YOU ALWAYS remember the first time you see the Statue of Liberty, that ultimate American icon.

I was a teenager, sailing into New York on a transatlantic cruise liner. Passengers clustered on the deck at dawn to catch their first look at Manhattan’s forest of high-rises and the massive statue.

We chattered excitedly as we spotted her torso and arm thrusting out of the fog. As our ship sailed closer, the rising sun melted the mist, and all of the statue emerged, stretching 305 feet from the ground of little Liberty Island to the tip of her torch.

Properly called “The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World,” the copper figure was a gift from France in 1886.

For generations of immigrants, and tourists, the statue has been a symbol of freedom and democracy. Standing on the deck of the luxury ship, I thought of my grandparents who’d seen Lady Liberty as they immigrated to the United States, sailing in steerage on long, tough journeys from northern Europe to New York.

Besides being an icon, and a place of family memories, the Statue of Liberty is a fun place to visit. See the exhibits at the base, then clamber up a narrow spiral staircase all the way into her crown. Join the crowd, often excited kids, to admire the view of New York’s gleaming cityscape and harbor. And to remember those who came before.

Kristin R. Jackson is The Seattle Times NWTraveler editor. Contact her at kjackson@seattletimes.com.