Photo courtesy National Park Service. The original torch is on display in the Statue of Liberty museum.

For more than 100 years, the Lady with the Torch has stood watch as the country's most illustrious symbol of freedom. She is as impressive and grand a sight today as she was when she first served as the welcoming beacon for the millions of immigrants who sailed into New York Harbor.

To avoid the afternoon crowds, wake up early to board the first boat out. Tours inside the statue have been discontinued since September 11, 2001. However, you can still visit the multilevel pedestal.

Many of the boats that take you to the Statue of Liberty also stop at Ellis Island, the first American soil touched by hopeful immigrants upon their arrival in the United States. Twelve million people passed through the site between 1892 and 1954, beginning with 15-year-old Annie Moore and her two brothers from Ireland, who were the first to reach Ellis Island. Some 40 percent of today's Americans can trace at least one ancestor back to Ellis Island.

Many famous immigrants have contributed to the melting pot that is the United States. Among those who passed through Ellis Island were Irving Berlin, Bob Hope, Knute Rockne, and the von Trapp family, whose story was told in The Sound of Music.

An excellent short film describes why millions of people left their homes to come to America, and what the experience was like for them.

Statue of Liberty Information

Address: Statue of Liberty, Liberty Island, NY

Telephone: 212/363-3200

Hours of Operation: 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. Hours are adjusted seasonally.

Admission: $11.50 adults; $4.50 kids

Ellis Island Information

Address: Ellis Island, New York, NY

Telephone: 212/363-3200

Hours of Operation: 9:30 a.m. - 5:15 p.m. Hours are adjusted seasonally.

Admission: $11.50 adults; $4.50 kids

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:
  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • New York City Guide: Find out where to stay, what to do, and where to eat when you visit the Capital of the World.
  • New York State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in New York, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Laura Sutherland is a widely acknowledged authority on family travel and has published several books on the topic, including Best Family Ski Vacations In North America and Tropical Family Vacations.