Taking the Kids: The world's best birthday present, the Statue of Liberty
Access to the museum is free with the purchase of a ferry ticket to Liberty and Ellis Islands. You can buy ahead, a good idea especially in summer, from Statue Cruises, the official concessioner to the National Park Service. (Ferries run every 20 minutes between 8:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. in summer (starting at $18 for adults, $14 for seniors and $9 for kids 4 to 12). Kids under four are free. Ferries depart from Battery Park in New York City and Liberty State Park in Jersey City. If you hope to climb to the crown -- 354 steps from the entrance to the top -- book your tickets months in advance.
Consider anchoring your stay downtown when you plan to visit Big Applesites like the Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 Museum and Memorial and the spectacular views from the One World Observatory, the Seaglass Carousel in Battery Park, the Tenement Museum, which explores immigrants' stories, as well as Brooklyn. (The all-suite Conrad New York, for example, has a Save up to 50% off Sundays package where if you stay Friday and Saturday night, Sunday is available at 50 percent off. The Marriott Downtown is two blocks south of the World Trade Center.)
Kids will enjoy becoming Junior Rangers at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Just ask the rangers for an activity booklet, discerning among other things why the Statue of Liberty turned green.
Bartholdi spent more than 20 years on the project. Kids and adults will enjoy deciphering all of the symbolism. The seven rays on the crown, for example, represent the seven seas and seven continents. The tablet she holds is engraved with the date of American independence. Her torch suggests she's lighting the way to freedom while the broken chains at her feet symbolize the emancipation from slavery and the end of tyranny.
But that symbolism can take on different meanings, "At times the Statue represents strength and resilience. At other times, it is a reminder of injustice. ... To many people, the Statue represents the United States -- its possibilities and its traditions, to others, it is a universal symbol of the continuing quest for liberty," the museum signage notes.
At the time of the dedication, suffragists fighting for the vote for women suggested the "delightful inconsistency" of erecting a female Statue of Liberty "where no woman has political liberty."
"I would never know what this statue meant to others," famed African-American author James Baldwin said in 1984. "She has always been a cruel joke to me."
From 1886 to 1924, approximately 18 million immigrants entered the United States through New York. "But for those people who have felt unwelcome or have been turned away, the Statue's image reflects intolerance, exclusion and unfulfilled promises," the museum acknowledges.
That is no more true than today. Happy Birthday, America!