A person cannot go to New York without seeing the Statue of Liberty. But with limited time, how do you decide when to go, how much to see and what options are available? We have visited Lady Liberty three times on our visits to New York. These tips for visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are our first-hand accounts of what to expect.
Let our experiences be your guide and help you plan your New York City Vacation.
Tips for how to Visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
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How Long Is it to Visit the Statue of Liberty?
When visiting the Statue of Liberty be prepared for a long day. Queues to the ferry can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours. The Statue of Liberty and museum take approximately 90 minutes to see and Ellis Island is another one hour to 90 minutes. If you follow our advice, you won’t have to wait for long and can make the most of your time visiting the Statue of Liberty.
Ferry wait times for security at Battery Park and ferries to and from Liberty and Ellis Island take time and with lines, you may have to wait for two ferries to go by before getting one. So the entire experience of visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island could easily be 5 – 6 hours.
Many people book months in advance and if you are visiting during high season, we recommend doing so. Especially when making reservations for the crown and pedestal. If you haven’t made an advanced reservation it is still possible to visit the Statue of Liberty free from hassles.
Give yourself 5 – 6 hours to visit both Liberty and Ellis Islands.
Visit Statue of Liberty or Take a Cruise?
Depending on your time in New York, you will need to make the decision of visiting Liberty Island itself or simply taking one of the many statue cruises offered to get a view of her from the water. Whatever you decide, you are going to love it. The Statue of Liberty is the most iconic statue in the world and is not to be missed!
You can book this 90 Minute Cruise of New York City – If you don’t have time to visit the Statue of Liberty, take this cruise to see the iconic sites of midtown and lower Manhattan on a Semi-Circle Cruise. See Lady Liberty and Ellis Island. Sail down the Hudson, cruising around the Battery, and up the East River. You’ll pass under the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg Bridges to the United Nations – and then head back to Pier 83
How to Get to the Statue of Liberty
The statue of Liberty ferry and ticket office is located at Battery Park in Manhattan. Ferries open at 8:30 am and we suggest getting there as early as possible to be at the front of the line.
We caught the Number 1 Red Line Subway from our downtown Manhattan hotel to the South Ferry Station near Battery Park. You can buy a MetroPass at machines in entrances to the Subway. Machines take cash or credit and you can load your pass as needed.
- Lines to take to get to the Statue of Liberty by Subway:
- Take the 4 or 5 trains to Bowling Green.
- Take the R train to Whitehall Street.
When you walk out of the subway, there will be several people standing to offer information. Some are selling tours, but others are there to help. If someone tries to sell you a tour, politely decline and go directly to the ticket office. We told them we had a New York Pass already and they left us alone while kindly offering directions.
If you want to relax with a guide, book this Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island Pre-Ferry Tour – This 30 minute guided tour takes you through Battery Park and offers crowd-free access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Visiting the Pedestal of the Statue of Liberty
If you want to go up to the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, you need to book in advance for your time. It is no extra cost, but times are booked on a first-come-first-served basis. So if you arrive at 8:30 with a bunch of other people, they may already have their reserved time and you will have to wait even longer.
When booking directly from the Government Website, you will receive skip-the-line tickets through security which can save time.
Visiting the Crown of the Statue of Liberty
To visit the crown of the Statue of Liberty tickets cost an extra $3. You should also book ahead of time (we have read up to three months in advance) at the website as times are designated on a first come first serve basis as well. Reservations will also put you ahead of the line to go through security when entering the Statue of Liberty ferry terminal.
Visit the Statue of Liberty Museum
Visiting the Statue of Liberty Museum is included in your ferry service tickets to the islands, and you don’t have to schedule a time to go in.
Get the New York Pass
Our New York Pass included our visits to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and ferry service to each. If you don’t have a New York Pass, we suggest getting your tickets ahead of time at www.statuecruises.com. Or if you are there early in the morning, you can purchase directly from the ticket office inside the Clinton Castle.
Note: The New York Pass does not offer “skip the line tickets.” When you do arrive at Battery Park, you still need to go inside the Castle to get your boarding pass, so you will have to stand in line for tickets regardless.
Take Guided Tours of the Statue of Liberty
Viator offers guided tours of Liberty Island and Ellis Island. Reserve Line Access boarding on the ferry to Liberty Island.
Guided visit to the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island Explore the grounds at Liberty Island and upgrade for pedestal access View exhibits at the Great Hall inside the Immigration Museum on Ellis Island Early Reserve Line boarding on the ferry to Liberty Island and Ellis Island. It includes a guided tour of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island, exhibits at the Great Hall inside the Immigration Museum on Ellis Island, and early boarding.
