I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! If you’re just joining me, Friday posts concern our extended NYC visit (five months).
We’ve been coming to NYC regularly since 2006, but until now have not visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, which is part of the Statue of Liberty National Park system. This time around, we weren’t going to miss it!
If you plan to go to NYC and want to see Lady Liberty, make your plans well in advance — especially if you want to go up into the crown (there’s more scheduling flexibility if you just want to go to the pedestal). We ordered our tickets about 60 days ahead of time.
You’ll need to provide photo I.D. and go through two airport-style security lines to get to see her.
As the ferry took us over to Liberty Island, I couldn’t help but think of my great-grandfather, who arrived in 1896 at the ripe old age of 20 and would have seen the Statue of Liberty while she was just a youngster, having herself arrived from France in 1886. What a sight, both for him and for me!
I recommend visiting the museum first, because if you go into the statue as we did, you’ll have to surrender your audioguide and get another one later.
You can reach the pedestal via wide, easy stairs, and the views of the city from there are incredible. We went up into the crown, but the path up there is a narrow, spiral staircase (one stair for going up, the other for going down). I had to stop on one of the landings because my claustrophobia kicked in.
Frankly, the crown isn’t that big of a deal. The windows looking out are tiny, and we spent all of about five minutes up there. Plus, if you go up in the summer, it’s stifling hot.
As we moved on to Ellis Island, I learned that it served as the main immigration portal for a relatively short time — 1892 to 1954. Most of my ancestors had spent generations in America, so the number of my ancestors who passed through Ellis Island is fairly small.
Also, the building my great-grandfather would have seen upon his arrival burned to the ground in 1897, so my view upon the ferry’s approach is very different from what his would have been.
For a small fee, you can research your family’s arrival to Ellis Island, but this information is also available online for free.
Though I was excited about seeing both the Statue and Ellis Island, I was ill-prepared for how emotional it would be for me. Millions came, many after long and arduous journeys on crowded ships with poor conditions. They came with little or no money, some with no knowledge of English, and they made a life here.
Nadine Galinsky Feldman is the author of The Foreign Language of Friends and the upcoming What She Knew, available March 2016. If you enjoy this blog, please consider purchasing a book or signing up for the newsletter to learn about upcoming promotions and giveaways.