With the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island still closed, harbor cruises are the only choice
I grew up in Connecticut, and my first visit to the Statue of Liberty was as child, climbing up into the crown with an aunt and uncle who lived in New York. I visited again during school field trips and later when I lived in New York as an adult, enjoying excursions with visitors from out of town and out of the country.
After Liberty State Park opened in Jersey City, ferry service eventually was added, and the ride from there was shorter and cheaper than from New York, so I did that too. In 1988, just as I was ready to move to Colorado, I took my then 5-year-old son and one of his kindergarten classmates to the Statue of Liberty– not because I thought he’d remember much, but because I felt I should. The ideals that the Statue stands for are, to me, more of what America is about than the anti-immigrant sentiment abroad in the land today.
It was only on my most recent visit to New York that I finally set foot on Ellis Island, the first point of entry for some 12 million passed through the island between 1892 and 1924. Today, more than 40 percent of Americans have at least one ancestor who entered the country through Ellis Island, and the poignant Ellis Island Immigration Museum told their story in images and words.
Due to Hurricane Sandy last fall, both Liberty and Ellis Islands are still closed to visitors while ongoing repair and restoration work is taking place. Meanwhile, Statue Cruises is filling in the gap to an extent with 14 daily Harbor Tour departures, giving visitors the chance for up-close views of the Statue of Liberty and other historic New York City landmarks. It’s not the same as disembarking on these islands, to climb the statue or visit the museum, but for now, it will have to do. During the narrated tour, the boats pass the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, as well as such other landmarks as the 9-11 Memorial, the South Street Seaport, Governors Island, the Brooklyn Bridge and more. The hour-long tours depart from Battery Park at the foot of Manhattan every 30 minutes, seven days a week, even at this time of year.