March 29, 2022
So you want to know more about visiting the Statue of Liberty? Sure, there’s a lot of general information online, but it’s impossible to really know what it’s like until you see for yourself. That being said, this guide comes pretty close.
We’ll walk step by step through the experience from beginning to end so you can be fully prepared for your next trip.
If you’re coming from New York, the first place you have to go is Battery Park. This is the southernmost point of Manhattan and is accessible by foot, by subway and also by car (but you do have to find your own parking).
Inside Battery Park is Castle Clinton, which holds the ticketing office for the Statue of Liberty. I always recommend having your tickets emailed to save time, but if you have to purchase tickets or pick them up at will-call, go directly inside Castle Clinton. Depending on the time, the lines might be very long, so try to get there as early as possible.
With your tickets in hand, you’ll head to the security/ferry line. Something most people don’t realize is that there are actually two lines — a reserve line and a flex line. The reserve line is for those who have purchased tickets with a reserved entry time. You can’t enter the line before this time, but can go anytime after. Flex is flexible — meaning those tickets have most likely been purchased the day of and guests can enter the line at any time.
Again, depending on the time of day/year, the Flex line could be normal … or it could wrap around Battery Park and result in a 3-4 hour wait. The reserve line always tends to be shorter, and should never last more than an hour.
The line will lead you to the security tent before boarding the ferry. It’s a lot like the airport — a little confusing and chaotic. But if you’re prepared it should be a breeze. Just have patience. Start to remove any belts, jewelry, laptops, etc. beforehand so that you’re ready when it’s your turn. Not waiting until the last second will make the whole process go faster.
When you’re through, you’ll head back outside and on to one of the awaiting ferries. If it’s the afternoon, you might have to wait for a ferry to return and unload before boarding. The schedule is available online, so you’ll always know when the next departure time is. (However, keep in mind, they often run 5-10 minutes behind schedule during the busy season.)
After it departs, the ferry only takes about ten minutes to get to Liberty Island. If you’re nervous about the ride, I recommend trying to grab a seat somewhere outside. The fresh air seems to help with that feeling of being sick.
Luckily, the ride tends to be pretty smooth. Very rarely is the water so choppy that it causes turbulence.
Each ferry is different, but they’ll either have two or three levels — at least one outside and at least one inside. It’s up to you where you want to stand/sit, but if you want a prime viewing spot for a picture of the statue, head to the side of the boat that’s facing Manhattan. Once it turns to head to Liberty Island, you’ll have the perfect view.
As you get closer to Liberty Island, you might notice people starting to head downstairs to wait by the exit. My recommendation is that, after you get that picture of the statue, go and stand by the exit in order to get ahead of some of those crowds.
At this point, you might notice a few tour groups doing the same thing. Tour guides always have the best tips and advice for how to be efficient and manage crowd levels. They’ll use every minute of downtime (like waiting in line) to share stories and information, so not a single second is wasted.
Once you arrive at Liberty Island, there’s typically a mad dash to be the first off the boat. Not knowing exactly where to go first, at least half the people make an immediate right turn to walk to the front of the statue and take pictures.
Others will head directly for the museum, which you can see straight ahead from the ferry dock.
If you have pedestal or crown tickets, the ideal thing to do would be to head directly to the second security tent and start making your way inside. As with everything else, the longer you wait the more crowded it will become as it gets later in the day.
Once you’ve gone through, then you can take the time to take pictures and see the museum. Or you can grab something to eat at the cafe and look through some souvenirs at one of the gift shops.
Access to the pedestal and the crown is only permitted with the appropriate ticket. There’s a limited number of people allowed up to the pedestal each day (and even fewer to the crown) so it’s recommended to purchase these tickets in advance.
Right from the boat, you’ll walk all the way across the island, directly below the back of Lady Liberty. You’ll see another security area and lockers. These lockers are meant for any backpacks, weapons, strollers, laptops, food or drink that you may have — you won’t be able to bring them inside. Each locker can be rented for up to two hours and requires a 25 cent deposit. So it’s best to bring some quarters with you because they only take exact change.
Now that you’ve figured out the lockers, you’ll walk into the pedestal and through a second security checkpoint. This one is a bit more strict (hence the lockers) so there might be a chance that something you have is not allowed in. It’s a good idea to check the website beforehand.
If you’re going to the crown, there’s even more restrictions. You can only bring a camera, water, phone and any necessary medication with you.
After you get through security, the next step is to climb. It’s 192 steps up to the top of the pedestal, and an additional 162 from the pedestal to the crown. The stairs to the pedestal are quite roomy, and there’s no rush, so you can certainly feel free to take your time. As you approach the top you’ll see a small platform and two exits to the outdoor balcony. It really doesn’t matter where you go, since it wraps all the way around.
Outside, you’ll notice it always feels cramped due to the limited space. So it’s best to keep things moving. The view is beautiful — you can see Manhattan, Brooklyn, New Jersey, the Brooklyn Biridge, the Freedom Tower, and so much more! It’s a great spot for pictures.
If you have crown tickets, you’ll be escorted by a National Parks ranger to the staircase. It’s very narrow and winding, so it can be a bit intimidating. The top is small and tight, so only 10 or so people can go up at a time. But it only takes a couple minutes to look around (the view from up there is pretty limited).
When you’re done with the crown and/or the pedestal, you’ll exit and retrieve any belongings that are in lockers. At this point, most people will now head to the museum. It’s completely free and included with your ticket.
Inside you’ll find all kinds of different exhibits, an immersive theater and the original torch of the statue. Outside you can walk the staircase up to the roof and enjoy the greenery and an amazing view of the Manhattan skyline.
For more information on all the island’s activities, check out our guide to how long to spend at the Statue of Liberty.
Once you’re all wrapped up on Liberty Island, it’s time to head back to the dock and board the ferry again. On a busier day, the line can often form early…sometimes even going out past the dock and leading all the way back to the museum! So it’s a good idea to get in line at least 10 minutes before the boat is scheduled to depart.
Insider tip: The boat schedule is posted on every ferry and at the end of the dock. When you arrive at Liberty Island, take a picture so you know exactly when to get in line for the next boat, without having to look it up online.
You won’t go directly to Manhattan, but actually stop at Ellis Island first. It’s not a requirement to get off the boat, but admission to the Immigration Museum is free, so if you’re at all interested, check it out. After the passengers from Ellis Island board, the ferry will now head back to Manhattan and you’ll be let off in Battery Park. Right where you got on the ferry for the first time all those hours ago.
Ultimately, the best part about visiting the Statue of Liberty is the amazing stories you learn and the memories you make throughout the day. None of those can really be planned for. So, with all this knowledge in mind, just remember to have fun, take it all in and enjoy yourself.