The Statue of Liberty in Ellis Island, New York
The Statue of Liberty in Ellis Island, New York

The Best of NYC: Visiting the Statue of Liberty

Spend the day visiting the Statue of Liberty before cruising away from the Big Apple.

Published on February 4, 2021

Cruising from New York is a unique experience. With amazing sights minutes away from the cruise port, you can kick off your adventure by taking in all that the Big Apple has to offer. If you've never visited Lady Liberty before, now's your chance — hop on a ferry and in just one hour, you can be wandering around Liberty Island and climbing to the top of the Statue of Liberty to take in the views of the Manhattan skyline. So what are you waiting for?


The Statue of Liberty has been a symbol of freedom for decades for immigrants arriving in New York City. While you visit, you can learn more about the history of the area and enjoy a lovely day exploring Liberty Island before you get onboard your cruise adventure. Spend the day climbing to the top of the Statue of Liberty and visiting the museum.


A Gift From the French

First proposed in 1865 by Frenchman Edouard de Labouyle, the Statue of Liberty wasn't built until several years later. It took a long time for the building process to even begin, due to financial issues in both France and America, but eventually they were able to fund the project, and Lady Liberty was underway. Completed in April 1885 by sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the statue was a gift from the French to the Americans to celebrate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. Building it was no easy feat, but after enlisting the help of Alexandre Gustav Eiffel, the designer of the Eiffel tower, the massive copper Statue of Liberty was completed.


The Significance of Lady Liberty

Over the years, the Statue of Liberty has taken on many meanings. The statue was originally meant to be a symbol of friendship between France and the U.S. Since then, it's become a symbol of freedom to anyone who has thought of immigrating to the United States, and even a symbol of the country itself. It's continues to stand for hope, opportunity and a new beginning.


The Construction Process

Building the Statue of Liberty took many years of planning and collaboration. As the statue was being built in France, the Americans worked on constructing the pedestal. The whole project cost the French about $250,000 at the time, which would be equivalent to more than $5.5 million dollars today.

Once the money was available, the structure was built by Eiffel. He designed both the massive iron pylon and the skeletal framework which allowed for the massive statue to be disassembled and reassembled later on.

Meanwhile, in America, the granite pedestal was designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt and was completed in 1886. Fun fact: The Statue of Liberty wasn't always the green copper color we see today. The color is due to the oxidation of the building materials.

Arriving in the United States

Imagine transporting something the size of the Statue of Liberty from France to America in the 1800s.

Aside from the pedestal, the statue was built completely in France. But once it was completed, the copper and iron structure had to be disassembled into about 350 pieces. Those pieces were than packed in over 200 crates so that they could be shipped across the Atlantic Ocean. The statue weighed over 450,000 pounds and was not easy to transport — it took several months to move it across the sea. It finally arrived in New York City on June 17, 1885.

The History of the Park

Liberty Island has been around for centuries. It was once referred to as part of the Oyster Islands, inhabited by Native Americans, and the island has passed through the hands of many people. In the 1600s, it was colonized by the Dutch and renamed Love Island, but when the Dutch colonist Isaac Bedloe died, the island was renamed Bedloe's Island. Many years later, his widow sold the island to New York merchants in an attempt to avoid bankruptcy.

In the 1700s, it acted as a quarantine station and checkpoint for ships entering New York. In 1746, it became the vacation home to Archibald Kennedy before becoming the home of a hospital in the late 1750s, then an asylum for colonists who remained loyal to Great Britain during the Revolutionary War. After the war ended, it became a military post, and a fort called Fort Wood was built to protect New York Harbor during the War of 1812.

In 1834, an agreement between New York and New Jersey was created to discuss ownership of the island. New York State kept ownership of the actual island while the state of New Jersey is responsible for maintaining the water surrounding it.

In 1871, a Frenchman, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, visited the US and decided that Bedloe's Island was the perfect spot for Lady Liberty to stand tall. Over the next few years, permission was granted by President Ulysses S. Grant for the construction of the statue and construction on the pedestal took place between 1881 and 1884. The following year, when the statue arrived, she was placed into storage until the granite pedestal was completed. It took nearly another year, but finally in 1886, everything was completed and reassembled. On Oct. 28, the dedication of the Statue of Liberty took place to the cheers of over a million people.

The Statue of Liberty was declared a national monument by President Calvin Coolidge in 1924. The War Department gave up control of the land in 1937 and it was renamed Liberty Island in 1956.

Visiting Liberty Island

There are tons of things to do on Liberty Island and it's a great place to enjoy a day out before your cruise from New York.

From visiting the crown to learning about the history of the Statue of Liberty from a park ranger during a guided tour to exploring the pedestal and the museum, there's plenty to explore on Liberty Island. You can also enjoy a self-guided audio tour or hop on a ferry to Ellis Island, which acted as the entry point for over 12 million immigrants between 1892 and 1954.

Climb 20 stories to see the view from the crown and admire the skyline of lower Manhattan from afar. If heights aren't your thing, enjoy the panoramic views from the stone pedestal, which is about half the height of the entire landmark. If you want to learn more, free guided tours are offered by park rangers throughout the day. You'll learn about how and why the statue was made, the people who had a hand in making it, the history of Liberty Island, the symbolism of Lady Liberty and the 1980s Restoration Project.

The Museum

The Statue of Liberty Museum is a fairly recent addition to Liberty Island — it opened its doors on May 16, 2019. A visit to the museum is included in the cost of your ferry ticket, and it's also one of the best ways to visit the Statue of Liberty. The museum was built using sustainable materials and even features a green roof.

Inside the building, you can visit the Immersive Theater and enjoy a short video that shares the rich history of the Statue of Liberty and the island it stands on. Watch in awe as a virtual fly-through takes you through the process of building the Iron Lady.

Afterward, visit the Engagement Gallery, where you can learn how Frederic Auguste Bartholdi built the statue and learn more about the history through fascinating artifacts. Then move onto the Inspiration Gallery, which encourages guests to document their own experiences on the island.

It all ends with a close-up of the Statue of Liberty's original torch, which was replaced in 1986. Standing close to this part of the statue is a truly special experience. The restoration team decided it was best to create a new torch for the statue that is better suited for today, but you can now see the original, which has been placed in a window so it stands next to the Statue of Liberty when you look at it from inside of the museum.

If you have an extra day in New York City before you hop on your cruise, consider finding out the best way to visit the Statue of Liberty and exploring all that it and Liberty Island have to offer.


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