Updated: March 31st, 2019
Visiting the Statue of Liberty had always been a goal of mine. She’s my favorite New York City landmark and my favorite color. She was a gift from France and remains a powerful symbol of freedom, democracy, hope and the American dream: reading books alone on your private island while wearing nothing but a sheet and a crown. Throw in that perfect pouty-lip and the fact that this 130-year-old babe doesn’t look a day over 28 and that about sums up my life goals.
Being a child of the ’80s, my first memory of learning about the Statue of Liberty takes place not in an elementary school classroom, but instead in front of the television–seeing her walk through New York Harbor on the way to the Manhattan Museum of Art with the help of American soul singer-songwriter Jackie Wilson. That remains, to this day, my very favorite scene from Ghostbusters 2.
VISITING THE STATUE OF LIBERTY
As much as I’d dreamed of seeing her up close, I passed up the opportunity the first five or so times I visited New York City mainly because visiting the Statue of Liberty requires a level of planning you just don’t possess in your 20s. For a brief period in my life all planning resources were delegated to boozy birthday weekends and putting Halloween costumes together. Now, at 33, just gimme a sheet, a crown and a Twix bar and we’ll call it a night.
Also at 33 I’ve now visited the Statue of Liberty twice in two years and can officially say I love her more now than ever. Fulfilling childhood fantasies should always play out this way and I’m happy to report this one did. It’s like finally meeting your favorite celebrity and not only do they turn out to really be as hilarious and friendly as you’d always hoped, they also ask if you wanna grab some drinks. You agree all calm and cool-like and they invite all their super fun celebrity friends and you all become instant BFFL. You look simply fabulous later on TMZ and they can’t find a single mean thing to say about you. Visiting the Statue of Liberty was just like that for me… only my dad was there.
Did Jackie Wilson or the music video for Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” have a similar lasting effect on you? If so, allow me to help all of your childhood dreams come true. You can have both an incredible time visiting the Statue of Liberty and a kickass Halloween costume in the same year.
DO KNOW THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF TICKETS WHEN BOOKING
I didn’t. Not my first time anyway–the sole reason I only made it as far as Lady Liberty’s feet. That’ll be funny in a minute…
Statuecruises.com is the official ticketing site for visiting the Statue of Liberty and I can’t emphasize enough the need to reserve your tickets in advance. They do sell day-of tickets on site if it’s absolutely necessary but really, do you actually enjoy mobs of tired, pissed off tourists and standing in line all the live-long day? Because if you’re the type who longs to be in the thick of the huffing and puffing, constantly complaining, blaming the ticket-taker, the candlestick-maker, and everyone but themselves for their unfortunate lack of planning, then get outta my face; you’re in the wrong place. I would not like them here or there. I would not like them anywhere. I should absolutely write children’s books.
So for starters, you need to answer this question: How far in advance are you booking these tickets? Are you visiting the Statue of Liberty tomorrow? Oh hey, look at that–you don’t have a choice. Planning a trip six months from now? Well… now, you’ve got some thinkin’ to do! You should also start working on that tan…
There are, technically, three ticket options but in my opinion really only two. (Options 2 and 3 are the same price so obviously you should go with the package that offers more, even if you don’t think you’re going to use all the benefits. If you were offered two identically priced cable packages but one included free HBO, you’d choose the one with free HBO, right? Even if watching a girl wear other people’s faces is super gross? YES–because Game of Thrones is AWESOME.)
OPTION 1: the Crown Reserve. The Crown Reserve ticket gets you into Lady Liberty’s crown and everything on down. Start by admiring her brain–the way all women should be explored. Even the ones that wear togas. You’ll have full access to the Statue’s crown and pedestal, the grounds and museums of both Liberty and Ellis Islands, an audio guide and round-trip ferry service all for $21.50 (or less–how old are you?).
OPTION 2: the Pedestal Reserve. The Pedestal Reserve ticket gets you up to Lady Liberty’s big man feet and no further. She’s a classy lady after all–she doesn’t just let everyone inside her. You’ll have full access to the Statue’s pedestal, the grounds and museums of both Liberty and Ellis Islands, an audio guide and round-trip ferry service all for $18.50 (or less).
OPTION 3: the Reserve. Nothing higher than ground level for you and certainly no complimentary HBO. The Reserve ticket gets you access to both Liberty and Ellis Islands, an audio guide and round-trip ferry service for the same price as the Pedestal Reserve so… just get the Pedestal Reserve, seriously. It really is neat up by her feet. (Lock up your children! My rhymes–coming soon to a crib near you.)
