Millions of celebrants are expected in New York City for the four-day Statue of Liberty festivities July 3 to 6. So finding a place to stay, and to watch the big fireworks show and other major events, is going to be difficult, although not impossible. You probably shouldn't delay in making arrangements.
You may have to do some phoning to find a vacant hotel room, or pay a premium price to one of the travel firms that have put together Liberty Weekend packages that include lodging and a choice of options for watching the fireworks and other events.
Most of the rooms in New York's biggest hotels already are committed, according to John MacBean, vice president for public relations for the New York Convention & Visitors Bureau. However, this does not mean they are full.
What has happened, MacBean said, is that a few firms have booked large blocks of rooms and are offering them to the public as part of a weekend package. These packages, described below, tend to be expensive.
But smaller hotels (those with up to about 200 rooms) are still reporting space for the celebration, MacBean said. He suggested contacting a travel agent for help, or you can phone New York yourself. His office can provide information about Liberty Weekend events and a list of hotels. Contact New York Convention & Visitors Bureau, Dept. SL (for Statue of Liberty), 2 Columbus Circle, New York 10019, phone (212) 397-8222. Ask specifically for hotel packages.
There is a fee for some Liberty Weekend events, others are free, and one--the July 3 opening ceremonies aboard the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy--is by invitation only.
Many events require tickets, which are quite limited. These tickets, including reserved seats for the fireworks on July 4 and special big-name sports and entertainment shows on July 6, are being distributed in a lottery. Applications must be received--not just postmarked--by May 1.
Paid events include grandstand seats on July 4 to watch Operation Sail at Battery Park ($60 each) and to view the fireworks at Battery Park ($40 each). OpSail is scheduled all day July 4, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; the Tall Ships will sail up the Hudson from the Verrazano Narrows Bridge to the George Washington Bridge. The fireworks in New York harbor, billed as the largest display ever, are to begin at 9:30 p.m.
Two other paid events are the gala closing-night ceremonies on July 6: a 6:30-to-8 p.m. sports salute to Liberty at Byrne Arena in Meadowlands, N.J., featuring ice skater Peggy Fleming and gymnast Mary Lou Retton ($25 each), and a major pop entertainment show at Giants Stadium in Meadowlands (8 to 11 p.m.), where the all-star cast will include Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, Elizabeth Taylor and many more ($25 to $200 each).
An information brochure and application for paid events can be obtained by sending $1 for postage to Liberty, P.O. Box 2021, Murray Hill Station, New York 10156-0701.
For standing-room tickets at Battery Park City Esplanade for Operation Sail, send a post card with your name and address and the number of tickets you want (no more than six) to Operation Sail 1986, P.O. Box 2037, Murray Hill Station, New York 10156-0701.
For standing room at the fireworks show: Fireworks, P.O. Box 2034, Murray Hill Station, New York 10156-0701.
For an all-day picnic site at Battery Park City Esplanade with a view of OpSail and the fireworks: Picnic, P.O. Box 2024, Murray Hill Station, New York 10156-0701.
Other free events for which no tickets are required include the daylong Harbor Festival New York Fair on July 4, featuring street entertainment, crafts and food throughout lower Manhattan.
Also, on the afternoons of July 5 and 6 visitors can tour the Tall Ships at anchor. And on the night of July 5, at 8 p.m., the Great Lawn in Central Park is to be the site of a free International Classical Concert, with Zubin Mehta conducting the New York Philharmonic and a roster of stars.
For additional information on Liberty Weekend events and tickets: (212) 972-3434.
If you don't want to take a chance on the lottery or spend a lot of time phoning for a hotel room, you may want to consider one of the hotel packages and other options being offered by at least three travel firms. These firms are setting up their own bleachers, have chartered river cruise ships to view the Tall Ships parade and the fireworks and are scheduling special dinner parties with a view--all for a fee, naturally.
The firms are:
--Flagship Travel of Marblehead, Mass. It is offering three-night packages, July 3, 4 and 5, at from $599 to $699 per person (double occupancy).
That figure includes a reserved bleacher seat along the Manhattan side of the Hudson River on July 4 for Operation Sail, a two-hour cruise around the Statue of Liberty on July 5 and transportation from the hotel to these events.
Options include a July 3 evening cruise during the Statue of Liberty relighting ceremonies at $250 per person and a July 4 fireworks-watching party, buffet and dance at Windows on the World on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center, for $300 per person. Flagship Travel, 2 Catherine Lane, Marblehead, Mass. 01945, (800) 874-5656.
--Travel Tours International. Packages include air fare, two nights' lodging (July 3 and 4), bleachers seats for Operation Sail and lunch. Begins at $320 per person, depending on choice of hotel. Travel Tours International, 240 West 38th St., New York 10018, (800) 824-4109.
--ViewPoint International. The firm is offering a choice of options to put together your own Liberty Weekend package. ViewPoint International, 1414 Avenue of the Americas, New York 10019, (212) 355-1055.