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New York has a bazillion attractions, but arguably none as famous as the iconic Statue of Liberty. Standing nearly 100 metres tall, ol’ Lady Liberty has presided over New York Harbour for over 125 years. Romanticised in many a song and film, she became the symbol of freedom for millions of immigrants arriving in New York from Europe, Africa and all around the world. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island have also been attracting tourists for almost as long, and continues to do so today.
Ferries to Liberty Island depart regularly from Battery Park in Lower Manhattan, as well as Liberty State Park in New Jersey. It’s a short cruise out to the island, and you’re treated with wonderful views back over the New York skyline. Once you’re on the island itself, you’re free to roam around as you please. Included in your ticket is an audio tour which retells her surprisingly long and interesting history. But the best news of all is that after being closed for many years, the statue has reopened and visitors can now climb all the way to her crown! It’s a fairly strenuous climb too, 377 stairs straight up the spiral staircase.
After Liberty Island, the ferries return to New York and New Jersey via Ellis Island where you have the option to disembark for a poke around. The island was the processing centre for the millions and millions of immigrants who arrived in New York by ships from around the world. The original customs buildings have been preserved and turned into a museum where you can learn the fascinating history of many notable immigrants. Many New York and US citizens also travel here to trace their family names back through the meticulously well kept record books. Sadly much of the facility has been abandoned and fallen into disrepair, however special ‘Hard Hat Tours’ are available which enable you to visit many buildings that have been closed to the public for decades, including the notorious Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital where you’ll visit the contagious disease wards, kitchen, mortuary and the autopsy room!
The best way to get around New York’s attractions is on the hop on/hop off bus which has passes including the ferries to Liberty and Ellis Islands. Your agent will help you work out the best option to suit you. The Crown Climb and Hard Hat Tour sell out months in advance, so be sure to book these ahead of time so you don’t miss out. Finally, if you want to avoid the crowds altogether, just jump on the Staten Island ferry which cruises right past Liberty Island affording wonderful, crowd free views. And best of all, this ferry is free!
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