By Evie Carrick
May 06, 2019
Eloi Omella/Getty Images

An estimated 4.5 million people visit the Statue of Liberty every year, but it seems the site’s popularity is starting to negatively impact visitor experience. In an effort to improve this experience, the National Park Service, which operates both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, is restricting organized tours at parts of both sites starting May 16.

The new regulations will ban commercial guided tours from the observation deck on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal and from the long-awaited Statue of Liberty Museum, which opens the day the regulations go into effect. Guided tours are also banned from the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration.

Officials from the National Park Service said commercial guides can still conduct tours on both islands and retain full access to the Statue of Liberty’s lobby and mezzanine. During inclement weather and during the slower season of November through March, guides can offer their groups “a brief site orientation” on the first floor of the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration.

The new regulations are being instituted due to challenges with overcrowding and the obstruction of pedestrian traffic due to the large tour groups. Jerry Willis, a spokesperson for the National Park Service, told The New York Times that these issues have “severely degraded the visitor experience in the park.’’

Visitors who want to access the banned areas can still do so, but must go without a tour group. Travelers can access the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal viewing area and both museums by buying the Pedestal Reserve Ticket ($18.50 for adults) from Statue Cruises, the official ticket seller. The rate also includes round-trip ferry access and an audio tour.