My husband and I recently had the opportunity to revisit Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty this spring. We had both been there before; once on a field trip in the first grade and again in 2002 when our daughter was about nine years old.
Each visit has been a completely different experience. We went to the same elementary school, but he was a few grades older than me. Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty was our school’s standard field trip along with the Rockettes in Radio City Music Hall, even back then, believe it or not! As children we were fascinated by special treats that interrupted our daily routine.
We walked to school everyday and went home for lunch. Field trip days, aside from being an unofficial day off from school, were a treat because we got to ride on a bus and carry a bagged lunch. We also got to walk to Sam’s Candy Store and buy lots of candy for the trip! I remember being amazed by the view of the NYC skyline from the boat. They were still building the World Trade Center back then so it was very different!
When we went back with our daughter we wanted to make sure she understood what she was seeing and of course kept a very close eye on her so that she didn’t fall off the boat or island or eat too much candy. I was able to show her where her great-grandfather had been and had fun telling her stories about him. My grandfather was from Naples, Italy and came through Ellis Island by himself in 1904 when he was only 11 years old. He spent two rough weeks on a boat named the Princess Irene and arrived with $40 to start his life here in America. His story was one of the quintessential American Dream and I love retelling it.
We also got to take our daughter to the top of the Statue of Liberty on that trip – it was a long climb, especially when you got to the crown, but she loved it! Visiting with a child can be so rewarding and special, but it is also a whirlwind of adventure in making sure she stays safe, has fun, and learns something while doing it!
Going back now as “empty nesters” we were able to really enjoy the audio tour and learn things we never knew about Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Being there as adults makes a difference because you can go slowly and pay more attention. We learned a lot about the processing of the people at Ellis Island. If someone was sick or no one came for them, they would be housed on cots in one wing of the building and the shipping company that brought them over was responsible for paying for their meals and return trip (if necessary). By bringing people over, the shipping company unofficially vouched for their well-being and took responsibility for them. We were also fascinated by the story of the construction of the statue – a story we missed both as children and going with a child when you can’t take your time. I was so glad we went, even though we had been before, because we were able to see things in a whole new non-distracted light.
We still love the view of NYC from the boat and the pleasure of being able to sit back and relax on a bus. I will also admit, we even indulged in a little candy with our coffee. Some things never get old!
Our advice is to keep traveling, keep learning, and return to old spots for new fun.
Tour Services Specialist,
Starr Bus Charter and Tours