Growing up on the East Coast, I was lucky enough to go on more than one field trip to the Statue of Liberty. But I hadn’t made taking my kids a priority. On trips back East to visit family, we’d done Philadelphia and all its landmarks, but we never ventured into New York. The Statue of Liberty didn’t seem like enough of a draw. There was too much you couldn’t do.
Then, it was closed to the public because of security concerns after the September 11th attacks. The base, pedestal and outdoor observation deck reopened in 2004, but the crown was strictly off limits. When the announcement came that Lady Liberty’s crown was going to re-open on Fourth of July, it jumpstarted our summer vacation plans.
Including a climb to the crown requires a little more planning and organization. The only way to access the Statue of Liberty is by ferry. The scenic ride costs $12.00 for adults and $5.00 for children. Your ticket will let you visit Ellis Island and Liberty Island. For an additional $3.00 you can make a reservation to venture up to the crown.
Crown tickets are for a specific date and time. Children must be at least 4 feet tall, and be able to walk up and down the 354 steps by themselves. There is no elevator. The National Park Service limits groups to 10 at a time. With an average three trips per hour, only 240 people are allowed up each day, so booking ahead is a must. Crown tickets can be reserved up to 1 year in advance.
My family was on one of the first ferries of the day. We had about an hour before we started our climb, so we took a free ranger guided tour to get our bearings. You can tour Liberty Island on your own, there are information panels everywhere, but my experience has been a good guide can make a trip. This was no exception. The group of 20 or so folks spanned in ages from 8 to 80, and I think it’s safe to say we all felt educated and entertained when it was over.
Before your start your climb, you have to check in. Then you’ll need to stash all of your belongings into a locker. The NPS is very strict about what you can take with you on your climb. Besides yourself, you’re allowed a camera, but no camera bag. You are allowed to take a cell phone, only if it is your only camera. No food or drinks. Be sure your kids have a snack before your get started. It’s worth mentioning you won’t have a locker key to carry. A simple scan of your thumbprint is all that’s needed to open and close the lockers. My kids thought they were the coolest things ever. I have to admit, so did I.
Our crown tickets gave us priority entry into the Security Screening Facility, a HUGE perk. We bypassed a line that was easily an hour long. Folks stared as we walked on by. My 11 year old said she felt like a rock star as she strutted toward security.
Once we cleared security, we had what was really our first wait of the day. The ranger on crown duty told us it would be about half an hour before we could start our climb. She recommended we visit the Museum at the base of the Statue. Another perk, it was included in our crown ticket. If it hadn’t been for the delay, we probably would have missed it and the amazing full scale replicas of the Statue’s face and foot. The Lady’s big toe might actually be bigger than my 8 year old!
Finally it was time to climb. How hard is it? The NPS website prepares you for a workout:
“The climb to the crown is a strenuous journey that encompasses 354 steps in a cramped enclosed area with high temperatures. The steps within the Statue are 19” wide, are shallow and taper at one end. Head clearance is 6 feet 2 inches.”
I’ll admit I was a little nervous, but my family made it up without a hitch. The excitement and adrenaline must have kicked in, because I don’t remember anyone complaining. NPS rangers are stationed at various points throughout the climb in case anyone does get into trouble. The stairs are narrow, but do-able. Even my 6’2″ husband made it up without bonking his head.
You’ll be a bit winded when you finish, but it’s the views at the top that really take your breath away.
Ciao Bambino recommended New York family hotels
New York with kids – holiday activities
New York with kids – tips from a local
New York with kids – top 5 kid-friendly excursions
New York museums kids – 7 great options
New York family vacation – best online resources