Our family has seen the Statue of Liberty from a distance a few times as we have flown in and out Newark airport, and occasionally caught a glimpse of her as we were driving down the highway in New Jersey- but this summer we decided that a trip to see the Statue up-close was long overdue! And let me tell you, Lady Liberty did not disappoint (unless you count the part that the interior of the statue is currently closed to the public as she undergoes renovations!), she is as beautiful and majestic as we had all imagined. If you live in the greater NYC area and have not visited the statue in awhile… allow me to share with you 5 reasons to visit the Statue of Liberty with your kids!
1. She is an amazing site to see up close
The Statue of Liberty is such an enduring symbol of our country and the freedom and liberty that we have extended to new arrivals to the United States, that all school aged-kids- no matter how young are familiar with her. But to get to see her up close and learn more about the details of the Statue- why she was designed in this way, how she was built, who gave her to our country is fascinating for kids to hear as they stand in her shadow.
2. To learn about her history through the stories of a National Park Service Ranger
Since we were unable to tour the inside of the statue during our visit, we took the opportunity to join a tour already in progress by one of the National Park Service Rangers. Tours start every 30 minutes or so in the park-like area behind the statue, and rangers lead walks around the perimeter of the statue as they impart the history of Lady Liberty and challenge the kids to think about why she is standing in that particular pose, and why do they think there are chains near her feet, etc. These walks and talks are free, and I just love it when we have the chance to listen to someone give a tour who is knowledgeable and passionate about what they are sharing.
3. To strike her pose!
After learning about the details of her pose from the park ranger, we all took a few turns striking the pose for pictures. But this one of Lili with the Statue in the background is my favorite.
4. To take a boat ride on the New York Harbor
There are two ways to get to the Statue of Liberty- you can board a boat from NYC in Battery Park, or you can drive to Liberty State Park in New Jersey and take the boat from there. In either case, you will be traveling via Statue Cruises from your point of embarkation over to Ellis and Liberty Islands. In our case we decided to leave from the New Jersey side, which gave us a gorgeous view of the NYC skyline. And certainly the kids find a boat tour (even a short one such as this) to be completely thrilling!
The other incredible thing about taking the ferry from Liberty State Park is having the chance to see New Jersey's 9/11 Memorial. If you stand at the base of the memorial, looking towards the cityscape, the walls of the memorial depict where the Twin Towers once stood. As you pass through the corridor created by these two sleek walls, the names of all of the citizens of New Jersey who died in attacks are inscribed there. And at the base of the memorial stands two of the steel beams that were once a part of the World Trade Center buildings. Seeing this memorial was deeply moving for both Steve and I, who were in NYC on 9/11 and remember that day so vividly.
5. To see Ellis Island
Our 10-year old son, who just wrapped up a unit on immigration in June with his 4th grade class was perhaps more excited to see Ellis Island than even the Statue itself! Inside of the main building at Ellis Island, there is a fantastic series of displays on the history of immigration to the United States, and as we walked through the halls, we were able to spend time explaining to our kids the numerous reasons why people left their native countries to come to the United States, and the hardships they faced in doing so. We talked about the discrimination and the mis-treatment that met so many immigrants when they arrived, and that our country did not necessarily welcome people with open-arms as we might like to believe. We tried to get them to imagine how hard the choice must have been for these immigrants to leave behind their families, their homes, their possessions with just the idea that a better life could be waiting for them here….. and how disheartening it had to be when they realized what a tough life it would be.
Ellis Island was incredibly meaningful for our older three kids, but the younger three were pretty antsy and weren't up for all of the discussions that Steve and I tried to have with them. They just wanted to get back on the boat! But we look forward to coming back to the see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island again in a year or two when everyone is a bit older, and when we can also get inside the Statue for a better look!
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