How to see the Statue of Liberty (part I)
One of the most common questions asked on my tours is the ideal way to see the Statue of Liberty. She is one of the most iconic sights in the U.S. after all. But she's out there on her own island (not very creatively called Liberty Island) and it takes some planning to pay her a visit. In fact, the best way to see her is going to require some very advanced planning. For the best experience, you have to do something difficult under any circumstance: Get inside a woman's head.
How to visit Liberty Island:
There are three different levels of admission on Liberty Island, but they all require a boat trip on Statue Cruises leaving from Battery Park. Here's Statue Cruises website. The first level is admission just to the island. These tickets can be reserved for a specific time in advance or can be pretty easily purchased at the time of your visit. All of Statue Cruises' time slots have always seemed flexible whenever I have gone. The times are not admission times for the statue itself or for a particular boat, but when you are supposed to be processed through security in Battery Park. The staff has always seemed pretty easy about just putting everyone in line and not much worrying about time slots. So if you're late, just show up anyway and it will probably be fine. What this kind of pass grants you is only access to the island itself, not inside the statue whatsoever. The adult ticket is $17
Statue's next option is to reserve a pass to go inside the pedestal of the statue. This is best reserved in advance although there are usually passes still available on the day of in the morning. If you reserve in advance, you can pick the passes up at the will call window inside Castle Clinton in Battery Park. You can print them at home, but the will call line is usually very short. The pedestal is behind a SECOND security line so you will be waiting in a big security line twice. Inside the pedestal is a nice view from the parapet below her feet and a small museum about all things Lady Liberty, plus a tempting view up into her innards. These passes are also $17. A lot of people just don't think the waiting is worth the limited view of things and the small museum. I can't say I disagree. The views are nice, but so are the ones from the island itself. But it comes down to how much you want that up-close experience.
Looking up into the lady's iron guts
But it's the final option that takes the cake. The crown itself! These passes are special because they are so hard to get and for the VIP experience they accord the holder. It is generally necessary to book these passes at least 4 months in advance because of there are only about 300 crown passes given out on a given day. The cost is $20, which is $3 more than the regular tickets. But it is 3 bucks well spent. Crown passes are given their own security lines (both times!) and that means you breeze through the checkpoints. Then you meet with a park ranger who gives you a time to ascend to the top. Beware, this is a curving staircase of 393 steps that bakes like an oven in the summer so it is not for the faint of heart. But only about 12-25 people per hour go up, so on your climb, you will basically have the statue to yourself. At the top is a Ranger or two to answer questions. The best thing about this whole experience isn't just the view from the top, but the fact that the whole experience is so uncrowded and unhurried. When I went, we stayed at the top for 15-20 minutes chatting with the Rangers and descended a completely empty staircase with time and leisure to really stop and appreciate the grandeur and the scale of the whole statue. Add in the VIP security access and it was actually hard to believe how pleasant the whole experience was. This should be the first thing you book when you buy your tickets to New York. Buy them that same day! It's a great experience.
But what if you don't want to hassle of boats and security and all that and just want a great view and then to get on with your vacation? Well that's coming up in part II......