Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty – Two New York IconsOctober 6, 2011 No Comments
On a recent trip to New York City, there were two classics of New York site-seeing that my kids had on their ‘must see’ list. They wanted to walk the Brooklyn Bridge, and they wanted to see the Statue of Liberty. Both ended up being a compromise – Brooklyn Bridge is a long walk for small feet, and the half way point plus return was a good option. The Statue of Liberty is best seen up close through the National Park Service, however, this involves most of an entire day due to security, crowds, and lines waiting to board the boat to the Statue. In the past we’d taken the free Staten Island Ferry for a look at Lady Liberty. But while the price is right, the view is distant. Here again, a compromise: a water taxi boat tour that circles Liberty Island. While you can’t get off and walk on her shore, you can get an excellent view, and have plenty of time for photographs.
I had no idea how to get to the pedestrian walk way on Brooklyn Bridge, so we had to resort to a taxi. The driver did not know how to get there either, and circled several times before reaching a point that he swore would lead us onto the bridge walkway instead of into a sea of traffic. And, although we had to cross a few streets to do it, he was right. The walkway to the bridge itself on the Manhattan side is lined with vendors selling inexpensive NYC souvenirs and a few artists plying their wares and painting pictures of the bridge. Though not as heart stoppingly high as say the Golden Gate, the Brooklyn Bridge is still very impressive, with a main span that rises over fifteen hundred feet. The bridge is one of the nation’s oldest suspension bridges, and was the first bridge built using steel wire. That wire looks graceful and wing-like today. Construction was completed in 1883.
At one point it bore horse-drawn carriages and trolleys, today the bridge holds six traffic lanes and a separate walk through the center reserved solely for pedestrians and cyclists. Taking the wooden walkway designed for pedestrian traffic is a treat. It’s a wonderful stroller ride and an energetic walk for adults at a little over one mile in either direction. Small children will need a stopping point. For us, the half way mark was perfect, lots of soaring arches and cables to photograph and admire, great for distant views of the Statue of Liberty, the East River which the bridge spans, the New York harbor area, and downtown New York. The Bridge is crowded with crossers, gawkers, and picture takers, and on a summer day the crossing can get hot, too. Fortunately vendors are usually around at either end of the bridge, to sell bottled water and inferior but cold flavored ices. If you do make it all the way across, it will take you about sixty minutes in either direction.
South Street Seaport – Statue of Liberty
Our next stop was South Street Seaport, where a bevy of chain restaurants and souvenir shops are clustered around the waterfront. The Seaport is an historic district, and as such is separate from the Financial District which it abuts. We enjoyed the restored commercial buildings that date from the 19th century, but for the most part the restaurants and shops were not distinctive. Here however is the departure terminal for many commercial boats and cruises that circle the Statue of Liberty or offer Harbor tours. Here was also a solar operated carousel which we thought was pretty neat and naturally if you have small children you’ll want to build in time for a ride.
The water taxi view tour of the Statue of Liberty is fairly bare bones. It will take you out along downtown Manhattan, circle the Statue, pause for a few good photographic angles from each side of the boat, and then circle back again. It’s a smooth ride – no Dramamine was required by any of our party. A live guide pointed out interesting facts about New York‘s downtown, Ellis Island, Governor’s Island and the Statue of Liberty, however it’s important not to sit too close to the prow or you’ll be straining to hear the speaker against the wind despite amplification. Was the $20 fare a little steep? Yes. But we got what we came for – a good look at this beautiful, welcoming icon, a gift of friendship from France to United States that has become a symbol of freedom to so many. And we got our look without having to wait in a long line, and endure the TSA-like security screening, or spend an entire day on the excursion. We were also able to get a poignant, distant view at Ground Zero and the new tower rising near the memorial site, which had not yet opened when we visited New York.
There are other water tours that offer longer tours of the harbor and yet closer and longer anchorage to Liberty Island, but for us, the water taxi ride fit the bill. It was brief enough to fit the interest level of all ages, and yet gave us the chance to enjoy both the city skyline and the Statue herself.