Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island: Ferry from Battery Park

If you've never been or haven't been to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island since 2004 (when the statue re-opened with new security measures), it is time to go.  You can buy tickets the day of (even in the height of the summer), but you need to plan ahead and purchase tickets weeks/months in advance online at Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Tours if you want to go up to the torch as the number of visitors is severely restricted for safety/evacuation reasons.  There are several online sites that sell these tickets, but this is the official site and offers the cheapest rates.

When you visit, if you want to have enough time to visit both islands, you will need to get going before 11 and not expect to finish until after 3.  Yes, it is a full day, and a tiring one at that--if the heat doesn't get you, the amount of walking may.  I've gone without getting the audio tour, and was able to get the full experience by reading the plentiful signage, but if you want a less labor-intensive visit, splurge and get the audio tour (it is worth it).

HINT: Definitely enjoy the views of downtown Manhattan (see below) and the Statue of Liberty from the ferry, but when the ferry gets close to each island, get close to the exiting doors so that you can get your audio guide quickly and avoid the crowds/lines.

With the audio tour, we got the statistics of the Statue (e.g., height of Statue is 151 ft., in 50 mph winds, the torch sways up to 6 inches, the copper skin is the thickness of 2 pennies--3/32 of an inch), the history of the statue, and the accompanying bronze sculptures of the internal structure designer (Alexandre Gustave Eiffel), designers (Edouard de Laboulaye and Frederic Auguste Bartholdi), and the writer whose famous poem about the Statue of Liberty, "The New Colossus": "...Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free....") helped make the Statue on icon (Emma Lazarus).  We were lucky enough to also catch the national parks ranger's tour of the Statue of Liberty.  He was really informative, had a conversational style, and got the group involved in the tour. 

The line to get back on the ferry to go to Ellis Island was really long, but it moved quickly (although you felt like cattle being moved from one corral to another).  Once on Ellis Island, we moved through the Ellis Island Immigration Museum following the audio guides through the first and second floors (see Registry Room at right).  Then we went up to the third floor to check out the artifacts (see period clothing display below) and art installations (including a separate wing dedicated to Bob Hope and his work with the USO) that are not part of the audio tour. 

Whether or not you are a descendant of one of the immigrants who came through this port of entry (12 million came through Ellis Island between 1892-1954), what these brave people went through (they gave intelligence and literacy tests, and conducted health examps--using a shoe-hook to check immigrants' eyes!) is awe inspiring.  All in all, it is incredibly moving. 

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