By John Roberts
I'll admit it.
Until I boarded the ferry Saturday morning, I had long been under the notion that the Statue of Liberty sat on Ellis Island.
Lady Liberty's home is on the appropriately named Liberty Island, a small patch of land sitting in the Hudson River a stone's throw from Ellis Island, home to the famed former immigration processing center.
I finally made it to see both. The trip to the islands is made by ferry boat departing from either Liberty State Park in New Jersey or Battery Park in New York. We got on the Miss Liberty ferry at Battery Park after a Subway ride from Penn Station to the South Ferry station.
Tickets cost $18 per person, and you will go through "airport type" security (though shoes can stay on) before boarding the ferry. Make sure you have ID with you.
The ticket office opens around 8:15 a.m. and boarding begins around 9 a.m. for the first ferry over. The lines get very long, so if you want to be able to grab a seat for the ride over up top with the best views, you'll want to get in the queue a little after 8 a.m.
The top deck of the ferry allows a lot of standing passengers, too, so you might have your views obscured by people all hoisting their smartphones and cameras for shots of the NYC skyline and the Statue of Liberty. It seems like everyone was able to get plenty of pictures, though, while the boat made its way out. Boats come frequently to bring you back to Battery Park, and youâll find them less crowded as people depart the islands at their own pace after stopping off to see the statue or the Immigration Museum on Ellis Island.
Ferries make stops at Liberty Island (originally Bedloe's Island; it was renamed in 1956) and Ellis Island. The Statue of Liberty, which was completed and dedicated on the island in 1886, has an observation level at the top of its pedestal. Here, you can tour the museum and see the original torch on display. You also can pay an additional charge ($3) to walk the 354 steps up to gain access to the inside of her crown. Access is limited and by reservation (www.statuecruises.com).
The immigration station opened in 1892. The main brick, granite and limestone building on the island that is home to the museum has stood since 1900. Until the immigration station closed in 1954, more than 12 million people were processed on the island for entrance into the United States.
In the museum, you can visit a reference center and check online for ancestors who came to America through Ellis Island.
Make sure you go watch the short film and hear the ranger talk in the museum's theater before you tour the facility. This will give you a good background of the history of exactly what went on here and the often harsh conditions the immigrants went through to get to the United States. Often, the journey, while difficult, was much better than the life they were due to face had they remained in their homelands.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out the video below for more highlights of our visit.