My First Visit to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Museum

Although I’ve been to New York City many times over the years, I had never been to the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island Museum until recently. Various reasons come to mind as to why I never went to either place before.  On my first visit to New York City I had the intention of going but just missed the last ferry there (this was well before the 911 tragedy so you could just walk up to the ferry terminal, pay, and get on a ferry if there was space). On subsequent visits to the city, either there wasn’t time to see the statue or there were no slots available for the pedestal or crown online when I tried to buy tickets.

When I was planning things to do for a racecation to Morristown, New Jersey where I was going to be running a half marathon in my 40th state, I was happy to find out I could take a ferry from Liberty State Park in New Jersey to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. I immediately booked our tickets. Even though tickets to the crown were sold out five months in advance, I was able to get tickets to the pedestal so I was grateful to at least get that.

IMG_0260

The day of our tour, it was hot and sticky.  We had tickets for 10:00 in the morning so we left our hotel room with the intention of getting at Liberty State Park between 30 minutes and one hour in advance, depending on traffic. When we got there, we had to stand in a long line to go through security screening so it was good we had allotted plenty of extra time.

Finally we boarded the boat and took the short ride to Ellis Island Museum. You have the option of staying on the boat and just going straight to the Statue of Liberty or spending some time at the museum before heading to the statue. We like museums so we got off and spent some time exploring all three floors.

IMG_0253

Ellis Island Museum is full of photos and stories from immigrants seeking a better life in America. There are artifacts including clothing, books, and other personal items many people took with them for the long journey from their home countries. You can walk through the steps the immigrants had to go through upon their arrival at Ellis Island. You can see the sleeping areas, rooms for health inspections, a room that looked like a court room, and others. Audio tours are also available in nine languages.

IMG_0257

As I said earlier, we ended up going through all three floors of the museum. We also had lunch at the cafe, which was over-priced but the food was pretty good at least. The day we were there it seemed like just about half the school kids in the area must have been there on a school field trip so it was crazy busy but maybe it’s always like that. We spent a couple of hours here before we went outside to wait for the ferry for the Statue of Liberty.

IMG_0256

When you see the Statue of Liberty from a distance it seems much smaller than it really is. Finally, we got off the ferry and walked around the base of the statue. If you can’t get tickets for the pedestal or crown, you can walk around the base. It’s beautiful to just walk around and admire the views. A word of warning, though if you don’t like crowds. The ferries are crowded, Ellis Island Museum is crowded, and walking around the base of the statue is crowded. The crowds thinned out in a few places around the pedestal but that’s it.

IMG_0258

The views of the Manhattan skyline and the water surrounding the statue were nice. We got a ton of photos from the pedestal. I’m sure the views are even better from the crown. Next time I’ll just have to get tickets at least six months in advance for the crown or figure out when the off-season is, if there is such a thing. I’m glad I finally got to visit Ellis Island Museum and the Statue of Liberty. It was a fun and history-filled day!

IMG_0289

There are many options for tickets through Statue Cruises but all include the ferry from either Battery Park in New York or Liberty State Park in New Jersey and all tours include access to Ellis Island Museum and an audio tour. Prices increase for crown, pedestal, or hard-hat areas. Book as far in advance as you can because spaces especially for the crown are limited and sell out months in advance.

More information can be found on the National Park Service page here.

Advertisements

Planning a Trip to San Diego? How to Choose Where to Go

According to this Wikipedia page, there are 85 neighborhoods and communities in San Diego.  That’s a lot to try to sort through if you’re planning a vacation to San Diego and don’t know where to start.  At least for me, it was a bit overwhelming at first.

The Basics

Most first-timers usually plan on going to the usual spots:  Downtown San Diego (Centre City), Old Town, Pacific Beach, Balboa Park, possibly La Jolla, Ocean Beach, and Mission Valley depending on how much time you have.  I’m certainly not saying to just go to these places.  They just seem to be the more common places for first-timers to San Diego.  Here’s a brief description of each of these areas.

