One of the most majestic places to visit in New York is the Statue of Liberty. This iconic American sight is the symbol of New York and even as a New Yorker, I had to revisit Lady Liberty on my recent trip. I’ve included some insider tips for avoiding lines when visiting the Statue of Liberty, tips for getting reasonable tickets for the Statue of Liberty (including climbing the crown), and general travel tips for visiting the Statue of Liberty for the first time.
You can get to the Statue of Liberty two ways: through New Jersey and Battery Park (Manhattan).
I generally recommend not driving in Manhattan unless you have to, so if you’re only visiting the Statue of Liberty for the day from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or another state south of New York, I recommend coming from Liberty State Park (the New Jersey side.) It should be less crowded and you can pay for daily parking on-site.
If you’re visiting the Statue of Liberty from Manhattan, expect crowds. The closest subway stop is Bowling Green (4,5) or Whitehall Street (N, W). A subway tip: You’ll most likely be taking the subway downtown or towards Brooklyn if you’re coming from anywhere else in Manhattan. Pay attention to the stops, so you don’t end up in Brooklyn by mistake!
Avoid waiting in line by booking your ticket in advance through the official website*
Buy your tickets in advance via StatueCruises, which is the official contractor for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island cruises for the National Parks Service. Buy your tickets directly through the official website to avoid disappointment, scammers, et al. Reserving also gives you priority access to the screening queue!
For the tickets, you’ll need to pick them up after showing valid identification (e.g. passport or driver’s license) at Fort Clinton at the Will-Call booth, which is located in the center of the fort. Tell the friendly ranger that you have reservations for tickets (if you’re feeling lost) and they will happily guide you to the short line for picking up your ticket. You can show your reservation number or credit card that you booked it with.
None of the other cruises have the right to land on Liberty Island, only go past it. Instead of paying for a cruise, you could be paying for a cruise, access to the Statue of Liberty, and entrance to Ellis Island.
Which tickets to the Statue of Liberty are the best to buy?
All tickets include free audio tours as well as free ranger tours of both Liberty Island and Ellis Island. Even if you forget to book your tickets in advance, you should still be able to go to the Statue of Liberty as long as you’re willing to wait in line for the Liberty Island ferry. This will take longer, but if it’s on your bucket list, do it!
Reserving at least a week in advance has some serious perks, including a shorter line at the ferry, and possibly access to the more exclusive areas of the Statue of Liberty. At least check the website for tickets!
#1 Crown Access
If you are looking for the best experience, I highly recommend getting crown tickets in advance! These are the most exclusive tickets for the Statue of Liberty, which provide you with access to Ellis Island, the grounds of Liberty Island, priority access to the screening facility, the Statue of Liberty Museum, access to the podium, AND climbing access to the crown. All for $21.50 for adults (2019). It’s cheaper for children and seniors.
Only a fraction of the daily visitors (less than .5%) get to climb to the crown, so this is really special. You must book your crown tickets at least three months in advance. There are a number of physical and visiting conditions attached to climbing the crown, which I’ll be discussing in a dedicated blog post, so it’s best suitable for smaller groups of adults (less than 4) or solo travelers. It is worth it although you won’t be able to reserve tickets for at least six months. (They will take down your name and check ID!) You’ll get a special wristband when you get your ticket.
#2 Podium Access
If you can’t get the crown tickets, I recommend getting the next best thing: Podium Access. Podium Access means that you can take the stairs or the elevator up to the podium. This also gives you access to Ellis Island, the grounds of Liberty Island, priority access to the screening facility, and the Statue of Liberty Museum.
These tickets cost just $18.50 for adults. It’s cheaper for children and seniors. I recommend reserving Podium Access for at least one month in advance. You’ll get a special wristband when you get your ticket.
#3 Reserve Ticket
If you are planning your trip to the Statue of Liberty more last minute, don’t panic! You’ll want to look for the general Reserve Ticket at least a week before (ideally!). This also gives you access to Ellis Island, the grounds of Liberty Island, priority access to the screening facility, and the Statue of Liberty Museum. This costs $18.50 for adults. (As you can see, it’s the same price for pedestal access if you plan ahead!)
Avoid: Not buying a ticket in advance
Visit on weekdays and non-holidays to avoid crowds.
