The inside of New York City's icon is finally open again to visitors, but they'll need to plan far ahead to get a place in line.
The Statue of Liberty’s crown reopened to visitors Oct. 28, but you won’t have the freedom to climb up inside it whenever you please.
In fact, if you don’t already have your “crown” ticket, you won’t be going inside the famous statue until some time in 2013. Even then, you’ll be lucky to get a ticket during busy holiday periods, weekends or during the summer.
“Crown tickets for the remainder of 2012 went on sale Oct. 20. They were gone by Oct. 24,” says Mindi Rambo, public affairs specialist for the National Park Service. “We’re expecting very high demand for 2013 tickets, too.”
“The toughest times to get tickets will be high demand periods, including major holiday weekends, summer weekends and weekdays,” Rambo says. “Tickets for 2013 will be a little easier to get midweek, in March, April, late October and early November.”
Because the statue’s museum still is closed and renovations to the star-shaped Fort Wood (which provides the base to the statue) are still under way, there currently is no “pedestal only” access to the statue.
The only way to get inside the statue at all is to be one of the 315 people per day holding a “crown” ticket.
When all of the renovations are completed, “some time in early 2013,” about 3,000 people per day will be able to go inside the famous statue for a climb to the pedestal. Climbing all the way to the crown still will be limited to 315 per day.
A gift from the people of France to the people of the United States, the statue was dedicated Oct. 28, 1886. Because it is an “international icon,” Rambo says, the statue annually attracts more than 3.5 million visitors.
When work is finished, there’ll be better access for visitors in wheelchairs (who will be able to ascend to the pedestal level), upgraded bathrooms and air conditioning to keep the interior of the statue cooler on hot summer days.
Visitors who make the climb to the crown sometimes are surprised and disappointed by the view, Rambo says. Why? “They’re expecting to see the New York City skyline. They don’t realize she faces out to sea, in the direction of ships approaching the harbor.”
What will they see? Rambo says, “They’ll view a small portion of lower Manhattan, a little bit of Brooklyn, Governors Island, the Verrazano Bridge, Staten Island and a bit of Bayonne.”
To see the view from the statue’s crown, visitors have to climb 393 steps. Before renovations began, there were 354 steps. The number increased because the distance between risers on the steps leading to the pedestal observation level — the first part of the climb — was decreased.
The most daunting part of the climb is the famous double-helix stairway of 146 steps leading up into the copper body of the structure.
People generally enjoy seeing the Eiffel framework inside the statue, which was designed by the same man who created Paris’ Eiffel tower, Rambo says. “It’s impressive to see how the sculptor (Frederic Auguste Bartholdi) and Alexandre Gustave Eiffel worked together to insure the massive hollow lady would stand strong through the years.”
Nevertheless, the twisting staircase is a tight spiral climb, with only a few landings. “There’s no turning back,” Rambo says. “If a person has any doubts about climbing all the way to the crown, we encourage them to talk to the uniformed ranger posted at the pedestal observation level. He or she can explain what visitors will experience. Sometimes, visitors decide to continue the climb; others decide they’re actually quite satisfied with the view they have from the pedestal level.”
Visitors who should not attempt the climb to the crown include those with heart or respiratory conditions, impaired mobility of any kind, vertigo (dizziness) or claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces) or acrophobia (fear of heights).
Holders of crown tickets walk past the statue’s original torch — the first part of the statue to be constructed in 1876 — and “are amazed by its towering size,” Rambo says. Public access to the first torch, the highest point of the statue, was closed off in 1916 and was never reopened. In 1984, the original torch was replaced by a new one fashioned of copper and covered in 24 carat gold leaf.
Visitors going to Liberty and Ellis islands, accessible only by Statue Ferries, should expect airline-style security before boarding. Rambo says, “Visitors should arrive about 30 minutes before the ferry departure time from Liberty State Park, so their belongings can be X-rayed and there’s time to walk through metal detectors.
“You’d be amazed by what people have in their pockets, from pocket knives and pocket utility tools to laser pointers. Anything that can be construed as a potential weapon will be confiscated and cannot be returned.”
After crown ticket holders check in at the white tent behind the statue (the name on each ticket must match the name on the photo ID), they will also have to check their belongings. The only items you can have with you when entering the statue are a camera (no camera bags), your ferry ticket showing your crown reservation and medication you might need.
Visitors should allow about five hours to see both Liberty and Ellis islands. Traveling between the islands, according to Rambo, takes about 10 minutes and getting on and off at each island takes about 20 minutes. Seeing the crown, pedestal and statue interior takes about 90 minutes to two hours. Taking a ranger-narrated tour of the island and learning about its history adds more time to the Liberty Island stop.
(c)2012 The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.
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Photo credit: New York Water Taxi vessels cruise between the South Street Seaport and Pier 83 at West 42nd Street, Manhattan, passing the Statue of Liberty on the way. Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times/MCT