Downtown San Diego 

This area includes 7 districts, the most popular ones with tourists are Gaslamp Quarter, Horton Plaza, and Little Italy.  The 16 1/2 blocks of Gaslamp Quarter mostly contain night clubs, shops, and restaurants.  94 historic buildings, built mostly around 1870, in Gaslamp Quarter put it on the National Register of Historic Places and make it San Diego Historic Landmark #127.  Many events and festivals are held here.  Horton Plaza is a small city park that is also a historical landmark, designated by the city of San Diego in 1971.  Little Italy is full of (not surprisingly) Italian restaurants, Italian shops, art galleries, and apartments. There are many events and festivals throughout the year in Little Italy.

dsc03865
US Grant Hotel behind fountain in Horton Plaza Park
dsc03872
Davis House, the oldest house in “New San Diego”

Old Town

Old Town is the oldest settled area in San Diego and is the site of the first European settlement in present-day California.  It contains Old Town San Diego State Historic Park and Presidio Park, both of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Old Town is also huge, with 230 acres of land.  There are many restaurants, shops, art galleries, and historic buildings and sites.  Old Town State Historic Park is free to tour the buildings which include 5 original adobes, San Diego’s first newspaper office, a schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, and many others.

img_20161118_142006141
Old Town

img_20161118_130720242_hdr

 

Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach runs from Mission Bay to La Jolla and has a very long boardwalk (3 miles) that goes along the beach into Mission Beach, ending at Mission Bay.  You’ll usually find PB pretty crowded with people shopping, rollerblading, cycling, and walking.  This area is also a popular spot for nightclubs and bars.  I found it interesting that Eddie Vedder, the musician most famous as the lead singer for Pearl Jam is originally from Pacific Beach.

 Ocean Beach

This is an interesting area in San Diego.  It is home to the longest concrete pier in the West, Ocean Beach Municipal Pier, coming in at 1,971 feet (why they chose that distance is beyond me).  You won’t find many chain stores here because the residents have led several protests of chain companies through the years.  You will find many bars and a thriving nightlife scene here however.  Fun fact:  Ocean Beach and Point Loma are home to a large population of feral parrots that are mostly active at sunrise and sunset.

Balboa Park

In 1835, 1,400 acres of land in San Diego were set aside for the public’s recreational purposes, making it one of the oldest places in the United States dedicated to public recreational usage.  Balboa Park has an incredibly detailed history, much of which you can read on the Wikipedia page here if you’re interested.  In my opinion, Balboa Park is beautiful and I enjoyed just walking around here taking in the scenery.  In addition to several museums, there are 10 gardens, multiple theaters, the San Diego Zoo, the Naval Medical Center San Diego, playgrounds, walking trails, and an enormous sports complex with a golf course, baseball and softball fields, tennis courts, swimming pool and more. You could spend weeks at Balboa Park and still not see and do everything, it’s that enormous and that complex.

img_20161121_142139134-animation

dsc03907
Balboa Park

La Jolla

This community in the northern part of San Diego is perhaps best known for its beautiful views and beaches.  Surrounded on three sides by ocean bluffs and beaches, people aren’t the only ones to have taken up residence in La Jolla.  Hundreds of seals have made Children’s Pool Beach and Seal Rock their home, making the area a popular tourist hangout.  La Jolla is an expensive resort area full of art museums, high-end shopping, and some of the most expensive homes in the country, with a median home price of close to $2 million.  The Torrey Pines Golf Course, Torrey Pines State Reserve with some great hiking, and the famous Black’s Beach (a nude beach) are also in La Jolla.  Finally, La Jolla is also home to University of California, San Diego and numerous scientific research facilities.

dsc04034
Seals at Children’s Pool Beach
dsc04030
La Jolla

Mission Valley

One of the most historical places in San Diego, Mission Valley was the first Spanish settlement in California, in 1769.  Today Mission Valley uses its prime location in the middle of San Diego for the placement of apartments, hotels, and retail shops.  Although the Presidio of San Diego and Mission of San Diego de Alcalá were established in 1769 in present day Old Town, the Mission was moved in 1774 to its present location in Mission Valley.  The general boundaries of Mission Valley are Interstates 5 and 15, making for easy access to other parts of San Diego.  The green line of the public trolley system also runs through Mission Valley and the main hub for buses is at the Fashion Valley Transit Center and Mall.

img_20161118_111157983
San Diego Presidio Site

Of course these are just some of the most-visited areas in San Diego for first-time vacationers.  Depending on your situation, you may choose to go to other areas.  You may only have time to visit one or two areas.  I know someone who went to San Diego for a work conference and only saw the Gaslamp Quarter downtown.  She greatly missed out on other areas of San Diego obviously, but her conference was downtown and she only had time for that brief glimpse of San Diego.

What if you only have time to see one or two areas of San Diego?

I personally would recommend going to Balboa Park, La Jolla, and Point Loma.  OK.  That’s three areas.  It’s really hard to limit it less than that.  If I was hard-pressed to choose just one place I think I would say go to Point Loma.  The views from Sunset Cliffs in Point Loma and Cabrillo National Monument are stunning.  That’s what I think of when I think of San Diego- ocean bluffs with views like nowhere else in the world.

For those of you that live in San Diego or have been there before, where would you recommend?