Take your kids to the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

Visiting New York? Take your kids to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We recently visited and had a great time even in the pouring rain.

Erected in 1886 on Liberty Island, the Statue of Liberty was a gift from the people of France and is an enduring icon of freedom and democracy. For those immigrants who sailed into New York harbour headed for Ellis Island, Lady Liberty was a welcoming site representing hope as they left their homelands in search of a better life.

Experience these two iconic spots up close and spend the day at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. There you’ll learn about the history and significance of these places both to Americans now and past.

Statue of Liberty - New York

Before you go

There are a number of different tours available to explore the Statue of Liberty depending on whether you want to access the pedestal or crown of the statue. Tickets start from $18.50 for adults and $9 for kids and are only available through Statue Cruises.

We originally wanted a Crown tour but found that five months in advance, the tickets were sold out so we instead booked a pedestal tour for a specific date. It was just our luck though that it was rainy on the day we booked, hence the grey photos.

If you want to skip the pedestal or crown tour, you can purchase online reserve tickets in advance or even take your chances buying them at the ferry terminal on the day. We noticed that when we visited in April, they were selling tickets for that day inside Castle Clinton in Battery Park.

Statue of Liberty - New York

Getting there

You can only visit Liberty Island and Ellis Island via Statue Cruises which leaves from Battery Park in Manhattan and Liberty State Park in New Jersey. Both Islands are managed by the National Park Service. Your round-trip ferry tickets includes access to the grounds

We took the ferry from Battery Park which is easily reached by bus or subway. Head towards Clinton Castle and you’ll spot the white security tent.

Even before you embark on the ferry to Liberty Island, security is tight. All visitors are subject to search before boarding vessels.  We had to go through a screening process and remove shoes, coats and belts.

Statue of Liberty - New York

We then made our way onto the ferry for a 15 minute ride to Lady Liberty. This ride is especially scenic with views of the harbour, Statue of Liberty and the skyline of New York City even on a cloudy day.

Statue of Liberty - New York

Liberty Island

Once at Liberty Island, we disembarked and made our way to the monument. On the way, we stopped to pick up audio headsets which provide a commentary about Liberty Island. Be prepared for another wait as visitors go through another security check and pack handbags and backpacks into lockers.

Statue of Liberty - New York

Once through, we headed for the Pedestal Lobby to look at the original torch. There’s also the Statue of Liberty Museum which has information on the history and design of the statue.

Statue of Liberty - New York

It was then onto the pedestal. You can either take the elevator or walk up 195 stairs. We decided to take the elevator and walk down.

Statue of Liberty - New York

The pedestal is 10 stories high and from here, there’s panoramic views of Ellis Island, New York and New Jersey. In the rain, our views weren’t as spectacular as they would have been on a sunny day, but they were still impressive. Due to the rain, we didn’t stay too long on the pedestal before walking down the stairs.

Statue of Liberty - New York

We then wandered outside to look at Lady Liberty. Up close, she’s spectacular. She’s a colossal copper statue 151 feet in height.

Statue of Liberty - New York

Although we would have loved to have walked around Liberty Island, by this time, the rain was really coming down and we decided to cut short our visit and head to Ellis Island.

Ellis Island

Ellis Island New York

 From Liberty Island, it’s a short 10 minute ferry ride to Ellis Island. For many immigrants to the United States, Ellis Island was their first stop as it was a processing centre. It’s estimated that 12 million people came through Ellis Island.

Ellis Island New York

The Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration faithfully recreates their stories and it’s hard not to be moved when you visit.

 Ellis Island New York

Pick up audio headsets to do a self-guided and self-paced tour of the museum. There’s a special track just for kids which my daughter and I both listed to on our individual headsets. It brings to life Ellis Island from the viewpoint of a child who’s arrived at the centre.

Ellis Island New York

It kept my 8 year old daughter riveted as together we explored the different exhibits in the museum.

Ellis Island New York

The museum covers three levels of the building and covers different topics such as why people left their homelands and how they adapted to life in the United States.