Most people from the New York Metropolitan area visit on holidays and weekends, so you can expect significant crowds if you visit on a Saturday or Sunday. (You might be able to avoid the crowds by going when the first Statue of Liberty departs if you’re visiting on a popular day.)
As you can imagine, major American holidays are a popular time to visit the Statue of Liberty. I recommend going on a weekday prior to the holiday, if possible, to avoid significant lines!
The tickets for the crown generally sell out at least three months in advance. Plan ahead as the crown is worth it!
The crown access is so worth it although it’s a bit of a haul! The interior of the Statue of Liberty might surprise you and it resembles the Eiffel Tower more than you’d expect. The interior has a thin layer of bronze that you can feel (with the permission of the rangers!) once you reach the top. (It’s absolutely fascinating to see Lady Liberty inside out as you climb the narrow staircase to the crown from the podium after showing your wristband (given to you with your tickets). We were the only ones at the top and they carefully limit how many people can climb per hour for this reason.
As a related note, I should note that anyone who tells you that they’ve climbed to the torch is likely misremembering or lying about their experience (unless they’re a park ranger!). The last time that the torch was open to the public was in 1916. The year was 1916 when the explosion of nearby Black Tom Island by German spies seriously damaged the Statue of Liberty, including the original torch. Since then, the torch has only been accessible via a 40-foot ladder for staff. Today, you can see the torch at the free museum without taking any steps or buying additional tickets!
I was a bit nervous when I realized how many steps were involved with climbing the crown, but it’s not as bad as you might realize. (I warn that those who are disabled or have issues with stairs will not be able to climb to the top.) You can take an elevator to the top of pedestal if you’re not enthusiastic about climbing the 195 steps to the pedestal, but from there, you will need to climb the remaining 162 steps.
As a note, you are allowed to bring very limited items up to the crown after the second security screening. Choose carefully if you end up bringing a water or cell phone with you as you will need to hold it as you climb the stairs. I brought my camera, but having a pocket for a cell phone within a jacket is quite useful…
The staircase is narrow and vertigo-inducing at times, however very few people are allowed access at any time, so you can climb the stairs at a leisurely pace with taking significant time to take a breather in the cramped passages. I do not recommend this journey for those who get seriously claustrophobia or grapple with bad vertigo, especially for the way down.
My friend who came with me is currently undergoing medical treatment and she was worried about coming back down if it got too difficult. Luckily, the park rangers were exceptionally friendly and supportive of her journey to the crown. (You can climb down if you need to!) She made it and I could not be more proud of her!
Once you reach the top, you’ll have stunning views of the Hudson River, Manhattan, New Jersey, and Brooklyn from the windows of the crown. It can get quite hot up in the crown as well, you’re in a large metal statue with no air conditioning. (We heard a long discussion by the park rangers about summer in the Statue of Liberty.) We enjoyed the photos and I’d encourage you to talk to the park rangers for more information.
The crown provides such a unique experience that few people get to have as well as a stunning view over New York. The photos taken within the crown rarely reflect the importance of where you are and the lighting makes for hard photography. I loved being able to look upon the tablet (a tabula ansata) that Lady Liberty holds from above as well as see the pointy spikes of her crown from so close-up!
Leave your baggage at your hotel
In order to get on the ferry to Liberty Island, you’ll need to go through a security booth similar to what you’d expect at an airport. I recommend avoiding any large bags or baggage as they’re not allowed. (We left ours at the hotel that we did a staycation at after checking out.)
If going up to the podium or crown, minimize your items and bring quarters.
If you’ll be climbing to the podium or crown, I recommend carefully checking the requirements. I ended up bringing a very small side bag, which still had to go into the lockers for the crown. I was able to bring my camera, my phone, and a water (if I wished). That’s it.
Be sure to bring some cash for the lockers. There’s a change machine that can break $1 and $5 bills, but I’d recommend bringing at least fifty cents for each locker that you think you’ll use!
Looking for that iconic photo of Manhattan? Wait until the ferry turns or you get to Liberty Island!
I have a photo of everyone freaking out trying to take a photo of Manhattan as soon as the ferry set off from Battery Park and as we approached the Statue of Liberty. I recommend taking a window seat on the right side as you go to Liberty Island from Manhattan, which will provide good views for most of the ferry ride.
