New York City’s giant skyscrapers stretch toward the sky, getting higher and higher all the time. With the world-famous Empire State Building, the thrilling Top of the Rock and the recent addition of the Freedom Tower, the Manhattan skyline is a prominent symbol of the Big Apple. But one symbol that will always be reminiscent of NYC sits offshore in the Hudson River—the Statue of Liberty.
The Statue of Liberty can be great fun for families, but as you plan your visit to the structure, make sure you start early in the day to avoid crowds as much as possible. The first boat leaves Battery Park around 9:30 a.m. so be prepared to get there early enough to check in or buy tickets at Castle Clinton before getting in line at the docks. The wind near the river gets very cold so make sure to bring hats and scarves to protect little faces—and your own too.
Once you head through security and board the Statue Cruises ship, grab some hot chocolate from the snack bar and find a seat on the second level, preferably near the windows so your child can watch the waves. As you approach Lady Liberty, watch your tyke’s face light up as the statue begins to tower over the boat. Explain to him the history—that the statue is a welcoming figure to immigrants who come to America, a symbol of freedom given to the United States by France. Once the boat comes to a stop, hop off and get ready to start your adventure on Liberty Island.
Lady Liberty’s crown
Make your way under the wood-covered bridge to reach to the edge of the island, which overlooks the river and Manhattan. This is a great spot to capture some family photos with the New York skyline rising in the background and sunlight reflecting off the tall windows. After that, walk down the tree-lined walkway to the back of the statue, go through the security checkpoint and head inside. There is a small museum on the ground floor that details the history, construction and media prominence of the Statue of Liberty. Children will love the bronze true-to-size mold of Lady Liberty’s toes…another fun photo opportunity.
Once you head up, there are two levels: the pedestal and the crown. To reach the pedestal, you can choose to climb the stairs or take the elevator. Wander out onto the balcony to get 360-degree views of the New York area, including Brooklyn, as well as part of nearby New Jersey. Look up to get a unique perspective on the statue. It will show you just how massive the green lady is.
You will definitely want to purchase tickets that allow you to visit the crown. Kids may have to take some breaks as you make your way up the spiral staircase (no elevators this time!) but it is a thrill to see the contoured, copper insides of the statue as you climb to the top. From the crown, you can see the tablet. Ask little ones to read the roman numerals to figure out what it says before you make your way back down to the ground.
Coming to a new land
Once back on the boat, there is another stop before returning to the mainland. Nearby Ellis Island is home to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Here, you can follow in the footsteps of the immigrants that made America their home in the early 1900s. Through photographs, audio, video and other displays, you and your family can learn about the immigration process. Visit the Great Hall to look at ledgers with the names of 22 million immigrants that passed through Ellis Island from 1892 to 1924. Visitors can also research their family’s immigration records through the museum’s computers, making it fun and easy for little ones to learn about their ancestors.
Children can take an audio tour hosted by Marty the Muskrat and visit the Children’s Exhibit to discover the obstacles immigrants faced when coming to America, including what it was like to ride on a steamship and how the new settlers were inspected upon arrival. You can also print out the Ellis Island Junior Ranger booklet before you begin your vacation and have your child fill it out with the things they learn at the museum.
Back on the shore
You will have worked up quite an appetite by now so once your boat returns to Battery Park, walk over to Broad Street for lunch at Pret A Manger. This is a great place to get some simple, delicious food. They make sandwiches, wraps, salads and soups fresh every day in the in-house kitchen before placing it along the wall for you to grab as you walk in. In addition, you can find unique fruit cups filled with a variety of oranges, pomegranates and apples, juices, teas, brownies, cakes and pastries. Since everything is ready when you walk in, you can expedite the ordering process and sit down right away. You’ll want to rest your tired feet after your busy day on the islands so kick back and relax before moving on to your next adventure.