Ellis Island New York

The Great Hall was especially interesting. We imagined ourselves as one of the thousands of people that waited in the then-packed hall for their turn to be inspected and registered by Immigration Service officers. Some of the original benches and register desks still remain for visitors to experience.

Ellis Island New York

For younger kids who might not have the patience to listen to audio sets or read the exhibits, I recommend Ellis Kids. This is an interactive exhibit for families that explains the history of Ellis Island in a manner young kids can relate to.

Ellis Island New York

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Ellis Island and spent much longer than we anticipated there. However, the stories, photos and memorabilia drew us in and we spent three hours in the museum. We were still thinking about these immigrants as we departed back on the ferry to Manhattan. Listening to their experiences made us value the freedoms that we enjoy.

Tips for visiting Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island with kids

Tickets:

You can only purchase online tickets for a reserved date and time through Statue Cruises. One ticket provides access to both Liberty Island and Ellis Island. Depending on what you want to see, there’s different tickets available.

Reserve Ticket – gives you ground access to the Statue of Liberty.

  • Access to the grounds of Liberty Island and Ellis Island.
  • Priority entry into the Screening Facility Queue which saves you wait time at the departure point.
  • Audio Tours of Liberty and Ellis Island included.

 

Pedestal Reserve Ticket –

  • Access up to the Fort Wood section of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.
  • Priority entry into the Screening Facility Queue which saves you wait time at the departure point.
  • Access to the grounds of Liberty Island and Ellis Island.
  • Audio Tours of Liberty and Ellis Island included.

 

Crown Reserve Ticket

  • Access up to the Crown of the Statue of Liberty.
  • Priority entry into the Screening Facility Queue which saves you wait time at the departure point.
  • Access to the grounds of Liberty Island and Ellis Island.
  • Audio Tours of Liberty and Ellis Island included
  • Children must be at least 4-feet tall and able to climb the stairs on their own.

The ferries depart from either Battery Park in Manhattan or Liberty State Park in New Jersey. They first stop at Liberty Island before visiting Ellis Island. Ferries depart from Liberty Island and Ellis Island every 15 – 20 minutes.

If you want to go to both the Statue of Liberty and have time to explore Ellis Island, I recommend booking one of the morning departure times to give yourself sufficient time. First ferry departs at 8:30am with last one at 5pm from both Battery Park in Manhattan and Liberty State Park in New Jersey.

It is recommended that you arrive approximately 30 minutes before your scheduled reserve time. The time on the reserve ticket allows entry into the screening facility not the actual vessel departure.

Statue Cruises advises that if you have a 2pm or later ticket, you will only have adequate time to go to one of the two islands, whichever you choose.

 

What to Bring

Try not to bring too much stuff. With the security checks, the less you have, the easier it is to get through lines.

Before accessing the Pedestal and Crown areas of the Statue, all visitors with backpacks, food and drinks must place these items in secure visitor lockers. Lockers are located and can be rented in the security tent area for the cost of $2 for 2 hours (only cash accepted).

Obviously wear comfortable shoes as there’s lots of walking at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Also, dress according to the weather. On the cold and rainy day we visited, we wore warm, rainproof clothes so that we could enjoy the day.

Although strollers are allowed on Liberty Island, they are not allowed in the Statue of Liberty monument.

Audio Guides

Pick up audio guides. They’re available at no extra charge at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. They provide

Audio tours for adults and children are provided with your ticket, and park ranger guided tours are available at no additional cost for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Audio tours are available in the following languages: English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Mandarin, Russian, Arabic, Hindi, Korean, Portuguese and Japanese.

Family friendly audio tours designed for children ages 6-10 are available in English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Mandarin, Russian, Arabic, Hindi, Korean, Portuguese and Japanese. 

Food

There are snack bars on all the ferry boats which sell healthy snacks and beverages, as well as merchandise. For a snack or meal, visit the Crown Café on Liberty Island or Ellis Café on Ellis Island. Both serve the Freedom Burger.

Bathrooms

On Liberty Island, baby change and toilets are located at the gift shop and in the pedestal lobby next to the museum. On Ellis Island, toilets are located on all three floors of the museum and with baby change rooms on level 2 and 3.