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Statue of Liberty

Visiting the Statue of Liberty is one of the most memorable experiences in New York City and an absolute must for visitors, but it’s not without its complications. Unlike Central Park or Times Square, there is a good deal of planning involved in order to prepare for your visit. And not everything you need to plan for is obvious.

In this post, I’ll share some of the most valuable tips I’ve learned from my time as a Statue of Liberty tour guide. From dressing for the occasion to where you should go, by the end of this list you’ll be an expert on visiting the statue.

1. Always leave as early as possible

Ferry boat visiting the statue of liberty

Throughout the day, the lines for the statue get longer and longer. If you’re able to, it’s always a good idea to catch the first ferry of the day. You’ll beat the crowds to the museum, the pedestal and Ellis Island.

Plus, the statue closes earlier in the day than most attractions. And it takes some time to go from island to island. The last thing you want is to arrive at the statue with limited time and see a huge line that could eat up most of it.

Giving tours of the island first thing in the morning is always the most enjoyable because it guarantees that we’ll be able to have a smooth visit without dealing with heavy crowds.

2. Buy your tickets in advance

Boarding the ferry at the statue of liberty

While there are multiple options for buying your Statue of Liberty tickets, my advice is always to buy in advance. This eliminates the possibility of any extra waiting that you might have buying tickets and ensures that you get to see everything you want.

The easiest way to buy a ticket in advance is online. You can typically do so a few months before your scheduled visit. In many cases, you don’t even need to print a ticket. You can arrive with a copy on your phone and walk right up to security.

3. Pack lightly

Baggage room at ellis island

Visiting the statue requires passing through security. Depending on your type of ticket, you may have to do this just once, or two times. Security at the statue is similar to the airport. Belts, watches, jackets, hats, jewelry — they all have to come off.

If you’re visiting the inside of the pedestal, backpacks are not allowed. Neither is food or drink other than water.

You can make it a lot easier on yourself by packing lightly. Don’t bring too many unnecessary belongings that could hold you up at security. Double check the website for a full list of prohibited items.

4. Stand on the best side of the boat

On the boat to the statue of liberty

As you board the ferry for the very first time, you’ll notice everyone heading to the right to grab a seat on that side of the boat. Which is understandable, as it’s the side where you can see the statue from the dock.

However, as soon as the boat departs, it will make a sharp turn. By the time you get close to the statue, it will actually be the other side that has the best view.

So when you first get on the boat, head to the side that faces Manhattan. Most people won’t realize that this is actually where you’ll get the better view. Then, when the boat crosses in front of the statue for the first time, you will have the perfect spot for an epic picture of Lady Liberty.

5. Go to the museum first

Statue of Liberty Museum

I know from personal experience that, after getting off the boat, the very first thing everybody does is rush to the front of the statue to take a picture. This leaves you battling with crowds and competing for the perfect shot.

But if you take the time to check out the museum first, or even visit the gift shop, you can head over to the statue and avoid that initial wave of newcomers. Just be sure to take the pictures before the next boat arrives with even more people.

6. The best picture is from the top of Fort Wood

taking pictures on top of fort wood

There’s a few different vantage points for taking a good Statue of Liberty picture — from the boat, at the edge of the island. But the best and most iconic should be taken from the top of Fort Wood, on your back!

That’s right, the best position for taking a picture is laying down.

Just below the pedestal is a star shaped structure called Fort Wood. This old war fort is a great spot to spend a few minutes after your visit to the pedestal of the crown. You can walk around and take some amazing pictures of New York harbor.

But the greatest spot is right in front of the Statue of Liberty. Have one member of your party (or a very generous stranger) lie down and take the picture shooting upward. It allows for a unique and winning shot of the statue towering high behind the group.

You can’t get the same shot anywhere else. Plus, it makes for a fun story.

7. Enjoy the view of Manhattan

New York skyline from Liberty Island (1)

Many of the people who visit Liberty Island completely miss out on one of the best views it has to offer — Manhattan.

The northern edge of the island gives you one of the best (and unique) views of Lower Manhattan. You can see the Freedom Tower, Ellis Island, the Brooklyn Bridge and even the Empire State Building on a clear day.

8. Take a picture of the boat schedule

In front of the ferry boat at Ellis Island

As you are entering or exiting the ferry boat for the very first time, it’s always a good idea to take a picture of the schedule. It changes based on the season, so the departure times are never set in stone.

The daily schedule is usually posted at dock and/or at the entrance to the boat. Taking a picture makes it easy for you to later pull up and plan ahead, without guessing or trying to remember when you needed to be in line.

9. Get in line 10 minutes before the boat departs

Boarding the ferry from Liberty Island

It’s also a good idea to make sure you are in line for the ferry at least 10 minutes before it departs.

There are capacity limitations on each boat. When it gets full, the line will be stopped and there’s a chance you could get cut off.

I’ve been the victim of this quite a few times and there is really nothing worse than standing out in the cold or the hot sun while you try and wait patiently for the next boat. You can avoid all of that by just making sure you are in line with plenty of time to spare.

10. Always move in towards the center of the boat

Statue of Liberty from the ferry

As you’re loading into the ferry, it can be tempting to stop right at the entrance and hover around in order to secure your spot for a quick and easy exit. However, unless you are genuinely the last people boarding, this makes it difficult for everyone else getting in. It slows down the loading process and delays the boat even further.

When you walk onboard, keep moving. Walk all the way to the back or up to one of the upper decks. As the boat approaches the dock, you can start to make your way back down and get closer to the exit, without having blocked anybody.

Most people will wait until the boat is docked. But if you head down a few minutes before, you’ll make a good head start.

11. Check the weather ahead of time

Group photo in front of the statue of liberty

The day before your visit, and even the morning of, be sure to check the weather for the day. Make sure to pack sunscreen, if necessary. And if the weather is cooler, prepare for it to be extra cold on the island.

I learned the hard way that what can seem like a brisk chill in Manhattan could really make you shiver on Liberty Island. Prepare for it to be extra windy and colder than you think.

Remember to have fun!

Tour Group

Now that you’ve made it to the end, you are more than ready to make your way to the Statue of Liberty. If it’s your first time (or even your 10th time), hopefully these tips help make the experience a little smoother.

But of course you should always remember the most important advice — to have fun! This might be the only time you see the statue up close and you should have good memories.

Want help choosing when to visit? Check out our post on the best time to visit the Statue of Liberty and decide for yourself what works best.