Sixteen years ago on an early fall evening, Lance and I met in midtown Manhattan. Over the next five years, we lived and loved in New York until life told us it was time to move on to a new adventure. So it was only appropriate that on our 10-year wedding anniversary, we headed back to the city where it all began. It was time for a road trip to New York and the Statue of Liberty!
Although we only lived in New York for five years, Lance and I both feel more like New Yorkers than anything else. New York is a city you feel in your bones, especially when you experience some of the things we experienced there. That makes it all the more unusual that I never made it to visit Lady Liberty during my time as a Manhattanite. But a beautiful early summer day gave us the perfect opportunity to correct that.
We set out on our road trip early in the morning with appropriate snacks and music in tow. Blueberry muffins (because it was early), sandwiches and Cape Cod chips (because, picnic!), and a little U2 and Indigo Girls made for the perfect accompaniments as we got started on the road to New York.
Our first stop was Valley Forge National Historic Park on the road between our house and New York. George Washington’s 12,000 troops spent the winter of 1777-78 there during the Revolutionary War.
Visitors can see replicas of the cabins the troops built as they tried to survive the cold, wet conditions of a Pennsylvania winter. After some time exploring the sprawling park, we were back on the road headed for the Statue of Liberty.
The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island can only be reached by ferry. There are two boarding options – Battery Park in New York or Liberty Park in New Jersey. Statue of Liberty ferry tickets are timed and are specific to the embarkation point, so it’s important to plan ahead as much as possible, especially if you have your heart set on climbing the 354 steps up to the crown. Since we were driving and there were more ticket options from New Jersey, we decided to board there and drive into Manhattan later in the day.
Traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike is unpredictable, particularly on the weekends, so we left ourselves plenty of time for the trip. This turned out to be a good plan, but not because of the Turnpike. In fact, we sailed our way into Jersey City. It was when we arrived at the port that we found the crowds. Packs of kids at day camp, civic groups in color-coordinated shirts, local families, and tourists alike stretched the length of a city block or so waiting to clear security and board the boat.
Despite the size of the crowd, the line moved quickly. In just about an hour, we had gone through screening and were stepping onto the Statue of Liberty ferry.
From Liberty Park, the ferry’s first stop is Ellis Island. The boat docks right in front of the red and white Beaux-Arts building that welcomed over 12 million immigrants to the United States in just over 60 years. Now, the station houses the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration, telling the stories of the passengers who left their lives in Europe looking for a better future in the US.
The Ellis Island museum provides information about the long trip passengers took on steamships along with many personal anecdotes, photographs, and original travel documents. It’s hard not to be moved as you think about what these people endured as you stand in the place where they stood.
After our visit to Ellis Island, it was time to move on to the main event – the Statue of Liberty herself. As the ferry pulled out, we positioned ourselves on the back of the boat for the best vantage point as the statue came into view. Even though I’ve seen her image a thousand times, seeing the Statue of Liberty up close and in person was a completely different experience. Something unexpectedly patriotic sparked inside me as the tarnished copper statue and gleaming gold torch grew closer.
Once off the boat, it was time for lunch before exploring further. There are plenty of concessions available on Liberty Island, but packing our own picnic was a lot more fun and in keeping with our road trip adventure. Plus, the sandwiches, chips, cookies, and mozzarella (!!) seemed a lot more appetizing than a plate of fries from the snack bar.
We made our way around the island after lunch. As we walked, we took about a million photos of the Statue of Liberty from every possible angle. In fact, photography is the main thing to do if you’re not heading into the pedestal or the crown.
We heard languages from all over the world as a German couple and a Japanese family stopped us to take their photos in front of the statue. There were Spaniards and Irish and a local family from New Jersey all there with us to enjoy the day and the view of this 130-year-old American symbol. After about an hour of lying down on the pavement, perching on walls, and crouching down to shoot Lady Liberty from all angles, it was time to board the Statue of Liberty ferry for our return to New Jersey and drive into New York.
The afternoon traffic was kind to us as we drove into Manhattan. Within a half-hour, we were sinking into the cushy couches on the terrace of our hotel. From our perch in Lower Manhattan just beside the new One World Trade Center, we could still see the Statue peeking through as we raised our glasses to 10 years and the city where it all started.
We were compensated for our participation in the #RoadTripChip campaign, sponsored by Cape Cod® Potato Chips. All opinions of our anniversary adventure are our own.
Laura Longwell is an award-winning travel blogger and photographer. Since founding Travel Addicts in 2008, she has written hundreds of articles that help over 3 million people a year get the most out of their travel. In that time, she has visited nearly 60 countries on 5 continents, often returning to favorite destinations over and over again. She has a deep love of history, uncovering unexpected attractions, and trying all the good food a place has to offer.
In addition to Travel Addicts, Laura runs a site about her hometown of Philadelphia—Guide to Philly—which chronicles unique things to do and places to see around southeastern Pennsylvania. Her travel tips and advice appear across the web.