Security at The Statue of Liberty Ferry
Going through security to board the ferry is similar to going on a plane. Open bottles of water are not allowed. We had to drink our water before going through security. Either, keep your bottle sealed until after you go through security or bring a reusable bottle that has no liquid in it and fill it up afterward. If you are unsure about what to bring leave it in the hotel room. If it is confiscated at security, you will not get it back!
- No large bags are allowed on the ferry.
- No sharp objects are allowed through security.
- No drones are allowed on the ferry.
Best View from the Ferry to the Statue of Liberty
If you want the best view on the way out to Liberty Island, stand on the right-hand side facing the dock. Most people go to the left looking out at the water, but once the boat moves, the best views are from the right.
Outside, upstairs or at the back is best for views of the New York skyline on the way out to the Statue of Liberty. Read more: 30 Best New York Views – Where to See the Manhattan Skyline
There is a snack bar on the ferry where you can buy snacks and drinks. The toilets on the ferry are clean and in good working condition.
At the Statue of Liberty
When you arrive at Liberty Island, be sure to check the ferry times as you walk out for your trip onward. We planned for 90 minutes at the statue so we kept an eye out for the ferry that was scheduled 2 hours after our visit. That way we could have a 30-minute cushion should the line be too long (which it always is).
It was a pleasant stroll walking around Liberty Island seeing the views of Lady Liberty from every possible angle. She really is an impressive sight. The views of the Manhattan skyline are outstanding from here so be sure to take it in from every angle.
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The Statue of Liberty Museum
The Statue of Liberty Museum opened in May 2019 and your ticket does include access to this museum for free. Inside there are interactive displays, a 10-minute multimedia display, and a gallery showcasing the history of how it was made and what Lady Liberty represents. The inspiration gallery where the original torch is on display was our favorite.
Before leaving the museum, we went outside to the rooftop deck for outstanding views of the statue and the skyline. When visiting Liberty Island, don’t miss going into the museum.
Ellis Island Immigration Museum
The next stop on the tour is Ellis Island. The ferry to Ellis Island is free when you leave from Liberty Island, and you can either get off the boat to explore or take it directly back to Battery Park. A lot of people skip this, but we loved our visit to Ellis Island.
The Great Hall – Ellis Island
The Great Hall is the first thing you will see on Ellis Island. Just like the 12 million immigrants who saw it for the first time when arriving in America between 1892 – 1924. This Ellis Island Museum is dedicated to the people who waited for access to the United States searching for a better way of life.
Today, many people come to Ellis Island to trace their ancestry. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) no Bouskills or Corbeils were on the list of immigrants who came through here.
Great hopes were placed on life in the new world, but the new immigrants faced many hardships from child labor, low wages, and cramped quarters. But it was here that many began their American Dream.
Make your way up to the second floor for an excellent collection of photos displaying the history of Ellis Island. The images are haunting and inspiring all at once.
On the third floor, you will see a recreation of the sleeping quarters for new immigrants awaiting entrance to New York City. Beds were stacked 3 berths high on canvas cots that could be raised during the day. The third floor also offers an overhead view of the Grand Hall where people awaited their hearings regarding citizenship.
We spent quite a while perusing the photos and history of Ellis Island. While many people skip it, if you have the time, we say don’t miss it.
By visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island first thing in the morning, we had the rest of the day to explore more sights in Manhattan. From the Statue of Liberty, we recommend visiting Wall Street including the Charging Wall Street Bull, and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
These are all within walking distance from Battery Park and are must-see attractions when visiting New York.
- See our complete New York Itinerary that Includes our visit to the Statue of Liberty
- If you want to see more New York Ideas visit our 33 Ways to Make the Most of Manhattan
Statue of Liberty Tips
- Stand on the port side (right side) at the back of the ferry going out to the Statue of Liberty. It will give you the best views of the city and of the statue as you approach.
- Book ahead of time on the Government Website, for reserved tickets and skip the security lines.
- If you want to go up to the crown of the Statue of Liberty, book your tour at least a week in advance a
- Make sure to go to the Ellis Island Museum and visit all of the floors for the full experience.
- If you are planning on seeing a few New York Sites like the Statue of Liberty, the Top of the Rock, The Empire State Building and the Museums – Metropolitan, Natural History, MOMA and more, get the New York Pass to expedite your experience and save a lot of money.
- If you have a New York Pass or City Pass, you must go into the ticket office at the castle to receive a boarding pass.
- Plan more of your New York City travels:
Traveling to the United States, see our United States Travel Guide
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Note: We received our first New York City Pass through a conference we attended in New York City in 2011. New York is not paying us or expecting us to endorse the pass. It came with our purchase of tickets to the conference. However, we always find it to be an amazing deal and asset during our travels around New York so we wanted to share it with you all.