Your experiences walking up to the crown of the Statue of Liberty.
August 14, 2011 6:39 PM   Subscribe

Acrophobia filter: Mefites please tell me if I should be walking up the double helix to the Statue of Liberty Crown?

I have tickets to the crown of the Statue of Liberty. I also have a fear of heights. It has not stopped me from going to the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center or walking across the Golden Gate Bridge (both of which had their moments of anxiety but I am glad I did both).

But I see these photos of the staircase and the crown and I can feel my blood pressure rising. Photos can be incredibly deceiving so I'd love to get your first hand experiences and observations.

The fitness aspect (walking up 354 steps) is not an issue.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sorry I can't be of more help (I haven't climbed it), but this is from the National Park Service's Statue of Liberty FAQ:

"The National Park Service recommends that crown visitors have no significant physical or mental conditions that would impair their ability to complete the climb including, but not limited to: heart and respiratory conditions, mobility impairments, claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces), acrophobia (fear of heights) or vertigo (dizziness). "
posted by jessicapierce at 6:51 PM on August 14, 2011

I was there as a kid and opted out of the stair climb. I don't know what time of year you'll be there but it was hot as blazes during the summertime and there was a totally full stairwell going up, like a person on every other stair or so. I'm not much on an anxious person but it seemed like a "no changing your mind" situation for me and I decided against it. Whether or not I missed the chance of a lifetime is still up for debate.
posted by jessamyn at 6:54 PM on August 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's been years ... but I clearly recall the time I climbed it ... I would definitely have a concern if I were you, as it winds around in close quarters, and you can see both up and down quite a ways from what I remember. Also, because of the openess, voices and sounds echo a lot, which could potentially add to the acrophobia. It's a great view and worth the climb ... BUT IIRC there is not a way to turn back once you begin ... or very few spots ... this would be a concern as well.
posted by batikrose at 6:57 PM on August 14, 2011

I did it as a teenager in the summer of 1980, and jessamyn's descripition is pretty spot-on. All you see all the way up is a century's worth of graffiti written on the inside of the statue, a long spiral staircase, and the ass of the person in front of you for a long, long way. Probably harder for people with claustrophobia than acrophobia. The windows in the crown are pretty small, and you might not even get very close to them if it's crowded. Then, it's all the way back down, looking at the same graffiti and the top of someone's head.
posted by briank at 6:59 PM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you could go to the top of the Rock and across the Golden Gate Bridge (and aren't both of them at least twice as high as the Statue of Liberty?), then I feel sure that you can do this. I would be too scared to do any of the above!
posted by amro at 6:59 PM on August 14, 2011

I have bailed on it twice. Like jessamyn, it was not an issue of the heights as much as it was a sense of being locked in once it started. I did not like the idea of being trapped in that little caged space with a lot of other people. Funny, but I am fine with MRIs and the like, it was mostly a control issue.

My father bailed once and made it on a second trip. Once at the top he hung out there not wanting to go down (fear, not the view). He cut a deal with another guy lingering there that they would go down together bumping down on their butts. Makes a good story and he is excused from ever having to go up there again. On preview seeing amro, my dad used to work off-shore oil platforms -- so I think the statue fear factor might me something other than heights.
posted by cgk at 7:03 PM on August 14, 2011

I went up in the spring of 79...narrow,.crowded and twisty. If enclosed spaces aggravate your fear I'd pass.
posted by brujita at 7:05 PM on August 14, 2011

I went up a couple of months ago. The crowds that jessamyn and briank remember are a thing of the past (I remember them too when I visited as a kid). The park service lets up groups of 10-15 people every 20 minutes. They encourage you to climb straight up then take your time at the top and going down. There stairs are one way, however. Once you start going up there's no turning around.
posted by plastic_animals at 7:07 PM on August 14, 2011

I did it after it reopened in 2009, and I have to say for fear of heights... as someone said, tiny windows & you can't really see "down" that well far as I remember (the view towards Manhattan also isn't that great, since obviously she looks out onto the Harbour).
But yeah, claustrophobia would be an issue. Even without the crowds it's a tight space.
My fave part of the experience were the very friendly & chatty park rangers, you could always go without doing the actual climb?
posted by ClarissaWAM at 7:27 PM on August 14, 2011

I'm not scared of heights, but I'm scared of enclosed spaces, and I couldn't do it. The staircase is the width of a skinny person. Once you're on it, there's no turning back. I got a few steps up, freaked out, made everyone behind me get down, and fled. I remember looking up at that double-helix staircase and realizing that once I got to a certain point I'd be trapped.
posted by Mavri at 7:34 PM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you could go to the top of the Rock and across the Golden Gate Bridge (and aren't both of them at least twice as high as the Statue of Liberty?), then I feel sure that you can do this. I would be too scared to do any of the above!

I don't know about the top of Rockefeller Center, but I've cycled (not walked) across the Golden Gate bridge and been up the Sears Tower (admittedly a long time ago) and from looking at pictures/video I don't think I'd be able to get up the Statue of Liberty without significant anxiety, as the stairs don't look particularly enclosed. For me, I'm afraid stairs will collapse or something (if I can see the height). For some reason, going up is much worse than going down. I'm afraid I'll throw myself off a bridge, so they're two different fears. I think it depends on what specifically sets you off.

