New York Week: Photo Friday, Climbing the Crown

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.

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10 Comments

  1. Thank you for this detailed description of a trip to the top of the crown. When we visited last winter, the crown was not open, but even the line to the base of the statue was long so we opted to eye the statue from the outside, partly because we didn’t know what to expect.

    Thanks for sharing this information!

  2. I am so glad you wrote this post. We are planning a trip to New York next year and my son is fascinated by the Statue of Liberty so this information is very useful to us. I’ll make sure I reserve the tickets to the crown.

  3. When I went to the Statue of Liberty in 2000, we were only allowed as far as the observation deck. It was a great view but now I really want to make it into that crown. I guess when my kids make the height requirement and we are in NYC I better make some reservations. Thanks for all the info!

  4. Although I grew up in the UK, I made a number of trips up the Statue of Liberty as a child (long story). Thanks for bringing back some happy memories.

  5. Oh thank you for sharing the details of that experience — I bet that is an incredible view. I’ve only seen Lady Liberty once years ago, and we did not go up to the crown. I didn’t realize it was so limited, so I appreciate the tip in case we ever make it back there again.

  6. I never knew what was entailed to visit the crown, so I really enjoyed this post.
    354 steps? Wow! I can remember that it was a wee bit under 200 steps to get down to the foot of the cliff near Split Rock lighthouse in MN…and those weren’t the spiral, tapered steps. So, I can pretty much imagine what climbing 354 steps might be like. Hopefully they let you pace yourself :)

  7. I grew up in Jersey and never visited this landmark. It’s that whole “you never visit sights in your own backyard thing”. Kinda regretting it now that I’ve seen all your photos.

    I especially love the one of the “snotty” kids :-)

  8. I must admit that could be a cool thing to do in the right circumstances but for some people it might just not be worth it when there are many other fun things to do in NYC.

    It reminds me of climbing the dome of St Peter’s in Rome – I really enjoyed the great view from the top but the wait was long, the climb very claustrophobic and the viewing platform at the top extremely crowded. I don’t think I’d want to try in the heat of summer

    http://www.heatheronhertravels.com/the-view-from-the-dome-of-st-peters-in-rome/

  9. I have a question that I can’t find the answer to anywhere else: do they have a “you must be this tall” thing to measure the height of kids before they go up? My daughter is two inches too short to go (46 inches) and is devastated.–I wondered if maybe she could get through and go anyway.

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