Once you arrive on Liberty Island, you’ll regret trying to take a million photos from the ferry as you’re right here–and you have fantastic views from the dock. Simply, save your phone battery although I found that bringing a portable power bank was great for taking videos without running my battery down!
As a note: I personally was a bit glad to be near the front of the ferry on the way back as it meant that we still had views from the left side of the ship–and we were the first ones off the ferry!
Arrive early and use the toilet before you arrive at Battery Park.
I recommend arriving at least forty five minutes ahead of your time slot on the Statue of Liberty, even if you have a reservation. (Use the toilet beforehand as you won’t have toilet access for a while.) Get in the security line as soon as you pick up your tickets. You’ll get priority access, but security still takes a while and you might still need to wait for the ferry. Don’t risk missing your reservation to visit!
Wear comfortable shoes and bring sunscreen.
I highly recommend wearing comfortable shoes when visiting the Statue of Liberty. This is because you’ll be getting on the ferry, which requires going up/down a ramp. Similarly, you might need to stand on the ferry, which requires shoes with grip. Even if you are not climbing the Statue of Liberty, you’ll still want to walk all the way around Liberty Island. It’s bigger than you might realize, so dress for comfort. Your photos will turn out great regardless! Click for my tips on what to wear in New York City!
Much of Liberty Island is uncovered, so be sure to bring sunscreen with you to prevent yourself from getting burnt. We were there on a beautiful day in May with full sun. Trust me, it will be hot in summer and you don’t want to come home with a sunburn!
Be sure to step into the FREE new museum on Liberty Island
Many of the older posts mention that only those with tickets can visit the museum on Liberty Island, but these are outdated. The new Statue of Liberty museum that just opened in May is open to the public (e.g. anyone who has ground access). Within the museum, you’ll learn a lot of fascinating facts about the history of the Statue of Liberty, the process of constructing it (with drafts!), and even feel a lifesize version of her foot/face (a replica).
Most notably, you’ll find the original torch with a view of Lady Liberty within the museum. They could easily charge extra for this museum, so be sure to enjoy it as it’s free with your admission! The museum is very kid-friendly and photo-friendly. I’d say give yourself about thirty minutes to go through the museum although you can certainly see it in less time.
Take the free audio tour or the free guided tour by a ranger
As soon as you enter Liberty Island, you’ll see a booth outside for audio guides. These audio tours are free with admission and come in various languages! Even better, you can check NPS (National Parks Service website) as well as signs for the free tours headed up by the National Parks rangers. Even if you don’t take these opportunities, you can always talk to the rangers, who are happy to tell visitors about the unique history of this statue.
Give yourself enough time to explore Ellis Island
My biggest tip for visiting the Statue of Liberty? It has to be to take advantage of your free ticket to Ellis Island! I’d expect the overall trip time to be around 4 hours between the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, even with rushing a bit through the exhibitions.
Many people stayed on the ferry when it stopped at Ellis Island en route back to Manhattan, but I’d recommend giving yourself at least 1 hour to explore Ellis Island. (For a bit extra, you can do a hard hat exploration of Ellis Island, which can be reserved in advance online, which provides access to parts of Ellis Island typically closed to the public!)
Ellis Island was a major portal for more than 12 million immigrants entering the United States between 1892 and 1954. Many, including my own grandfather, passed through these halls as they eyed the Statue of Liberty from the windows. Many never made it (despite being so close) as they were singled out from entering the United States due to medical quarantines. At a minimum, be sure to enter the Great Hall and try to imagine thousands of people crowded waiting for liberty in a promised land…
To stay on budget: Have lunch at the official Statue of Liberty cafeteria. Bring your own empty water bottle!
In a desperate attempt to save money beforehand, I ended up eating quite a bit beforehand as I was worried about the food situation, but the cafeteria on Liberty Island is surprisingly affordable given how touristic this area is.
Expect to pay around $10 for lunch, which can include an all-American burger with fries. Drinks are extra. You’ll also find healthy salads and vegan options. My friend especially enjoyed the giant homemade lemonade, which came in a cool keepsake glass that is the shape of the Statue of Liberty.
To cut costs, I recommend bringing an empty water bottle with you. There are free fountains where you can fill up your water bottle with fresh water, so avoid paying for a drink if you’re content with just water!