For comparison, I've been up the stairs in La Sagrada Familia without a problem. It's basically an endless stairway, but you can't tell how far up you are unless you go to look out one of the landings. I had to hold my friend's hand to get up the Reichstag dome, which is a gently sloping ramp, but it's exposed.
posted by hoyland at 7:35 PM on August 14, 2011

I haven't done it in almost twenty years, but I have to agree - the problem isn't the height, though I did it before my own Acrophobia kicked in. It's the narrow, twisty wrought iron or whatever metal stairs that are open. And I have a fear of open stairs and heights, like fire escapes. The anxiety of falling through is what gets me more than the height. That said, it was also warm and we were behind people whose scent was strong, and while I'm glad I did it to say I did, I don't even remember what I saw, only what it was like going up and down. I did Rockefeller Centre last year with my daughter, and I couldn't walk near the glass and made her hold my hand as I kept my back to a wall or sat on a bench, because the irrational fear of a gust of wind sweeping her away, or her running away and finding the one gap to fall through was what the anxiety was about (same thing with adult-size rollercoasters and walking along bridges).
posted by peagood at 7:55 PM on August 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's an HD YouTube video showing parts of the climb (starting at the 4:00 mark). The new stairs in the pedestal are wide, sturdy, spacious, and well-lit, though they do narrow to escalator proportions as you ascend. The crown stairs (which you can see at 5:00) are narrower, and grow more so as they go up. You can watch a video of the crown stairs climb in its entirety starting at 2:50 here. Takes about three minutes, and it's not as dark as the camera makes it seem.

Here's a diagram of the pedestal and crown stairs to give you an idea of proportion.
posted by Rhaomi at 7:58 PM on August 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

The going up part isn't too bad. The decent, however, is not fun.
posted by jenny76 at 8:02 PM on August 14, 2011

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who's had this experience. I have a moderate, unhappy-but-conquerable fear of heights, and the last time I attempted the statue crown was as a teenager in the 1980s. I was interested in getting to the top, but I didn't stake my whole identity on it, and as we approached the point where you really have to decide if you're a "balcony terrace' person or an "all the way" person, and it was 95 degrees in the statue and the experience consisted of shuffling up a congested stairwell for another hour or so to the top, I decided a "terrace person" was good enough.

Today, as an adult with not that much left to fear for my life about, I might push on, but it is a weird scenario. it's not so much about the height itself, but the fact that it takes a couple hours to do the climb due to congestion. The heat and discomfort on the stairwell, unfortunately, just leave you way too much time to think about the whole issue of the age and construction of the statue and the difficulty of getting out, etc. So if you're of an anxious mindset anyway, and not that committed to the view, you may find you're in freakout territory and just want out. On the other hand, if you're fairly philosophical that the damn statue has lasted this long and odds are that it's not going to be an issue for you to climb this day, then please go ahead. I didn't do it, 20 years ago, and I kind of wish I just had done it, because I know that now I have to do it some other time, again. The experience is probably really worth it, in the end. If you feel nervous but not seriously pathological about the idea - please just do it. But know what you're getting into - prepare yourself, have mantras, maybe some podcasts (which in my day did not exist) and some cold bottles of water, and some supportive companions with a good sense of humor. It's one of those things that's clearly do-able, but a bit of an ordeal.
posted by Miko at 8:03 PM on August 14, 2011

Rhaomi: "Takes about three minutes, and it's not as dark as the camera makes it seem."

I take that back -- I watched the video all the way through, but it's possible there was a subtle edit partway through, since I'm reading some accounts which say it takes 5-15 minutes. A lot of that may be depending on traffic, though, and in the video the staircase looked almost empty.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:11 PM on August 14, 2011

I did do the steps when I was in 5th grade (I'm 30 now, so... 20 years ago or so?). It was a school field trip and I didn't have a choice whether I wanted to opt out. My memory is a little fuzzy, but I can remember being convinced that I wasn't going to make it out of there alive. It was absolutely terrifying, and I feel a little sick even thinking about it. I think my fear of heights; my claustrophobia; and my dislike of ladders, open-backed steps, and spiral steps stem from my experience going up to the crown. Don't get me wrong, the view at the top was incredible, but the work getting up there.. I would never do it again for any money in the world. I can't comment on crowds or lighting or anything like that since it was so long ago, and aspects might have changed or improved in the 20 years since I did it, but... no, it wasn't worth it. And it was packed when I did it (although, the crowds might have all been from my school), and there was someone DIRECTLY in front of me and someone following inches behind me. And, for that reason, when we got to the top and got to look out the window, we weren't allowed to stay there for a bit and appreciate the view; we had to head right back down, so it was an exercise in futility, really. If you get a chance to stop there and look maybe it might be worth your while. When I did it, it didn't take any three minutes, either. It took much longer than 5-15 minutes, too.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:48 PM on August 14, 2011

I recall spending the entire trip UP the stairs staring at the calves of the person in front of me. Not much to see. On the way down, I recall being extra careful not to trip and look like an idiot. Again, not much to see. You can't really get your head into the "open stairwell" for a good look up or down to see the height unless you really stop on the stairs and try. The focus of going up/down on narrow stairs kept my mind busy.

Once you're up at the top, the little windows really only give you a fishbowl glance at the outdoors - so again, there's really no wide open expanse to really appreciate the height. Sure - little boats in the harbor, but you can't really see the ground below you from the crown.

For anxiety comparison purposes... I have a nervous stomach/slight nausea (quickly passes) with heights like ladders, ledges, mountain cliffs - not a crippling fear. Bouncy bridges get me white knuckled and nauseous. Views from tall buildings and other "safe," solid structures don't bother me at all.
posted by Mrs_Eep at 2:51 AM on August 15, 2011

I did it. I do not have a fear of heights under normal circumstances, but something about those tiny horrible stairs, plus the claustrophobia aspect of having absolutely no escape, plus knowing that if someone up ahead stumbled, many of us might follow...well, it freaked my shit out, and I would never do it again. The view was not really all that awesome, I promise.
posted by feathermeat at 11:39 AM on August 15, 2011

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