We booked our tickets to the Statue of Liberty over three months ago with a 9am ferry ride departure from Battery Park. Since our hotel shuttle only leaves on the hour, we made the decision to be downstairs at 7am to allow us plenty of time. This is what panicked me when I woke up at 6:30, the lights were off, and nobody was up in our room.
Stephanie had been setting the alarm on her phone each day for us. Thanks to Marissa playing a game on her phone the previous day, the volume had been turned down on her phone and we never heard the alarm.
We rallied the troops and got downstairs a few minutes after 7 to join the rest of the family. Steph and I even had time to shower! It helped that the kids had all showered the night before.
When we finally did arrive at the Secaucus Train Station, we had missed the 7:29 train by 5 minutes and had to wait another 45 minutes for the next one. So far, things were not going our way. At Penn Station, we split into two groups as some needed to visit the restroom. But we did manage to eventually make all of the proper transfers and get to Battery Park just a few minutes after 9am.
We did miss the 9am ferry, but no big deal. They herded us onto the 9:30 ferry. New Yorkers are like that.
These ferry boats hold 900 people and they got us to Liberty Island in maybe 15 minutes. Walking while the boat was moving was a challenge, at least to me.
When we landed, the first thing we did was get together at the base of the statue for a group picture. If you could time your pictures between the waves of people getting off the ferry, you actually had some time to organize your shots.
After we had taken sufficient pictures, we went our separate ways for the day. We had purchased 5 tickets for crown access and the rest did the pedestal tour. The climb to the crown was 375 steps, mostly up the most tightly wound spiral staircase you have ever seen.
There was a very small platform at the top of the crown viewing platform. Just enough for basically our family of five to stand. The Park Ranger who was stationed at the top told us that only 365 people per day are allowed to the crown. That made us feel special!
The Park Ranger also told us that the first three years of operation, visitors could climb ladders all the way into the torch. These days, only one person gets to climb into the torch, and that is Louie the maintenance man. He changes out the bulbs from time to time.
Once we finished our tour, we showed up just in time for the 12:00 Park Ranger tour. As luck would have it, our family of 5 got a private tour. We were the only ones that showed up.
Our tour guide, Dennis, was not only a Park Ranger, but he was also the Social Media Director for the Statue of Liberty. I cannot tell you how many times he asked us to “Like” the Statue’s Facebook page. (It was a big number.)
Some key interesting facts from our tour:
- It was thought that the size of the symbol correlated to the importance of whatever you were expressing. This was why the French had the audacious goal to make the statue 23 stories tall. In comparison, the tallest building in New York City at the time was 6 stories tall. This statue was a colossus.
- The French people, not the government, raised the money to build and ship the statue to New York. The French asked the American people to raise the money to build the pedestal. The statue showed up and had to remain in crates for over a year while the Americans completed the fundraising and construction of the pedastal.
- Joseph Pulitzer was a key figure in the fundraising for the pedestal. He announced that anyone that contributed money through his newspaper would get their name printed on the front page. Pulitzer raised the money and the circulation of newspaper increased dramatically.
- Well over half of the funds contributed were in amounts less than 5 cents.
Our tour guide was not working on 9/11, but he has heard many stories. One of the strangest was that the ground of Liberty Island was covered with seagulls and other birds with their heads under their wings. All of the vibrations and disturbances really bothered them.
The Statue of Liberty was closed for months following 9/11. When it did finally reopen, there were only 70 people on the first boat. In fact, it took nearly 4 years before visitation returned to normal levels, which is about 19,000 visitors per day.
We later hopped on a ferry and took a ride to Ellis Island. The main building is open now, but many of the buildings on Ellis Island are still closed due to Tropical Storm Sandy last year.
They say that over 100 million Americans can trace their ancestry back to immigration through Ellis Island. 12.5 million people came through while it was open. For this reason, the Statue of Liberty had a very strong emotional attachment with the immigrants, since they associated her with their new American citizenship.
We finally got back to Battery Park around 4:00. I love the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, but 7 hours was enough. We took the subway uptown to the Greenwich Village area and showed Miles the Washington Square Park arch. Then walked over and ate at a Greek restaurant that was not far from where we ate pizza on Tuesday.
For dessert, we found a custom gelato place around the corner. Who cares how cold it is, we’re having ice cream!
Our finale for the night was a trip to the top of the Empire State Building. On our walk to the subway, we traveled through some neat neighborhoods in the NYU area. We even got a chance to see several of the mounted police.
The views from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building at night were top notch. We had originally planned to visit this building during the day but I am so glad we did it at night.
We spent so much time in the Empire State Building gift shop that Mallory and Miles went in search of outlets in the store so they could charge their phones. This was a common occurrence on our trip. Mallory got plugged in for a few minutes before the store staff shoo’d her away. Miles had better luck. He tucked his phone in his backpack and set the pack against the wall. Then spent some time intently studying the souvenirs on that wall.
We made our short walk over to Penn Station and stood around for probably less than a minute when they announced which track the train to Secaucus was going to be on. Prior to the announcement, the hall at Penn Station was full of people just standing around. After the announcement, hundreds of people started hustling toward the track, us included.
This is something that has surprised me on this trip. The trains arrive and depart at scheduled times, but the station does not announce what track the train will be on until 10 to 15 minutes before departure. This scene repeats itself everyday. Seems like a chaotic way to run the trains, but it works for them.
We managed to actually get some seats on this train. While we were sitting there, I was texting the rest of our group to see if we could get a ride from the train station to the hotel, when we happened to see them on our train. So after going out separate ways for 12 hours in New York, we end up on the same train car going back to Secaucus.