Another day, another New York icon – this city sure does have plenty to choose from in that department! The Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island was first on our list today – Son was super excited and had been eagerly awaiting this visit.
We bought our ferry tickets at Castle Clinton, only queued for about 5 minutes to buy them but then queued for nearly 2 hours to go through the security screening to get on the boat. A bit like you would find at an airport only masses more people and you queue outside – whatever the weather. Wrap up warm if you do this in winter or risk frostbite and hypothermia – I think we may have come close! You need a reservation to enter the statue, we opted not to do this thinking that with Son it would be enough to look from outside and then explore the island a little. After the mega security queue here I was pretty relieved – you have to do the whole security thing all over again on Liberty Island if you are intending to visit inside the statue, good call for us.
We took our seats outside and up-top in the ferry, already frozen we figured the icy wind blowing wouldn’t make much more difference. It was worth the shivering when Liberty loomed large in front of us. Son was beside himself and I have to confess to more than a frisson of excitement as the huge Lady Liberty – arguably the most iconic of all American symbols got closer.
Designed by Bartholdi and Eiffel and presented as a gift from France to the USA to commemorate America’s 100th birthday, the statue (if you want to be formal and use her full name – Liberty Encircling The World) was dedicated on 28 October 1886. She is very green – apparently thanks to a copper skin. Definitely worth a close look – the crown has 7 rays symbolising the 7 seas and 7 continents, she has a 4 foot nose and a 3 foot wide mouth and Bartholdi used his mother’s face as inspiration.
We walked all around the island, Son got his long awaited close up view of the statue and did his very own Statue of Liberty pose. We avoided the restaurant on the island – mainly fast food, very crowded and not so great, another good call as we later found Ellis Island had a lovely coffee shop.
My favourite part of Liberty Island is soaking up the view and what a view it is. The magnificent Manhattan skyline, that classic view seen in movies, photos and postcards only this time for real – it does not disappoint.
Having walked the whole way round the island we hopped on board the ferry again bound for Ellis Island where “those huddled masses yearning to breathe free” first came to America. This, the one-time gateway to the country was the largest and most active immigration station between 1892 and 1924 and processed more than 12 million newcomers.
I found it incredibly moving to walk through the Great Hall and Registry Room listening to live recordings of the inspection process. We explored the first and second floors and saw where the new arrivals were inspected for contagious diseases – fascinating, I could have spent much longer reading, reflecting and just taking in the atmosphere of this incredible museum. One lively four year old was not so tolerant of all this though, so (much) sooner than I would have liked, we were back on the ferry direction Manhattan.