Saturday, June 12, 2010

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Tour Suggestions

(updated June 14, 2012)

photo by William Warby
(permission for use under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence)

The time it takes to see the Statue of Liberty can range from an hour to a whole day. I've divided up the options into various sightseeing scenarios. Times Square is the point of departure.

Scenario ONE - visit to Liberty Island and possibly Ellis Island as well:  4-7 hours total from Times Square and back.

Important note:  The inside of the Statue of Liberty will be closed for renovation until approximately November 2012.  You cannot climb up the Statue or visit the museum in the lobby.  You may take the boat out to Liberty Island for close-up views of the Statue and incredible views of the Manhattan skyline.  You will enjoy the lovely park around the Statue on Liberty Island.  But that won't take too long.  Therefore, your visit to Liberty Island would probably be less than an hour, making the total time for this trip more like 4 hours, depending on how long you spend in the museum at Ellis Island.

From Times Square, take the Downtown #1 subway to the South Ferry stop. (takes about 30 min) This lets you off on the WEST side of Battery Park. Walk into the park and follow the signs to Castle Clinton National Monument.

Statue of Liberty ferries depart from Battery Park and go first to Liberty Island and then to Ellis Island before returning to Battery Park. Tickets can be purchased online, a MUST during peak tourist seasons. (See the link in the next paragraph.) The ticket you purchase entitles you to visit both Liberty Island and Ellis Island. There is no cost for the museums on those islands, but I think there is an additional fee to go to the top of the Statue of Liberty. Audio headsets for self-guided tours cost extra also.

Going out the the Statue, looking around, and returning is normally about a 3-hour venture.  (Allow only an hour between November 2011-November 2012 while renovations have closed the inside of the Statue to visitors.)  Here's the website with info about the Statue of Liberty National Monument, including online ticket purchase. Be sure to note the bit about climbing stairs. Also, please understand that I consider the time estimates on the Statue of Liberty National Monument website to be grossly underestimated. My estimates here are based on actual visits and on the assumption that you READ as you peruse the museums!

There is another little island out in the New York Harbor called Ellis Island. In the early days when people were coming to the United States in droves, they were sent first to Ellis Island where government officials "processed" them before letting them into the country. Often they were detained for quite a long time. Ellis Island was eventually closed down and lay dormant out there in the harbor for 30 years. In 1990 a museum was established, and the island came alive again with fascinating immigrant stories. Some Americans are able to see histories and items belonging to family members. The exhibit is really timeless, though, as people emigrate from one place to another today for all sorts of reasons, and many of their struggles are the same. The Ellis Island museum is both a particular history as well as an account of a more universal experience. If this sort of thing interests you, I highly recommend going on to Ellis Island as well.

photo by Ken Thomas
(public domain photo, no permission required)

Scenario TWO - view of the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry: 2 hours total, from Times Square and back.

If you're pressed for time and all you want is a really nice view of the Statue of Liberty, take the Staten Island Ferry from the tip of Manhattan over to Staten Island, then turn around and come back. The Staten Island Ferry is free and the views of the Statue as well as the Manhattan skyline are terrific!

From Times Square, take the Downtown N, R, or W subway to the Whitehall Street stop. (takes about 30 min.) Walk to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. You'll see it when you come up from the subway.

The Staten Island Ferry website has not only the ferry schedules but cool info about the boats and their history.

Scenario THREE - view of the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry, combined with other sightseeing in the nearby Financial District. All the places noted below are in walking distance of each other. Depending on how many stops you make, the time can vary from 2 hours to an entire day.

If you're starting at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, you see these things in this order. First the ferry ride to see the Statue as described in Scenario Two, then:
  • First stop is the Fraunces Tavern, located on Pearl Street very near the Staten Island Ferry. It is a small building with a museum containing many interesting Revolutionary War relics, also a comfortable pub and an upscale restaurant. George Washington said goodbye to his officers here at the end of the Revolutionary War.
  • Walk north on Water Street, turn right at Fulton Street and roam through the South Street Seaport. The Seaport contains a maritime museum as well as many shops and restaurants.
  • Walk south to Wall Street. Strolling west on Wall Street, you will see the famous view always shown on TV news programs.
  • At Wall and Broad Streets you will see Federal Hall where our first president, George Washington, took his oath of office.
  • At Wall and Broad Streets, facing west and looking to your left down Broad Street, you will see the New York Stock Exchange.
  • On the far west end of Wall Street is Trinity Church (at Wall Street and Broadway) - a beautiful historic church with a cemetery next door. Go inside, look around, have a seat, rest your feet and meditate.
  • Walking North on Broadway just a few blocks will bring you to St. Paul Chapel at Broadway and Fulton Street. St. Paul's is another historic church in an entirely different architectural style from Trinity. St. Paul's contains many memoirs of the World Trade Center disaster, as this was church was a base station all through the recovery efforts. (On the website, look for Ground Zero Ministry)
  • In back of St. Paul Chapel is the World Trade Center site. The construction of new buildings on the site is still in progress, but memorial is now open.  I haven't been there yet, but friends tell me it is beautiful and very well done.  
  • Behind the World Trade Center site is The World Financial Center. Go inside and enjoy a cup of coffee in the huge atrium - maybe a concert too if you're lucky!
  • As you exit the Atrium towards the river, you'll see a beautiful yacht marina on the Hudson River.
  • Walk south through Battery Park City, a new apartment and business complex with lovely walkways and parks and a GREAT view of the Hudson River. Looking south, you can see the Statue of Liberty in the distance!
Walk all the way to the end of Battery Park City, and you will come to Battery Park where you can find the South Ferry subway stop on the #1 Train which will return you to Times Square.

If you spend the whole day on Scenario One at Liberty & Ellis Islands, but still want to see the places listed in Scenario Three, you can return the next day and do just the Financial District attractions.

These are some of my favorite sites in New York. Hope you enjoy them too!

© 2010, Linda Mason Hood 
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

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