The Statue of Liberty has stood on an island in New York Harbor since 1886, welcoming immigrants, tourists and citizens alike to a land of hope and opportunity. A gift to the American people from the people of France, the copper statue has become an iconic symbol of freedom. Designated in 1984 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lady Liberty is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. Everyone with an internet connection or a history textbook knows her, and she draws more than 4 million visitors each year.
During my trip to New York City for the Abilities Expo last month, I rode a ferry to Liberty Island and took a wheelchair accessible Statue of Liberty tour. It was a fantastic experience that I won’t soon forget. In this article, I’ll share tips on how to make the most of your visit, plus some important things to consider if you have a disability.
Statue of Liberty Tickets
Tickets to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are sold up to a year advance, and it is strongly recommended that visitors purchase tickets as early as possible. The three different ticket types are described below, with prices shown in parentheses (Adult/Child/62+ Senior).
- Standard Reserve Ticket — Includes round-trip ferry transportation and access to both the Liberty Island and Ellis Island grounds. ($18.50/$9.00/$14.00)
- Pedestal Reserve Ticket — Includes round-trip ferry transportation and access to both the Liberty Island and Ellis Island grounds, PLUS access to the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal and the museum inside. ($18.50/$9.00/$14.00)
- Crown Reserve Ticket — Includes round-trip ferry transportation and access to both the Liberty Island and Ellis Island grounds, PLUS access to the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal and the museum inside, PLUS access to the viewing deck inside the statue’s crown. ($21.50/$12.00/$17.00)
The Standard and Pedestal tickets are a great choice for wheelchair users, as all of the areas included are wheelchair accessible. Crown tickets should only be purchased by able-bodied people who are capable of climbing 162 narrow and tight steps. There is no elevator access to statue’s crown, only to the pedestal.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.statuecruises.com or as part of a CityPASS attractions bundle. If you’re happy with a Standard ticket to the Statue of Liberty, you’ll save money on other New York attractions by purchasing the New York CityPASS. Save up to 42% off the cost of admission to attractions like the Empire State Building, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 9/11 Memorial Museum and more.
Although tickets can be purchased at the Statue Cruises ticket office in Battery Park, the lines are extremely long (even on a weekday). To get the best tickets without having to wait in a long line, book online!
Statue of Liberty Wheelchair Access
The Statue of Liberty is located on Liberty Island, a land mass of roughly 15 acres. The grounds are wheelchair accessible, with paved pathways throughout.
After getting off the ferry at Liberty Island, I rolled around in search of a good spot to take a wheelchair travel selfie (#wctravelselfie) with the Statue of Liberty. Clear blue skies served as a perfect backdrop.
The Statue of Liberty stands on a pedestal that is erected atop Fort Wood, a decommissioned military fortress that was constructed in 1811. Built in the shape of an 11-point star, Fort Wood was used during the War of 1812 and at one time had 24 mounted guns.
Visitors with Pedestal tickets are able to visit two viewing platforms – one atop Fort Wood and the second just below Lady Liberty’s feet. The Fort Wood viewing deck is wheelchair accessible, and provides a great view of the New York City skyline.
The viewing area at the top of the pedestal is not wheelchair accessible, but wheelchair users can roll up to the door to capture the view. Don’t expect other guests to move out of the way on your account, though.
Pedestal ticket holders are also able to look up into the Statue of Liberty through a glass ceiling panel. Pictured above is that view, with all of the metal support beams and a circular staircase that leads to the crown. The stairway is extremely narrow and consists of 162 steps.
Is there an elevator in Statue of Liberty?
Yes, elevators are installed at the base of the Statue of Liberty, capable of taking people from ground level to the top of the pedestal. Visitors who cannot climb steps will be unable to reach the crown. The emergency elevator inside the statue itself is only used in emergencies, and cannot take people with disabilities to the top.
Statue of Liberty Audio Tour
All visitors to the Statue of Liberty may collect an audio guide, which leads visitors on a tour around the island. The guide provides interesting information on the statue’s history and the development of Liberty Island. The audio tour is free and takes about 45 minutes.
What is the Statue of Liberty Museum?
Pedestal and Crown ticket holders have access to a small museum inside the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal. Visitors typically spend 20 to 30 minutes in the museum, learning about the history of the statue.
In 2019, the museum will be moved to a new building that is currently under construction. The museum’s new home will allow for an expanded exhibit and provide enough space to accommodate all visitors, regardless of ticket type.
Standard ticket vs. Pedestal ticket
Standard and Pedestal tickets cost the same amount, but Pedestal tickets are only sold through Statue Cruises. The New York CityPASS includes the standard ticket only. The major difference between the two tickets is access to the Fort Wood observation deck and the one at the top of the pedestal, which is not wheelchair accessible. The NYC skyline view was incredible from both ground level and the observation platform, so the difference is not significant. Guests purchasing the Pedestal ticket should allot at least one extra hour for their tour due to an additional security check, lines and potentially long waits for the elevator.
Wheelchair Accessible Statue of Liberty Ferry
Getting to the Statue of Liberty from Manhattan is easy, with ferries departing every 15 to 20 minutes from Battery Park. Ferries also depart for the Statue of Liberty from New Jersey’s Liberty State Park pier.
Ferry transportation is provided from Manhattan or New Jersey to the Statue of Liberty, from the Statue of Liberty to Ellis Island, and from Ellis Island back to Manhattan or New Jersey. You do not have to return to your original point of departure.
The ferry boats are wheelchair accessible, with ramps used for boarding at each stop.
Staff are on hand to assist wheelchair users safely up and down the boarding ramps. The angle of the ramp varies based on the water levels, with steep ramps during high tide and much more level access at low tide. My power wheelchair had no trouble negotiating the ramps, but manual wheelchair users may need assistance.
Each of the ferries have three levels, but only the lower deck is wheelchair accessible. From the lower deck, passengers can take in beautiful views of New York Harbor, the Manhattan Skyline and the Statue of Liberty through large windows. Benches along the windows provide passengers the opportunity to sit during the ferry ride.
A concession stand with food, snacks and drinks is located on the lower deck. Wheelchair accessible bathrooms with large handicap toilet stalls and grab bars are available on each ship. With the ferry ride lasting only 15 minutes, the journey should be a comfortable one for passengers of all abilities.
The Statue of Liberty is important, not just for its historical value, but for the significance of the hope it gave to tens of millions of immigrants. Their descendants are now a part of us—they are our brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents and great grandparents. That legacy, and that of Lady Liberty, deserves to be protected and shared with each of us.
But, like most tourist attractions that are more than a century old, accessibility isn’t perfect. The National Park Service has made significant investments in the park’s wheelchair accessibility, while honoring its mission to “preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”
Each of us deserves a chance to see Liberty Enlightening the World, and I hope you’ll visit the Statue of Liberty on your next trip to New York City!