Iconic Statue of Liberty with NYC in the background on a sunny day with blue sky


posted: 24/3/2023 | March 24, 2023

I love New York City. I have spent so much time visiting and living here. To me, it is the heartbeat of the world. There's no spoken language or eaten food that you can't find here. And there is a never ending stream of things to see and do. You will never be bored in this city.

Whenever I want to dive deeper into somewhere, I take a walking tour.

And when it comes to walking tours, NYC has it all.

Free tours, history tours, pub crawls, food tours, ghost tours — there are plenty of walking tours around town.

My favorite company—in NYC and abroad—is Go for a walk. They started in Italy in 2009 but quickly expanded to other countries and cities in Europe. Then they made the jump across the Atlantic, offering guided tours of New York City, Niagara Falls, New Orleans, Chicago, Boston, and Washington, DC.

While their tours are not free, they are very insightful and balance having fun with learning.

In New York, they are running several offers, incl tour to Ellis Island to see the Statue of Liberty.

As someone who studied history in college (fun fact: the family came to America via Ellis Island) this tour really appealed to me.

And, after drinking it, here's my review:

Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Tour Overview

The famous Ellis Island seen from above with NYC in the background on a sunny day with blue sky

“Welcome to Native American doors,” our guide said as he opened the front door to the expansive Registry Room. Here, up to 6,000 immigrants a day experience their first new life in America.

Between 1892, when the 27-acre island first opened in New York Harbor, and 1954, when it closed, the Registry Room received more than 12,000,000 immigrants, who quickly became the new Americans.

The tour group met at 8:15 a.m. on the south end of Manhattan. There were 14 of us plus our guide, Nicola, an Italian-born former criminal lawyer who says he has fought the mafia in his native Florence before he wisely decided on a career change. He immediately whisked us to the ferry for a half day stroll around Liberty Island, home to the iconic Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island.

As we walk there, Nicola tells us the story of the founding of New York City, how it happened between the Netherlands and England, and how 35 percent of Manhattan is currently in landfill.

When we got to the ferry in lower Manhattan, there was a long line to get on board. But Nicola led us around the tourist army, much to their annoyance, and we were immediately in the front row. I don't know if Nicola is just being an experienced and brave guide or if it has something to do with the fact that Walks and the boat company Hornblower are both owned by City Experiences – perhaps giving Walks extra privileges to cross the line.

Whatever the case, not having to wait with the masses to get on the boat is well worth the cost of the tour.

Once on the ferry, Nicola directed us to be seated in very specific places, which we were able to get thanks to the fact that we were the first people on board. This gave us an amazing view of the NYC skyline.

After about 20 minutes, you get off the ferry on Liberty Island and take a walk in front of the Statue of Liberty where, when the weather is nice, you can learn about the history of the iconic statue and how it was placed here.

When we were on Liberty Island and Ellis Island, Nicola had a wealth of information. He says this is his 1,144th tour to the islands. He dropped some amazing facts I had never heard before, including these three gems:

  • The statue, which was officially erected in 1886, was originally being considered for Battery Park at the south end of Manhattan. But then someone with a vision for the future realized that Manhattan's growing sky would one day completely dwarf the statue and overshadow its majestic presence. After considering placing it in Central Park, they finally chose the island that would later be named Liberty, partly because it could be seen from various points around New York Harbor.
  • When the statue arrived from France in 1885, there was one important aspect they had not considered: the pedestal. After scrambling for funds and designers — they went with the same architects who designed the Metropolitan Museum of Art — the plinth was ready a year later and, before long, Lady Liberty was standing upright.
  • On Ellis Island, they must not only register 6,000 or more new immigrants per day, but also screen for their illnesses. There are only two staff doctors at any one time on the island, so one can imagine how long it took.

After that, you have about 40 minutes to explore the island, visit the Statue of Liberty Museum, have coffee or eat in the island cafeteria, and browse in the gift shop.

Whole, this tour for being the perfect primer on the island, immigration during this time, and Statues.

Should You Take a Guided Tour of Ellis Island & the Statue of Liberty?

The towering Statue of Liberty in New York City on a clear, sunny day

Even if you've been to NYC and had the statue shipped from far away, one of the most impressive sights in the city is getting to see the statue up close. You get different angles and perspectives on the statue and one striking thing you will notice while on Liberty Island is that it does not stand straight; he literally walked, “March toward the future,” as our guide said.

Now, you can do a self-guided tour around the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island for the price of admission ($31.50 USD). And it's okay if you just want to walk around by yourself, see things, and not know the exact significance of that.

But, if you want to leave with a deeper knowledge of Liberty Island and Ellis, This Walking Tour is worth it. Costs start at $69 USD, but are well worth the money.

While it's amazing to see the statue up close, the real highlight of the tour is our guide. There's so much nuance and context added by the craftsmanship, that it makes all the difference in terms of value.

I've been a big supporter of guided walking tours for a long time. And I've also been a long time fan of Walks and have been on many of their tours around Europe and beyond. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tour did not disappoint.

It also reiterated to me how much better a travel experience one has when choosing to spend a little more money on a guided tour. you learn more. You leave appreciating the place more. You put money in the local tour guide's pocket. And you may meet some friendly travelers along the way.

Tips for Your Ellis Island & Statue of Liberty Tour

Here are some quick tips to make sure you make the most of your visit to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty:

  • Wear comfortable footwear. You will stand for at least 4 hours. Make sure your shoes are comfortable and suitable for walking around.
  • Check the weather. If it's cold, bring a jacket and scarf. If it's going to be hot and sunny, bring a hat and water. Rain? Don't forget the umbrella!
  • Avoid weekends. Everything is busier on the weekends, so try to visit midweek if you can.
  • Asking question. Your guide is a wealth of information. Make the most of it by asking any and all questions you have. No bad questions about this tour!

***

New York City has many attractions and things to do. It is also an expensive metropolis. But you probably won't regret spending a little more on a guided tour. You'll leave with some interesting stories and facts to tell and have a much more insightful and unforgettable experience.

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Book Your Flight
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You can book your hostel with Hostelworld because they have the largest inventory and the best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, go for it Booking.com because they consistently return the cheapest rates for guest houses and budget hotels. My three favorite places to live in town are:

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Need a Guide?
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