Exploring Liberty and Ellis Islands

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.

12.06.03 - Battery Park

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.

12.06.05 - Statue of Liberty from ferry

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.

12.06.06 - Liberty Island

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.

12.06.16 - Liberty Island

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.

12.06.04 - Manhattan skyline from Liberty ferry

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.

12.06.20 - Ellis Island

12.06.22 - Ellis Island

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.

34 thoughts on “Exploring Liberty and Ellis Islands

  1. We visited Ellis Island in August 2001 and found it to be fascinating. Both my husband and I have ancestors who emigrated to America so there was a personal family history connection there too. We had a great guide. I would love to take my kids there but it’s been closed since Hurricane Sandy with no indication of when it might reopen. Of course, a few weeks after our visit, 9/11 happened and that has understandably changed the way things are handled in America generally. The security queues you describe are precisely why we have not yet visited the Statue of Liberty since emigrating. It’s not a long drive for us so maybe we will suck it up and do it as a day trip in warmer weather. I don’t know how many of us would wish to climb Liberty so I am grateful for your review indicating that it is worth going to Liberty Island regardless.

    • We loved our stroll around Liberty Island – the views back to Manhattan are wonderful and you get a great close-up view of the statue. We preferred that to actually climbing up – checking her out from outside!! Security queues are a feature everywhere these days – sad but part of the world we live in now unfortunately. I knew Ellis Island was closed after Sandy and they took most of the collection away for safe keeping but didn’t realise it was still closed. I loved it there – the personal connection though would make an already fascinating place even more incredible.

  2. This is a fascinating part of our American history. Both a grandfather and a great-grandfather came through Ells island so it held a special interest for me when I visited. The stories, struggles and perseverance were amazing.

    • I went to Ellis Island on my first ever trip to the USA as a backpacking student and remember being blown away and incredibly moved. I have been a couple of times since and felt exactly the same – it is an incredible place which really makes you think about those immigrants looking for a new life and their struggles. I love it there but to have a personal connection would be incredible and make it even more special.

  3. My mother, along with parents and brother came through Ellis Island in 1948 after surviving the Nazi occupation during World War II. My daughter and I walked through Ellis Island some years back. Thanks for your post. Brought back pleasant memories!

  4. What a wonderful way to acquaint your son of the living history that is NY! Thanks for also sharing your day with us.

    Thank you for stopping by my blog (yes, a few months ago :)).

  5. Somehow I managed to miss this post Joy so am glad I’m catching up now (having some renovations done so it’s a bit chaotic here at present!). Wonderful views on the Manhattan Skyline and I’d love the museum on Ellis Island that would have been such a fascinating place to visit – it’s hard to imagine what it must have been like for those immigrants starting out on their new life! Off to read your latest post about New York now! 🙂

    • Hope the renovations are going well Rosemary – I hate all the chaos that comes with work like that, but you just have to focus on the end result!! I loved Ellis Island when I first visited as a backpacking student, loved it just as much this time too – it is such an interesting and moving place!

      • Thanks Joy it is a bit stressful and I dislike the mess and general chaos that ensues! We are redoing our courtyard patio area to make an indoors/outdoors area which will be great in our climate (a sort of Perth equivalent to a conservatory but more open with cafe blinds rather than actual windows). I have been trying to write my next blog post with limited success so far as I keep getting interrupted but as you say focussing on the end result is the way to go! My poor dog hates all the noise and keeps barking but the cat sensibly hides under the bed all day! I think I’d find Ellis island very interesting …one to add to the list! Have a lovely weekend 🙂

      • Hope so Joy! Managed despite all the technical problems to get my blog post out – for some reason my computer was also playing up today but all’s well that ends well 🙂 Wishing you a relaxing weekend 🙂

    • It is a super place to visit and fascinating. I could have spent the whole day there – our son had other ideas – but we would go back in the future again now he’s a little older and has a better attention span!!

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