If you’re simply pressed for time but still want to see the Statue of Liberty up close and/or check out Ellis Island to see which ancestors you can blame for moving your family to North Dakota or the Jersey Shore long, long ago–the New York CityPASS includes a Statue of Liberty reserve ticket. For more about the CityPASS, see this post and this post.
Need a visual? Here’s a fancy infographic I spent an embarrassing amount of time on last night…
A note about purchasing tickets: You’ll be asked to show your ID a handful of times while visiting the Statue of Liberty and the name on each visitor’s ticket must match the name on that person’s ID. Capiche? Besides, isn’t getting carded after 30 also part of the American dream?
DON’T WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE TO BOOK
I’m a hardcore procrastinator, yes, but when you’ve longed to channel your inner Peter Venkman as long as I have, you make exceptions.
There are a limited number of tickets sold to visit the Statue of Liberty, fewest of which are the Crown Reserves. These tickets to the hottest headpiece in town (upstaging even whatever Lady Gaga is sporting this month) sell out months in advance. Consider the Statue of Liberty the Adele of national monuments–only seeing this lady live won’t cost you a year’s rent and the naming rights to your first-born child. “Hi, meet my daughter, Bank of America Smith.”
WHEN TO BOOK:
Crown Reserve tickets: 3-4 MONTHS in advance.
Pedestal Reserve tickets: 3-4 weeks in advance.
Reserve tickets: 3-4 days if you must but seriously, go with the Pedestal. And watch Game of Thrones.
DO GO INTO THE CROWN
To me, going up to the crown is the whole experience. And since they don’t give out crowns to spelling bee runners-up or science fair honorable mentions this is the closest I’ll ever get to actually wearing one.
If you’re physically capable, not the least bit acro- or claustrophobic and have enough advance notice YOU MUST DO THIS. It’s not every day you get to climb a human-shaped building. And men, you’ve always wanted to know what goes on inside a woman’s head so now’s your chance! But don’t let the hollowed-out space and dim lighting up there fool you–those Birkenstocks tell me she can totally kick your asses.
I was greatly impressed by my experience visiting the Statue of Liberty–a statement not meant to be dumbed down by my sheer awe of Jimmy Fallon’s impression of Jerry Seinfeld and people who can open jars of salsa on the first try. My time in the crown exceeded all expectations, no easy feat for someone whose signature memory of this monument involves her walking through Manhattan, crushing cop cars and the hopes and dreams of one Vigo the Carpathian.
I had imagined a steady sweaty stream of tourists climbing to the crown and down, being tightly packed into her hollow head like John Cena into a fitted button-up. Instead, I was incredibly surprised to find only 10-15 people are allowed into the crown at one time, with the place all to ourselves for a period of about 20 minutes. Rather than being given just the chance to pass through in an upsettingly subdued tourist conga line, we were free to take our time with photos and had two guides inside the crown all to ourselves. They answered everyone’s questions and spent time teaching us all the literal ins and outs of the Statue of Liberty that you just can’t learn watching late ’80s comedies. When everyone felt they’d had enough time inside the crown, we collectively made our way down. Cha cha cha!
It was such an interesting, intimate experience and not at all like you’d expect. It was definitely less tourist-attraction and more National Park. Less feeling the hot breath of a stranger on the back of your neck and more like finding a $20 bill in last year’s windbreaker. The only thing missing was Jackie Wilson lifting me higher and higher. I will NOT forget my Walkman next time.
A note about visiting the crown: There is no elevator to the crown. From the pedestal you must climb an additional 162 steps to the top. Like any good woman, Lady Liberty doesn’t make it easy for just anyone to get into her head. She utilizes a narrow staircase, a maze of cast iron framework and humor as a defense mechanism.
but DON’T IF YOU ARE SHAQUILLE O’NEAL
162 steps may sound like small potatoes, sure, but keep in mind this is up a steep, narrow staircase with very low overhead that puts all Italian church towers to shame. I’m 5’4″ and this stairway still presented a challenge. But to be fair, you could substitute almost any other word for “stairway” and it’d still be true in my case.
As you’ll see in the pictures, I couldn’t even fit one of my size 7 shoes entirely on the steps. I kept thinking of Shaq and his 7’1″ body, his size 22 shoe, and how many Icy Hot patches he would need after this. It just couldn’t be done. Not even a genie from a magic boombox could help him. So to sum up: corkscrew stairs, tip-toeing, hunching over. You’re basically every cartoon character who ever tried to sneak up on someone.
