Monday, April 27, 2015

Exploring National Parks in New York City: Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island #travel

Statue of Liberty National Monument, Liberty Island, New York 

 As if we are eager, impatient immigrants waiting to stake our claim in the new world of the United States of America, we cram onto the Hornblower Ferry with seemingly billions of other people, to head over on the short ride to the Statue of Liberty.

We’re exploring the National Park service in a different kind of way this time. Less awe and wonder from spanning wilderness in the high-country in, say, the California Sierras. Rather, we’re hitting the Urban National Parks.  Finding awe and wonder in the monumental expressions of American Freedom from a 151 foot gal on a pedestal called the Statue of Liberty and her vital side-kick, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, in the great metropolis of New York City.

Entrance to Statue of Liberty. Museum, Pedestal and Crown. Photo credit: AHixon

The Statue of Liberty:
Alighting onto Liberty Island after the peculiar experience of the ferry listing so far to one side with everyone rushing to take photos and disembark, I find myself saying to my wide-eyed son and little sister -- if we have to swim, stay with the boat -- we finally find American Freedom Soil under our feet and are greeted by a warm National Park Service host in uniform and the spectacular, enormous, copper, female hostess, Lady Liberty, gifted from France in 1886.

How we might walk-up the inside of Lady Liberty's head. From the Museum.
After proceeding through another security line -- where they confiscate my dangerous Almonds -- we’re allowed into the bottom of the pedestal and are surprised by a informative museum inside the structure explaining how the statue was conceived, shipped, constructed and dedicated ultimately as a symbol of freedom and democracy.

From the Pedestal, we look up at the 7 rays of the 7 seas and continents.

Winding through the museum and then, with special tickets, up into the pedestal, we’re able to gaze up, directly into the folds of her beautiful tunic, as if a little field-mice scurrying at her feet. The 7 rays of her crown stretch out above us, pointing to the seven seas and continents of the world, inviting us to be a part of her magnanimous spirit.



Ellis Island:
Though we really could have hung out with the statue all day -- Lady Liberty is that magnetic -- it’s time to hop back on the less-cattle-car-crushing ferry ride over to Ellis Island. Where it all started for many of our ancestors.

Moving through the Ellis Island Museum, we learn about “X” chalk marks during the health screening for immigrants -- X marks the spot -- on immigrants’ jackets essentially guaranteeing them a safe passage HOME back to where they came from because they’re not deemed healthy enough. We learn about their voyage over, packed sleeping conditions, the long lines for every sort of paperwork.

Ellis Island looking back towards the Freedom Tower in New York City.

But most movingly, we come away with our heads full of stories. How a woman can not leave the island without being “claimed” by a family member or husband. How a young girl with an “X” turned her coat inside out and fooled the authorities and made it into America. How a wall of immigrant faces spread out all over the United States, each with a particular destination and job in mind, to make the American Dream a reality.

It’s been said 40% of us can trace our roots back through Ellis Island. Can we step back and imagine that experience? It took unwavering spirit and an incredible sense of adventure.

A huge National Park morning. We walk away awed and grateful.

Jammed on the the ferry like immigrants. My kid and the Statue of Liberty.
-Annie, Outdoorsy Mama

For More Information:
Tour of Islands & Ferry Tickets: Statue of Liberty Tickets
*Highly recommend booking tickets ahead of time. We were able to go to the front of huge lines by simply getting tickets online for the pedestal. Crown tickets were sold out, so plan ahead.

**Families: This adventure is manageable with kids though be prepared for big crowds on the ferries. No food allowed in the Statue of Liberty - they have lockers to stash stuff. And there is airport-like security at the Battery Park ferry terminal and getting into the statue. 

Statue of Liberty Information: Statue of Liberty
Ellis Island Information: Ellis Island


Map from Battery Park to Liberty Island to Ellis Island:
Leave Battery Park in Manhattan (1) to Liberty Island (2) to Ellis Island (3) and back.


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