When you’re thinking about what to do in New York City – a completely overwhelming prospect, I know – this is one you don’t want to miss. I’m not sure why we waited so long, except for perhaps I was hesitant about bringing smaller kids.
To be fair, I do think this adventure is best for families with slightly older children – my reasons for that are below – but I am so glad we made the time for this before we move.
We had a half day. That’s all. Post-soccer I just had that urge.
You know the one where you just want to go somewhere new? Does anyone else get that feeling?
I wanted to go on an adventure.
The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island had been on my NYC bucket list for a while. I did them both as a kid, but I wanted to go again and I wanted my kids to experience them before we leave New York.
After some quick sidelines research while we cheered on our little mini-kickers, we determined that Yes! We could get same day tickets to Liberty Island.
Note: If you want to go up in the pedestal or crown you cannot do this spur of the moment. Book at least a couple months in advance.
After we removed cleats and quickly fed our twins, we drove to New Jersey.
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Liberty State Park
So I’m kind of given away the best part right here at the start, but Liberty State Park was such a wonderful surprise. I thought of it as a gateway to the Statue of Liberty and it is, but it is more.
The Empty Sky 9/11 Memorial is one of the most beautiful tributes I have seen to those September events.
And then there is the view.
Hands down this is the best view of Manhattan. I love the view from the Brooklyn Bridge Park and from Governor’s Island and from the Staten Island Ferry (I recommend doing this one at sunset), but this one is the best.
Manhattan is close to this part of New Jersey. You have a clear view of Battery Park, the One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. In my opinion, this view is unparalleled by all of the other awesome views.
Liberty State Park Website
Good things to know about liberty state park
*There is a paid parking lot with ample spots.
*Allow about an extra half hour before you get in line for the ferry to wander around the park and enjoy the view. We brought binoculars for the kids and this kept them occupied while I took a million photos of the skyline.
*The state park is across the street from the Liberty Science Center which is also worth a visit.
Ferry Ride with Kids
You can catch the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island from two places – Battery Park in Manhattan and Liberty State Park in New Jersey. I have done both and they are comparable experiences.
It is one of the quickest ferry rides I have taken. I think you honestly spend more time waiting for it to load and unload than you do actually riding the ferry.
The ferry is one price to take you to both Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
Good things to know about the Ferry to Liberty Island
*There are bathrooms on the bottom deck and food for sale on the main deck.
*You will need to go through airport style security to get on board.
*Get in line early to get through security and on the ferry in time to get a seat.
Ellis Island with Kids
I am a history geek so this is one of the coolest places in the world to me. I love how the history of immigration comes alive in my mind when I’m here. Great care and attention to detail was taken in creating the various exhibits and there is so much to discover and learn.
My affection for this place established, I should need to say that Ellis Island is not overly little kid friendly.
It is primarily a read things museum, rather than a do things museum – that’s at least how my kids describe them. It is also a little harder to navigate with a stroller than some places we have visited.
The scavenger hunt and the audio tours do help, but these are best for no younger than 5 and probably best for 8 and up. My 6 year olds enjoyed listening to the telephone style audio recordings throughout the museum, answering the questions on the Junior Ranger form and the exhibit on what the immigrants brought with them the most.
My six year olds enjoyed Ellis Island and learned a few things about our history, but they were definitely way more excited about the Statue of Liberty.
Ellis Island Website
Good things to know about Ellis island
*You can check out a scavenger hunt style sheet for Junior Rangers at the information desk. They will give you a Junior Ranger pin on badge when you return the page.
*You can also check out an audio tour for FREE.
*There are bathrooms throughout the museum and a cafe with above average food on the main level.
Statue of Liberty
It is hard to describe how impressive the Statue of Liberty is in person. I walked around the island like a total dork saying “She’s just so cool!” over and over again to my husband.
She is just so cool.
I know everyone has seen photos of the Statue of Liberty a million times, but I really think seeing it up close and in person is worth the effort.
Statue of Liberty Website
Good things to know about the statue of liberty
*It is a longer wait for tickets to go in the base or the crown, but you can get a pass the day of to visit the island and even that is worth the trip.
*There are bathrooms by the gift shop.
*The audio tour for kids is a must! My kids loved it and it got them SO excited about the island and Lady Liberty beyond anything I could have accomplished on my own.
In total, this adventure takes around 4 hours. We had tickets on the one o’clock ferry and we got back around 4:30 to our car. I did feel a little rushed on Ellis Island but otherwise this amount of time was decent.
I would recommend doing this tour with ages 5 and up. It is not unfriendly to littler kids but history is a hard thing to grasp and most of the content would simply go over the heads of younger children. Even at 6 my kids were a little young to fully appreciate this and I would love to do it again with them when they are in later elementary school.
Overall, this is one of those must-do New York City experiences. It is full of the history and strength and beauty that makes this city and our country what they are today.
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