Visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island is one most travellers list when they visit New York City. In the summer and at other peak travel times this can mean long waits for the ferry, and big queues on the islands themselves but we worked out a few tips for visiting the Statute of Liberty and Ellis Island that can save yourself some time and help you enjoy your visit more.
So here are our 8 Tips for visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island with kids.
Head out early, try and be on the first or second ferry.
Heading out to see the Statute of Liberty and Ellis Island early is a brilliant way to make the most of your jet lag. I’ve written a post about all the things you can do to make the most of your jet lag in New York but in short, if you’re awake early why not take advantage of the morning and skip the queues.
Use CityPass if you’re there for a few days as it’s part of this ticket.
When we booked our CityPasses, Matt and I had chatted about whether to do the trip out to the Islands to see the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island and Ellis Island or to simply do the Cruise around Manhattan as that is your other either/or option on the pass. Matt was minded to simply do the boat tour but the kids wanted to actually go and stand on Liberty Island with the statue so that’s what we did.
We got down to Battery Park where you get the ferry out to Liberty Island and Ellis Island and as it was early we made our way straight through security and onto the second boat. We had left Manhattan behind by 8.45am.
First boat departs at 8:30am from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day and 9:30am the rest of the year. Please check daily ferry schedule at statuecruises.com. Depart before 2pm to have enough time to visit both islands.
Why not read our review of CityPass and whether it’s worth buying for you.
It’s always cold on the river, take more clothes than you think you’ll need.
It was a beautiful sunny April morning but it’s always blustery out on the river so make sure you take hats and coats.
Spend time looking forward and back.
The journey out to Liberty Island the first point of call is only about 15 minutes but you also get brilliant views both ways. Ahead of you is the Statute itself and behind you the Manhattan skyline including the new(ish) One World Trade Centre.
Collect your free audio tour at Statute of Liberty
As you leave the ferry you’re told where to collect your free audio tours from and you’re reminded that the ferry leaves every 15 minutes to head onto Ellis Island and then back to Manhattan. You can also take a ferry that departs from and to Liberty State Park in New Jersey too.
The audio tour has a kids version too, and ours were fascinated by the descriptions of how the Statue of Liberty was made, moved from France and what colour it originally was too. I started off listening to the adults audio but I was interrupted every few minutes by excitable kids who wanted to tell me what they had learnt so I decided to simply turn it off and learn from them instead.
The island at this time of day was really quiet and it was easy to get pictures without other people in shot but I can imagine that later in the day this isn’t possible.
We had a leisurely stroll round a bright but cold Liberty Island before grabbing a coffee and heading onto the ferry to Ellis Island.
6. Take a picnic or snacks
There is loads of space to have a picnic lunch on Liberty Island. The food on the Island isn’t particularly good so why not bring your own from home or the fab delis in Manhattan.
7. Definitely make time for Ellis Island with Kids
We did debate at this stage not actually getting off the ferry at Ellis Island (which is always an option) but I am so glad we did. Again our experience was enhanced by the fact that it was by this time still only 11am and we were ahead of the crowds. I’d read reviews of full ferries and fraught lines into the hall but we experienced none of that as you can see from the photos.
8. Listen to the kids audio tour with them at Ellis Island
The kids audio tour they did around Ellis Island Immigration hall was voted by all 4 of them the best audio tour they did all trip.
You collect the free audio tour at Ellis Island on your way into the large immigration hall. You go from room to room at your own pace, but the audio narrated by Ella (an immigrant) and she talks to the kids like they are an immigrant too As they move through the different step with her they were fascinated by the process. The photos are incredibly powerful too, so be prepared for questions. At the end of the audio tour all 4 sat down on the floor and pondered what they had just heard. One of them cried at the injustice. We talked about that tour a lot and so glad we made time for the experience. We didn’t do much more of the museum and without the kids we probably would have done, but we knew it was time to leave on a high.
Did our Tips for Visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island work?
As we arrived back into Manhattan at about 12.30/1pm the signs near the queues to get onto the boat were advising visitors that it would likely take 2 hours to get from the back of the queue onto the ferry. My nephew turned to me at this point and thanked me for making them leave the apartment and head down to Battery Park early doors as he wouldn’t have wanted to stand in queues like that. To be honest I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have done the tour if we had arrived midday and seen queues like that and as the trip out to Liberty Island and Ellis Island was a highlight of the trip and I’m so glad we made the time to do it properly.
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Tips for Visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Karen Beddow founded Mini Travellers in 2014 while doing what she loves most...going on holiday!
Mini Travellers is for parents looking for holiday ideas, destination reviews, days out and things to do with the kids. We also have family travel tips, activity ideas and all other things family holiday related. Take a look at some of our latest reviews for holidays and day trips in the UK.