Sunday, February 22, 2009

Statue of Liberty: Get the full experience

~ This is an extended review of an earlier one I posted to the Trip Adviser web site on April 28, 2008.

Five weeks into my New York stay, I finally got around to visiting the Statue of Liberty. It wasn’t as if I didn’t want to see it – up close and personal, like. But one of the benefits of staying in one location for an extended period of time, is the ability to eliminate the need to rush. It is a luxury few people seem to give themselves when they travel, and I had decided to give myself that very luxury during my New York City visit.

So after a couple of false starts (one due to rain, and the other due to the long lines of people queuing up to board the boats ferrying visitors out to Liberty Island and Ellis Island), I made an early start from my base at the Greenpoint, Brooklyn YMCA, and joined the relatively short queue at the foot of Manhattan.

Unfortunately, I and about 80% of the other visitors who visit the Statue of Liberty were not able to enter the base of the monument where an exhibition area is located. Nor were we able to go up to the Observatory, some 10 floors above ground level, to take in the views. Heck, we couldn’t even get to the lower promenade onto the remains of Fort Wood, upon which the Statue Of Liberty stands. Oh, and don’t even think about climbing to the very top of the Statue. Nobody gets to do that anymore.

Apart from the obvious security issues, I understand it’s because they just can’t accommodate the huge numbers of people who visit the monument each year. However, they can find room for some of the four million visitors, so the trick is to find out how you can become one of those select few.

According to the visitors guide, which you can pick up from the information kiosks on the island, you must have something called a “time pass” to enter the monument (it’s amazing what you can find out once it’s too late to do anything about it).

Quoting from the brochure: “Time passes include a ranger-led program, viewing the statue’s interior and other public areas, and visiting the Statue of Liberty exhibit and original torch.”

They then go on to write: “You can obtain time passes with the advance purchase of ferry tickets (at) 1-866-STATUE4 or online at Statue Reservations. A limited number of time passes are available each day at no charge to walkins at the ferry ticket offices.”

If you are lucky enough to secure one of these ‘time passes’, you have now scored yourself a
‘reservation’. A reservation means that you don’t have to queue up with the hundreds of other tickets holders who have to wait for up to 90 minutes or more, to board a ferry to Liberty Island. There is a separate (much shorter) line for holders of these reservations.

Now that you know – plan your visit to the Statue Of Liberty accordingly.

For those visitors who don’t get a time pass, a trip out to the Statue Of Liberty is still one of the ‘must see’ locations on any New York stop. Exhibit panels around the island have orientation and historical information on the Statue Of Liberty. National Park Rangers conduct guided tours throughout the day, and you can also make use of the self-guided audio tours that are available.

Apart from all that, it is just such a monumental structure to begin with, that you really must see it up close to appreciate the scale and size of the thing. And to think, initially the powers that be didn’t want the statue, even though it was being given to the United States as a gift.

If you have time, try and watch the short History Channel film about the making of the Statue which is screened continuously at the monument. Or do your own research before you go, by visiting the official Statue of Liberty web site here, where you will get the latest, up-to-date information.

By the way, Ellis Island is considered to be part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument, and your ticket gives you the opportunity to visit that location as well, although if you are pressed for time, you could simply stay on the ferry and return to Manhattan.

I will write about Ellis Island in a forthcoming entry.

Oh, and finally, my ticket to the Statue of Liberty National Monument came as part of the price I paid for a New York Pass - which I will also write about soon. In the meantime, just click on the image below to check out the New York Pass for yourself.

Your passport to NYC

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