One of the most famous and enduring symbols of the United States of America, the Statue of Liberty is an iconic destination for visitors from near and far. Situated on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty is operated by the National Park Service and, along with Ellis Island, forms Statue of Liberty National Monument, one of the nation’s most beloved attractions.
History of the Statue of Liberty
Officially a work of art entitled Liberty Enlightening the World, the colossal structure we know today as the Statue of Liberty was conceived by a French sculptor named Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. After enjoying a trip to the United States in the early 1870s, Bartholdi came up with the idea of designing a monumental statue to be presented by France to the American people as a gift in honor of the 100th anniversary of the U.S. declaring independence from England.
The resulting bronze work, which featured a frame built by Gustave Eiffel, was actually displayed in multiple different locations before finding its way to its permanent home in 1886. The statue weighs just under 500,000 pounds and is approximately 150 feet tall, but it stands on a foundation and pedestal that essentially double the height of the entire structure. It was named a National Monument in 1924, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966, and selected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
What’s at the Statue of Liberty
There’s a lot to see and do when visiting the Statue of Liberty. For starters, when you purchase a “grounds-level ticket,” you’re not just getting access to the Statue of Liberty, but Ellis Island, too. This ticket covers round-trip ferry transportation to and from the islands, entrance to the Statue of Liberty Museum and the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, and an audio tour for each site.
On Liberty Island you’ll not only find the Statue of Liberty, but a lovely park with gorgeous views of the Statue, the Harbor, and more. There’s also the Statue of Liberty Museum, which just opened in 2019. It contains almost 30,000 square feet of gallery space devoted to telling the story of the Statue of Liberty and its ongoing role in shaping the nature of the American experience. It’s full of interactive exhibits, educational films, and great artifacts. For instance, the Statue of Liberty’s torch was replaced in the 1980s, and you can view the original torch within the Inspiration Gallery at the Statue of Liberty Museum.
Nearby Ellis Island makes for a fabulous and informative experience, too. There you’ll find the Ellis Island National Immigration Museum, where you can learn all about how the United States of America was built by the men, women, and children who arrived on its shores during the past several centuries. Highlights include the American Family Immigration History Center and the American Immigrant Wall of Honor. Overall, the facility abounds with moving artifacts from the 12 million or so immigrants whose diverse lives all led them to the same small island in the harbor of New York City.
As far as amenities are concerned: if you’re interested in genealogy, you can purchase documents on your family’s history from the American Family Immigration History Center, which you’ll encounter on Ellis Island. There’s also a souvenir shop on Liberty Island and Ellis Island, as well as on every ferry. The ferries contain small snack bars, too, and both islands permit you to bring your own food and drink.
Tips for Visiting the Statue of Liberty
- The Statue of Liberty is included on several money saving tourist passes including the New York Pass, NY Explorer Pass and New York CityPASS.
- Grounds tickets cost just under $25 for adults, $18 for seniors over the age of 62, and $12 for kids between the ages of 4 and 12 years old. Admission is free for children 3 years old and younger.
- There’s only one tour company that’s authorized to ferry guests back and forth from Manhattan and the historic sites: Statue Cruises. As a result, if you encounter any other organization selling you Statue of Liberty tour tickets, steer clear of them. They won’t be valid.
- The ferry that departs Manhattan for the Statue of Liberty is located in Battery Park, where parking (street, garage, otherwise) is very, very limited. You’ll want to strongly consider taking an alternative form of transportation to this departure point.
- The “Liberty Vista” is one of the best spots to snap pictures of the Statue of Liberty and beautiful New York Harbor. It’s located on the top of the Statue of Liberty Museum.