This post was originally published on A Globe Well Travelled in 2018. The content has been revised and updated with fresh information.
The first time I visited New York City back in 2011, I saw the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry.
Even though I didn’t get up close to Lady Liberty, it was great to sail past this NYC icon and snap a few photos along the way.
I didn’t consider actually visiting Liberty Island until many years later. After living in NYC for over a year, my parents came to visit and they asked if I’d be interested in joining them on a trip out to the statue.
To be honest, I was a little skeptical about how good the experience would be as I generally try to avoid large crowds of tourists. Still, we lined up one morning to collect our tickets, go through the security check, and board the boat.
It took seemingly forever to get through the boarding process, but as we departed Manhattan and approached Liberty Island, we were treated to some awesome views of the statue.
We disembarked and spent the next 1-2 hours exploring the island, including walking up the pedestal and climbing all the way up to the crown. I was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t feel crowded there at all. Our time on the island was lovely and it made up for the unpleasant experience of getting there.
There are a handful of options for seeing the Statue of Liberty while you’re in New York City. If you’re wondering how you should go about visiting this iconic attraction, here’s how to see the Statue of Liberty from Manhattan!
1. Take the Staten Island Ferry
If you want to see the Statue of Liberty for free, this is the best way to do it. This public ferry will take you to the borough of Staten Island, passing by the Statue of Liberty along the way.
To get there, head to the Staten Island Ferry terminal next to Battery Park. The ferry departs approximately every half hour and can get very busy, but don’t be deterred by the masses of crowds around the entrance – the ferry is huge so there’ll be plenty of room for everyone to board.
If you want to get the best view, stand near to the front of the queue, and when the gates open head straight for the right-hand side of the boat to secure a viewing spot along the railing. After you’ve passed the statue, you can move to the back of the boat for some fabulous views of the Manhattan skyline.
2. Do a harbour cruise
A Manhattan skyline harbour cruise will take you around Liberty Island to get a good look at the statue from the water.
These boats often have cafes/bars on board and are more intimate than the public ferries, so it doesn’t feel as though you have to elbow people out of the way for a good view. Cruises last around an hour and thankfully don’t require the queueing and security checks required for ferry departures to Liberty Island.
If you’re short on time but still want to get up close to the statue (much closer than the Staten Island Ferry), then this is by far the best option. It’s best to book ahead and reserve your spot on a cruise, especially if you’ll be visiting in the summer.
3. Visit Liberty Island
If you’re absolutely dying to go up and touch Lady Liberty’s long green robe, you can get tickets to visit Liberty Island with Statue Cruises (which is included in the New York City Explorer Pass). This is easily the most comprehensive way to experience the Statue of Liberty.
Tickets can be purchased on the day, but if you want crown access (where you climb up to the top of her head) you will need to book about 2-3 months in advance. *Please note: Crown Access is currently unavailable due to COVID but will become bookable again in the future.
Your tickets will also include the new Statue of Liberty Museum on Liberty Island and a visit to Ellis Island, so if you’re interested in making a full day of it, you can also learn all about the 12 million immigrants who were processed in the harbour on their way into America.
Visiting Liberty Island is the most time-consuming option as you will have to queue for security and boarding the ferry (which departs every 30-45 minutes). The lines can apparently get super lengthy in peak season. I’d advise you to put aside at least half a day for this excursion.
There are a few cafes and a cafeteria on the island, but as you might expect, the food is rather bland and overpriced. Bring your own snacks if you prefer not to waste your money on shitty tourist food.
Price: Ticket with pedestal access $24
4. Splash out on a helicopter tour
I haven’t tried this option, but I’ve seen some photos on Instagram of people who have done it, and it looks totally amazing! A helicopter tour includes a flyover of the Statue of Liberty, so if you have the moolah to splash out on this experience, it’s probably worth the cost. Check out this guide by New York Weekend Breaks for more New York City helicopter tours.