by Linda (minnemom) of Travels with Children
We live in the rural Midwest, where wide open spaces are plentiful and a traffic mess consists of getting stuck behind a tractor on a gravel road. We’ve mastered driving in Minneapolis. We can manage Chicago if we have a very specific plan. But driving in New York City? No way. Not gonna do it.
Still, when we visited Philadelphia and found ourselves with an extra day in our itinerary, the Statue of Liberty was tops on our list. It’s big, it’s famous, it’s historic, the kids would love it.
But then we remembered: It’s in New York City.
We thought about driving to New York. For about two seconds.
And we almost gave up.
But then, in looking at the Statue of Libery website again, we found a possibility: Park at Liberty State Park in New Jersey and take the ferry from there, rather than from the more famous and more popular option of New York’s Battery Park.
We decided to give it a try.
We had a few things going in our favor. We would be visiting on the day after Christmas, which happened to be a Friday, and we were hoping that everyone who possibly could take the day off would have done exactly that, easing the traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike. We also hoped that people who had spent the previous day at family Christmas gatherings would just want to sleep in and not go sight-seeing until later in the day.
And do you know what? We were right.
We left our hotel near Valley Forge and headed for New Jersey. Traffic was a breeze the entire way, a feat that we couldn’t really believe. How could New Jersey traffic be lighter than Minneapolis? It didn’t seem possible. We were to Liberty State Park in less than 90 minutes.
We followed the National Park Service’s driving directions, “Take the New Jersey Turnpike to Exit 14B,” which really seemed too simple to work, but that’s really all there is to it. An out-of-state driver doesn’t even need to consult a map a directions like that.
After parking in the lot, we walked up to the ticket counter, purchased our tickets, and boarded the first ferry of the day. We were right about people sleeping in; there were only about a dozen people on our ferry, and when we got to Ellis Island, we had the entire grand hall to ourselves for a while.
After visiting Ellis Island, we reboarded the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty. Although we had received monument passes with our tickets, we decided to forego the long line to go inside the pedestal, and we took a nice walk around the Statue of Liberty instead.
When the ferry once again deposited us at Liberty State Park, we got into our car and drove off to the west, with a car full of kids who couldn’t believe they’d really seen the Statue of Liberty. It was a pretty big deal for our little guys, and we managed it without setting foot in New York City.
Visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island from the New Jersey side worked out brilliantly. Even in busier times of the year, there tends to be less waiting when boarding the ferry from New Jersey. Parking issues were non-existent, and parking is reasonably priced. Driving in Manhattan is eliminated. For people who want to visit the Statue of Liberty without going to New York City, leaving from Liberty State Park in New Jersey is an excellent choice.