DO KNOW WHERE YOU’RE GOING BEFORE YOU SET OUT
This sounds obvious but on our first time visiting the Statue of Liberty we almost missed our reservation time after thinking we’d “be able to figure it out when we got down there”–my modus operandi.
The white tent-like building behind Battery Park is your destination–the circus inside not unlike the interior of a clown car. But before you can enter the big-white-top you must pick up your tickets from will call. And since my readers are the smartest around, you’ve got reservations so you get to walk past all the clowns and the borderline freak show that is the line of people trying to buy same-day tickets.
When you arrive at Battery Park, head to Castle Clinton to pick up your reserved tickets. Don’t get it confused with… oh, nope, it’s the only walled castle in the park. If you see some jerk dressed as a poor reproduction of the Statue of Liberty aggressively asserting himself into people’s photos while blowing a whistle, you’ve come to the right place. Will call for reserved tickets is at WINDOW 6 only.
Got your tickets? Get in line. (I believe they have the same instructions down at traffic court.)
I can’t tell you where that will be exactly since it all depends on when you are visiting the Statue of Liberty. All I can say is see the above, extremely informative and well-made photo.
On my first visit, a Friday in early September, my friend and I walked right into the white tent, albeit briskly and sweatier than I prefer. On my most recent visit, the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, the line started where I show the line sometimes starting.
A few notes on the line:
- It moves quickly. So it’s wrapped around the building? You’ve got a reservation; you’re fine. You won’t be in it for more than a couple of minutes. Just avoid eye contact with the jerk in the green toga and it’ll be over before you can say, “Get outta my face! I don’t want to take a photo with you!”
- Don’t get in the line until your reserved time. I know, it’s long. You think that by the time you get to the front of it, 30 minutes will have gone by and you’ll be set. BUT there are line attendants and if you’re in that line even five minutes before your reservation, you’ll have to get out.
- I told you–it moves fast. Chill out. There will still be plenty of time to take that photo of yourself holding an imaginary torch in front of the statue.
DON’T BE FOOLED BY THE PEOPLE OUTSIDE THE SUBWAY
When exiting the South Ferry subway station chances are you’ll be bombarded with people trying to sell you tickets for visiting the Statue of Liberty. They will be in your face, shouting, trying to block your way. Think: Hell on Earth for germaphobes and introverts.
Just because these people wear vests with words on them doesn’t mean they don’t want to rob you. They’ll show you their “credentials” but you’re smart–you know that any ol’ Joe Schmo with a printer and access to the laminator at FedExOffice can get “credentials.” It’s called a hustle. It’s also how I ended up backstage at an Incubus concert that one time.
They’ll tell you the Statue of Liberty is sold out and the only way you can get tickets is through them. The dirty weirdos on the street. Outside the subway.
You’ll push past them–you ain’t no fool. You’ll try to ignore them but, after they continue to follow you down the street, finally say something like, “I have reservations, leave me alone!” Then they’ll scream at you for a good ten seconds and call you a “bitch” as you walk away.
I’m going to let you in on a not-so-little secret: no official employee of the American National Park Service would ever call you a bitch for already having tickets to their park. These people are scammers who make, I can only imagine, shitloads of money off gullible tourists. But you aren’t one of these.
There are numerous reports (and arrests) on this particular band of hooligans and you can find more information on this scam here. Don’t be dumb. Get your tickets straight from the tap. #anyonecanlaminate
DO BE PREPARED FOR AIRPORT-LIKE SECURITY… TWICE
Upon entering the big white tent you’ll be subjected to your first round of airport-like security screening. You travel; this is nothing new. Everything, in the bin. Pockets, empty. Shoes, off. Jackets, off. Belts, off. Pants, off.
Juuuust making sure you’re paying attention. Prepare for this to make not only yours but everyone else’s trip to the Statue of Liberty go a lot smoother.
- Leave backpacks and shopping bags at your hotel. These aren’t allowed inside the Statue of Liberty anyway. To enter the crown you are allowed only a small purse and a camera. Ladies, same goes for you.
- Don’t wear 45 gold bangles you’ll have to painstakingly remove one by one. AHEM, lady directly in front of me.
- Similarly, when your pal Mr. T asks to come along, do decline. But do so politely because he’s stronger than you, sucka!
- Don’t get redressed right there in front of the metal detector. Move. Along.
On Liberty Island you will repeat the process before actually entering the Statue of Liberty. An important piece of advice for the second security screening: get in front of Mrs. T this time. I pity the fool that ends up behind her.
DON’T RIDE INSIDE THE FERRY — VENTURE OUT
But it’s cold / hot, I know. Weather, right?
