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The Statue of Liberty in New York City

New York, New Jersey

An Insider’s Guide to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

By: Jim Benning

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The Statue of Liberty is among the USA’s most beloved sights and an enduring symbol of liberty and freedom.

Standing tall on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, just off Lower Manhattan in New York City, the Statue of Liberty is among the USA's most beloved sights and an enduring symbol of liberty and freedom.

Yet this statue wasn’t conceived by a U.S. citizen. In 1865, French political thinker Édouard de Laboulaye proposed creating Lady Liberty Enlightening the World as a gift to the United States. The dream took years to become reality. In 1886, the 22-story statue designed by French sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi was installed on what is now Liberty Island.

The statue debuted just in time. Between 1892 and 1954, a surge of immigrants — more than 12 million — sailed past the statue and into New York Harbor. Their first stop was Ellis Island, also situated in the harbor.

How to Get to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are open year-round except Christmas Day. You can reach both from tour boats that depart from Battery Park in Lower Manhattan and Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey.

While you can usually access the statue grounds without a reservation, access to other areas is limited. For that reason, reservations are often necessary. They must be made online or over the telephone at Statue Cruises, the official ferry service to Liberty and Ellis islands. Audio tours are included.

Arrive early if you can. “The first boats give you an opportunity to get on the islands before the crowds build,” says National Park Service spokesman Jerry Willis.

To reach the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, visitors travel by boat from New York or New Jersey.

To reach the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, visitors travel by boat from New York or New Jersey.
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How to Visit the Statue of Liberty’s Crown

For the ultimate Statue of Liberty experience, reserve a ticket for Lady Liberty’s 80-meter-high crown. It’s the statue’s highest accessible point and offers sweeping views of Lower Manhattan, New Jersey and Brooklyn.

Crown tickets are extremely limited. Only a few hundred are available each day, and in the summer and on holidays, they typically are sold out months in advance. A maximum of four tickets can be reserved per order. Visitors to the crown must be fit enough to walk up the 377 stairs. Children must be at least 1.2 meters tall.

Visiting the Pedestal and Liberty Island Museum

Crown tickets include access to the pedestal and Liberty Island Museum. But even if you can’t get crown tickets, you still may be able to reserve tickets to the pedestal and museum. (And some pedestal tickets are made available each day at Statue Cruises ticket locations.) 

Sitting just under Lady Liberty’s feet and accessible by elevator, the 47-meter-high pedestal offers fine views of Lower Manhattan, New Jersey and Ellis Island. Willis suggests allowing at least 30 minutes for the museum, which explores the statue’s history and evolving meaning.

Finally, even if pedestal tickets aren’t available, grounds-only tickets usually are. Willis recommends leisurely strolls along the open promenades at the edges of both Liberty and Ellis islands. “You get spectacular views,” he says.

All Statue Cruises ferries stop at Ellis Island, and your ticket includes access to the National Museum of Immigration. Exhibits focus on the island’s past and the history of immigration to the United States. If you just want to see the statue from the water, take the free Staten Island Ferry.

Ellis Island was usually the first stop for immigrants to the USA during the first half of the 20th century.

Ellis Island was usually the first stop for immigrants to the USA during the first half of the 20th century.
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What’s the Best Time of Year to Visit?

That’s a matter of opinion, but Willis prefers the fall. By then, the summer crowds have eased, and so usually has the heat — that’s especially important if you’re climbing up to the crown.

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