Big news: Tickets to the Statue of Liberty are once again on sale today! For those who may not have heard, Lady Liberty has been closed since Hurricane Sandy hit on October 29, 2012. After much anticipation, the island is finally opening its doors to the public on the 4th of July - how fitting! Whether you want to see the city from her torch, explore the Ellis Island Museum, or just get a glimpse of the Statue without dipping into your travel budget, we've got all the tips and tricks!
Getting to Ellis Island and Liberty Island: Statue Cruises is the official tour operator to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. They offer ferries to the islands from Battery Park in Manhattan and New Jersey's Liberty State Park. While the ferry schedule hasn't been released yet, you can buy tickets here in one of three different tiers.
Tip: Don't be fooled by other operators, their prices will be jacked-up with fewer extras!
"Reserve with Crown" ticket is the priciest of options ($20 for adults, $12 for children), but offers the most access to the sites: You get to go up in the crown, priority entry in the ferry's boarding line (saving you wait time), access to the grounds of Liberty Island, an audio tour of Liberty and Ellis Islands, and limited access to Ellis Island, specifically, the Wall of Honor.
Check for updates: Though the Statue of Liberty National Park is planned to open in July, Ellis Island is closed indefinitely, with no plans for reopening this year. Before you go, make sure to check the status in case things have changed. Access to the island and it's museum is regularly free.
What to see: If you want to learn even more about the Statue of Liberty than what's already on your audio tour, hop on a free Park Ranger-guided tour (also available on Ellis Island). You'll learn about why and how the Statue was made, the Island's history, and hear about some of the Lady Liberty's many symbols.
On Ellis Island visit the Third Floor which houses the Dormitory Galleries; they detail how certain emigrants traveled to America and about their new lives here. According to the island's website, "Although most immigrants processed at Ellis Island stayed between three and five hours, about 20 percent stayed overnight in dormitory rooms until their cases could be cleared." Also on the Third Floor: Library Hall displays portraits of immigrants from Central Europe along with excerpts from their oral histories.
Participate in a free genealogy workshop at the museum: It provides instruction about how to gather, interpret, and use historical data to trace family histories.
Take a free tour of the Ferry Building, which chronicles the story of the United States Public Health Service. Keep in mind that you have to sign up for the program beforehand as spaced is limited. Tours are offered Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and some weekends at 11:30am and 2:30pm.
On a dime: You can bring food on to Ellis and Liberty Islands. So, if you're looking to avoid the lines at concessions (and the overpriced fare), just pack a picnic and enjoy it outside, weather permitting, of course.
If you want to get close to Liberty Island and Ellis Island without spending a cent, just hop on the free Staten Island Ferry from Whitehall Terminal. The boats leave every half hour (sometimes more frequently) and gets about as close as you can get to the national landmarks without actually visiting. Get your camera ready because you won't want to miss any of the prime photo ops of Lady Liberty and NYC's skyline!
You can also purchase a CityPASS for New York which gives you speedy access (at a discounted group price) to popular tourist spots like the two islands, The Empire State Building, and more. Keep in mind, though, CityPASS doesn't include crown access, so you'll have to pay extra for that.
Did we miss any tricks or tips? Share your own with us below!