What’s the #1 thing visitors to New York must do? See the Statue of Liberty. And #2? Visit Ellis Island. Those two events are at the top of everyone’s NYC itinerary, but it can be a bit overwhelming. How early do I need to be there? What ticket time should I reserve? Is there food? How long should I plan to spend there? Can I go up in the crown? I’ve got all these answers and more for you!
How to Get Tickets
Getting tickets is easy: There is only one company that offers ferry service and tours, and that is Statue City Cruises! They have a contract with the National Park Service, so there is no need to shop around or wonder if you’re getting the best deal. They are the only deal in town, and the price is very reasonable, considering it’s on everyone’s must-do list.
Which ticket should I get?
There are three options: Crown Reserve, Pedestal Reserve, and General Admission. All three options are the same price (around $25 including taxes and fees in 2023).
General Admission includes round-trip ferry transportation, Statue of Liberty Museum and Grounds, Ellis Island National Immigration Museum, and Audio Guide. The Pedestal Reserve gives you access to the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal as well as all General Admission privileges. The Crown Reserve gives you General Admission and Pedestal privileges, as well as 10 minutes inside the Statue of Liberty’s Crown.
More here: Why You Should Take a Running Tour of NYC
Know Before You Go
- Plan to spend about 3-4 hours on this experience, including security screening and ferry travel time.
- Yes, you must take the ferry; there is no bridge to get to Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty.
- The ferry trips among the islands range from 10-25 minutes or so, and the water is choppy. If you struggle with seasickness, consider bringing sea band or other mild seasickness medication. We didn’t see anyone becoming ill, but if you know seasickness is an issue for you, it’s better to be prepared!
- Crown Reserve tickets book up quickly, as there is only a limited number available. If going to the Statue of Liberty’s Crown is very important to you, be sure to book well in advance; consider looking at Crown availability before choosing dates for your New York City trip.
- Yes, there is food available. There is a cafeteria-style cafe inside the Immigration Museum on Ellis Island with a wide variety of items ranging from burgers and smoothies to paninis and soups.
- Wear comfortable shoes! This is a tip for New York City and travels around the world in general!
- There are plenty of bathrooms available on both Ellis Island and Liberty Island. Be sure to hydrate!
- Yes, you can see the Statue of Liberty from a distance for free on the Staten Island Ferry, but you won’t get this close!
Ellis Island is the place where immigrants would first step foot on American soil. Before they could buy train tickets or arrange transportation to anywhere else in the United States, they had to register, have a medical inspection, possibly appear before a court of law, exchange their home currency for American dollars, etc. Between the years 1892 and 1954, Ellis Island was the East Coast’s primary entry point for immigrants from Europe and the East.
The registration facility is now the National Immigration Museum. Your visit will take you to the main Registration Room, as well as several rooms around the perimeter with exhibits about what it was like to be an immigrant coming into the United States. You’ll see what the medical examination was like, what the dining was like, how they lived if they had to stay more than a few hours, etc. My favorite parts were the map showing how many immigrants came from which regions around the world, and seeing the faces and names of some of the people who were processed through here.
And yes, there is a great dining room with several food options for you here, on the ground floor, as well as gift shops with unique items to take home with you to remember your trip!
Keep reading: How to Travel from EWR to NYC (and back)
The Statue of Liberty was an 1886 gift from the country of France to the United States. The sight of Lady Liberty was the first greeting people received when immigrating to the United States. French Sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi designed it, President Grover Cleveland dedicated it when it officially opened, and thousands of people visit every day.
When you visit, you’ll walk around from the back of the Statue of Liberty, and you’ll be able to walk all the way around her. Also, don’t miss the museum while you’re on the island. Inside, you can see more about how the Statue of Liberty was created and built, as well as what Liberty has meant to America over the years.
Pro Tip: Be sure to get an epic shot of the NYC skyline while you’re here!
More here: What to Pack for New England in Fall
What to Bring with You
It’s always helpful to be prepared! Here are some of the items I found to be most helpful for our trip to Liberty and Ellis Islands.
I love a good day bag! It doesn’t need to be huge, but there are definitely a few things you’ll want to have with you. This bag is a great size.
Be sure to hydrate! You will be going through security, but you can have water with you for the day. You will need it! There are beverages for sale on the ferry and on both islands, but it will be worth it to have your own water with you as well.
A hat is essential on a trip to Ellis and Liberty Islands. You’ll be in the direct sun while out on the water, and there is very little shade on the islands themselves.
If you’re going to the islands on a sunny day, you will absolutely want sunglasses in addition to a hat! Here is my favorite.
There is very little shade on Liberty Island, and you will likely also be outside on the ferry if you want photos of the islands enroute. Here is my favorite sunscreen for travel.
You’ll be doing a lot of walking on the islands, and you’ll also want something sturdy to wear on the boat as well. Here is a great option that I love for my own travels.
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