passing the Statue along the way, then returns to Battery Park.

How Long Will the Visit Take?

Allot at least three hours to visit the Statue of Liberty (longer if you go after 10am, if you plan on visiting Ellis Island, or if you intend to eat lunch there). Go as early as possible in the morning. There are lines everywhere – to go through security, to board the ferry, to rent a locker, to make the climb – and these lines grow exponentially as it gets later in the day.

What Are the Food Options?

There is plenty of food available on this excursion. Hot dog carts abound in Battery Park, the ferries have concession stands that sell snacks on board, and there’s a decent cafĂ© on the island that offers everything from made-to-order hamburgers and paninis to freshly made sushi. If the weather is nice, you can sit at the tables outside and admire the Manhattan skyline while you eat. You can also bring your own food.

Can I Bring a Backpack?

Yes, you can bring whatever bag you’d like, although they won’t be allowed up to the crown (to the pedestal is fine). All bags, including purses, must be placed in a locker for a nominal fee just before you enter that section of the Statue.

How Should We Dress?

Remember that the Statue of Liberty is an outdoor activity that’s located on the water. If it’s chilly out, it’ll be even more chilly (and windy) on the ferry ride. Layers are a good idea, since you’ll get hot during the climb. If it’s warm out, wear hats and bring water, as there’s no shade at the top level of the ferry or on the grounds of Liberty Island. Water is a good idea in general, as the climb to the top of the Statue can be tiring and everyone should stay hydrated.

Should We Climb Up to the Crown?

First, check to make sure crown tickets still available. They sell out months in advance during the warmer months. If tickets are still available and your kids are able to handle 126 steps by themselves, then yes, I highly recommend climbing up to the crown! It’s a fun and memorable experience because the spiral staircase is long, narrow and tight – a real adventure that you won’t find anywhere else. 

It’s so tight, in fact, that you won’t be able to carry your child safely, so make sure they can make the trip up and down on their own two feet. There are a few landings along the way for taking a break if necessary.

I recommend taking the elevator from the ground to the pedestal, to save some energy before making the climb up to the crown. (There’s no elevator to the crown.) There isn’t much to see in the stairwell from the ground to the pedestal anyway.

Should We Visit Ellis Island?

We did not make the stop at Ellis Island on the ferry ride back to Battery Park. The climb up the Statue can be exhausting, and the kids were in no mood to visit a museum afterwards. Mine are also too young to appreciate the historical significance of Ellis Island.

If you have a personal interest in the history of Ellis Island or if you have older children who’ve learned about U.S. immigration, then I’m sure it would make for a very informative and interesting visit. Otherwise, I would skip it.

What Else Is Near Battery Park?

Right in the park is the SeaGlass Carousel, an amazing experience that your kids are sure to remember. The carousel features 30 sea creatures made of fiberglass and steel that glow, rotate, and bob up and down in a seemingly random pattern. “Aquatic” music composed specifically for the ride blare from stereo speakers in each fish, and lights within the domed building add to the illusion that you are swimming through a bioluminescent underwater world.

A short walk from Battery Park is the Brooklyn Bridge, which you can walk or bike across into the borough of Brooklyn. Blazing Saddles on South Street rents bikes for all ages, including trailers and tagalongs.

A few blocks from Battery Park is the West Thames Playground, a really well-designed playground that has something for all ages. It’s located between Albany Street and West Thames Street and features everything from a sand box to a water play area to several inventive climbing structures.

For lunch, you could grab a hot dog at one of the numerous carts that line Battery park – after all, it’s the quintessential New York experience! But if you want to sit down for a nicer meal, take a 15-minute walk to Brookfield Place, an upscale mall that features an amazing food court with a panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline. It’s an awesome yet casual dining experience, and everyone in your family will find something they want to eat. Some of the food stalls include Umami Burger, Fuku, Mighty Quinn’s, and Blue Ribbon. Definitely save room for the cupcakes from Sprinkles.

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