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Our New York City base in Harrison, New Jersey gave us ideal access to the Statue of Liberty’s New Jersey ferry. The Statue of Liberty may be accessed via National Park Service-authorized ferries from either Liberty State Park in New Jersey or Castle Clinton at the tip of Manhattan in Battery Park. Our reserved crown access tickets on a ferry out of New Jersey were purchased five months ahead of time for a 9:00 AM departure. By 3 ½ months out, all crown tickets for this date were already sold out.

We packed up and checked out of the hotel, and drove about ten miles to Liberty State Park where the ferry brought us to Liberty Island. Visiting the Statue of Liberty from here rather than Battery Park avoids crowds and headaches!

After passing through security, we picked up our crown tickets from will call and placed all extra items in a rented locker as required. We were among the first to climb the 377 steps via a spiral staircase all the way up to the crown. Jasper had just reached the height minimum of 48” and I had some concerns about the boys completing the climb, but they had no trouble whatsoever.

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The platform in the crown is small and a ranger stands to answer any questions. As we were alone at the top when we first arrived and had already been engaging the ranger in conversation, we asked him to take a family photo to which he kindly obliged. The crown offers incredible views from the water to Battery Park and seeing the inverse sculpting of Lady Liberty’s face from inside is a fascinating angle! After more people arrived and the platform became congested, we started the descent back down.

We browsed the museum in the pedestal before finding the park ranger office outside for Junior Ranger booklets. At the time, this Junior Ranger program was in the process of redevelopment and merely consisted of a single double-sided sheet of activities. We all completed these quickly and easily, and they fortunately led us to a sculpture garden which we hadn’t noticed and otherwise would have missed.

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Following lunch on site and earning our Junior Ranger badges, we boarded a ferry to nearby Ellis Island. Here, 12 million United States immigrants were accepted from 1892 to the 1920s including my paternal grandparents and several of Jeff’s ancestors so this site had special meaning.

After quickly touring the Baggage Room on the ground floor of the Immigration Museum, we entered the Registry Room (Great Hall) where inspectors once asked questions of immigrants including name, hometown, and destination. From there, they were brought through other rooms for medical inspection and the original rooms featured displays about detention and dormitories, possessions brought from home, and the history of the island.

The entire site is extremely well done where self-guided displays and rooms bring the visitor through the entire immigration process just as so many did a century ago.

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We ended the visit in the American Family Immigration History Center, searching ship manifests and documents listing our family memories.

The day ended with an hour-long drive to Princeton where we checked into another Element hotel for the night and would explore a little bit of my hometown in the morning. I couldn’t resist being so close to my favorite childhood pizza joint, Pennington Pizza, and drove into town for a take-out order. The pizza wasn’t as good as I remembered (the cheese has definitely changed!), but having my boys enjoy Pennington Pizza was worth it for the nostalgia. They finished up their dinner with more leftover pasta from Eataly cooked up in our hotel room’s kitchen.

We enjoyed our 15th and final night in a hotel, resting up for the long drive home in the morning.

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