Family Travel

Taking the Kids -- to meet Lady Liberty

  • The Statue of Liberty is scheduled to reopen July Fourth for the first time since Superstorm Sandy.

    The Statue of Liberty is scheduled to reopen July Fourth for the first time since Superstorm Sandy.  (National Park Service.)

  • Lady Liberty's crown will be open for visitors, but you'll have to make an advance booking.

    Lady Liberty's crown will be open for visitors, but you'll have to make an advance booking.  (National Park Service)

Her index finger is eight feet long; her mouth three feet wide. Her arm extends 42 feet; she stands 151 feet and 1 inch tall and weighs 225 tons.

Wow! Even the most jaded teen or tween can't help but be impressed gazing up at The Statue of Liberty, reopening  July 4  for the first time since Liberty Island  was seriously damaged and closed last fall in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Imagine what millions of immigrants felt when they saw her for the first time. Imagine the vacation bragging rights after climbing the 393 steps up to the crown and back down again -- the height of a 27-story building.

But snaring a ticket to climb to the famous crown (in case you're wondering, the seven rays symbolize that Liberty can enlighten the seven continents and the seven seas) is one of the toughest in New York  this summer. They're already sold out through the end of July, according to Rafael Abreu of Statue Cruises, which sells the tickets and ferries visitors to the island from  Battery Park  and soon, Liberty Island  in New Jersey. Only 365 crown tickets are available each day (kids must be four feet tall to climb), Abreu explained. Four million people visit each year.

Ironically, the crown had been reopened for just one day after last year's renovations before Hurricane Sandy shut Liberty Island  last October. While the statue itself wasn't damaged, 75 percent of  Liberty Island  was submerged and there was extensive damage to the docks and infrastructure. Neighboring  Ellis Island  with exhibits commemorating the 12 million immigrants who entered  the United States  here between 1892 and 1954 still remains closed for repairs.

But whether you get to the crown or even to Liberty Island  in the coming months, there's no better time than  Independence Day  to celebrate what  Lady Liberty  means to all Americans.

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You can tell the kids the tablet she holds symbolizes the Declaration of Independence; the broken shackles at her feet the escape from tyranny. The torch, of course, is a symbol of the light of liberty and enlightenment. In fact, according to the  National Park Service , the official name of the Statue of Liberty is "Liberty Enlightening the World."

Check out her face. French Sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi modeled it on his mom. He spent more than 20 years on the project.

And if the kids wonder about her "weird" clothes, explain the robes were worn in Ancient Greece, the birthplace of democracy.

Did you know she was a thank-you present from  France, given to commemorate the two nation's long friendship and to celebrate freedom?

What a present! She arrived in  New York Harbor on  June 19, 1885 , packed in 214 heavy crates, complete with directions on how to put her together. When the statue was finally put together and dedicated after a last-minute campaign to raise money for the pedestal, New Yorkers celebrated with the city's first ticker tape parade.

Who says historic sites are boring? I still smile thinking of my daughter Mel when she was four, posing on  Liberty Island  with a giant green foam crown on her head, her arm jutting in the air declaring herself, "The Statue of Looney."

Let the kids soak up the ambiance any way they can, turning cartwheels, listening to a special kids' audio tour on a free ranger-led tour or completing the activities to become Junior Rangers. (Download the activity booklet.)

Visiting is a bargain too -- just  $17  for adults, $14  for seniors and $9  for kids 4 to 12, including the ferry, audio tours and access to the pedestal. Crown tickets are just $3 more.

(You can save more than 40 percent on your Statue Cruises, as well as other major NYC attractions, including the  Empire State Building , the  American Museum of Natural History  and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and avoid most lines with CityPass,, but you still have to reserve your crown ticket with  Statue Cruises.)

If you can't make it to the crown, console yourselves with what a hot, arduous climb it would have been in the summer -- 20 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. And you'll have that much more time to enjoy what else  New York  has to offer -- a Broadway  play (locals say it is easier to get tickets, especially on weekends, when so many New Yorkers are at the beach), a fantastic meal (ask to order a half portion for the kids), a  Major League baseball  game, the rides at  Coney Island's   Luna Park (, an outdoor concert or a special museum exhibit. (If your kids are 10 or younger, check out the  Children's Museum of Manhattan ,, where they can make their own souvenir, take an arts workshop or meet members of the  New York Police Department's  famous Mounted Unit.)

There are plenty of free events and hotel deals all summer long too. Stay at an Affinia Hotel and your $199 rate helps support Operation Smile, which provides surgeries for children and young adults worldwide who were born facial deformities.

The family package at the all-suite Conrad New York downtown in Battery Park  includes breakfast, passes to the National 9/11 Memorial and a  New York  water taxi cruise pass that could give you the chance to see  Lady Liberty  at night from the water.

She's that rare lady who looks good any time of day.

Eileen Ogintz is the creator of the syndicated column and website Taking the Kids. She is also the author of the ten-book Kid’s Guide series to major American cities and the Great Smoky Mountains. The third-edition of the Kid’s Guide to NYC has just been released.