The ferry to and from the Statue of Liberty is not simply a means to an end. I hate such clichéd phrases as “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey” and all that other inspirational poppycock, but in this case it’s true. Well, partly. It’s not like you’re just going to ride the boat to and fro and call it a day.
Consider your ferry ride the free sightseeing cruise that it is. From the outside of the top level you’ll be treated to fantastic views of Lower Manhattan and all around the Statue of Liberty. I’m telling you, she has no bad sides. (Except from underneath where she kinda looks like Jabba the Hutt. ⇣⇣⇣
Board the boat and snag one of the outer, top level spots if you can. Don’t stay inside, behind the green glass where it’s warm / cool / smells like hotdogs. These are the same people who are probably going to pay for a sightseeing cruise later on in the week. For three times as much. From the crooks outside the subway.
DO KNOW THERE’S AN ELEVATOR TO THE PEDESTAL IF YOU NEED IT
From ground level to the top of the pedestal it is 231 steps that I encourage you to climb because… fitness. However, there is an elevator to the pedestal should you need it. It is clearly marked, located beneath the pedestal behind the giant torch, attended by an expert button-pusher, and completely judgment-free.
It is only from the pedestal to the crown that you must climb stairs. This is where the Shaq portion of the ride comes to an abrupt halt.
DON’T LET THE PARK RANGER FORGET TO GIVE YOU THE CROWN WRISTBAND
In order to enter the Statue of Liberty, you’ll have to check in with a National Park ranger before entering the second security screening where you’ve hopefully left Mrs. T in a cloud of your dust. He or she will compare your tickets with your IDs and, if you have a Crown Reserve ticket, SHOULD give you the wristband you’ll need to get past the pedestal.
Enter: brain fart.
Our ranger never gave us the wristbands we didn’t know we even needed. This could have been very bad and time-consuming for us (read: exiting the park completely, waiting in line to reenter and having to go through security screening again) but instead, thanks to some sweet-talking and eyelash-batting (read: begging and pleading), resulted in the four of us being personally escorted to the crown. The Statue of Liberty staff is nothing if not accommodating but had this been a busier day there’s no way this would have happened.
If you have Crown tickets, make sure the park ranger at the desk inside the Liberty Island security tent next to the gift shop gives. you. a. wristband.
DO WATCH YOUR HEAD
All the way from the pedestal to the inside of the crown and back down the safety of your noggin is in jeopardy. Once you get to the staircase, just assume the position: Elmer Fudd during wabbit season; Wile E. Coyote trying to catch the Roadrunner off-guard; the Grinch stealing Christmas.
Everyone was knocking their head inside the crown which is why, as you’ll see, they’ve covered the worst parts in foam padding. Noodles for noodles. You’ll get that later.
DON’T UNDERUTILIZE THE GUIDES
As I mentioned earlier, at the top of the crown there are two guides that know everything there is to know about the Statue of Liberty. It won’t be as entertaining as this episode of Drunk History but at least you’ll know your facts are straight.
They’ll spend the time show-and-tell-ing you fun facts you’d never know otherwise like how her shell is only the width of two pennies pressed together and whether or not she’s naked under that toga. She is French, you know that.
The Statue of Liberty is not so much a tourist attraction as it is a member of the National Park Services. These people love their jobs and above all want you to learn and enjoy your time. Come with questions! Come with jokes! Come with minimal jewelry!
DO TAKE 1,000 PHOTOS OF THE STATUE OF LIBERTY
You’re going to see Lady Liberty from just about every possible angle and girl got it goin’ on! She just can’t take a bad picture–take advantage of this perfect artistic subject.
She’s beauty and she’s grace. She’s Miss United States!
DON’T FORGET ABOUT ELLIS ISLAND!
Between the years of 1892 and 1924 Ellis Island was the chief gateway into the United States for over 100 million immigrants. To put this in perspective, that’s about the same number of New Yorkers trying to get you to go to their comedy show.
After boarding the ferry on Liberty Island, the next (and only other) stop is Ellis Island. If you wish to check it out, get off here. (Don’t hold your breath for a private tour with Will Smith though.) If not, the ferry will continue on to Manhattan where you started this adventure with a guy in a wig freestyling on the ukulele.
Access to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum is included in the Statue of Liberty ticket price and you can read my guide to visiting Ellis Island in a hurry here ⇣⇣⇣
I’m going to end this post with this link to the music video for 1993’s “(I Know I Got) Skillz” by Shaquille O’Neal in which he raps, “…you better than Shaq-tack, fool, shut up liar–I lean on the Statue of Liberty when I get tired.”
Point. Proven. (mic drop)
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