Ellis Island

Ellis Island information

New York City , USA
Ellis Island
+1 212 363 3200
+1 877 523 9849
Getting there
Subway: 1 to South Ferry; 4/5 to Bowling Green, then
Ferry: to Ellis Island
More information
ferry incl Statue of Liberty adult/child $18/9
Opening hours
8:30am-5:30pm, check website for seasonal changes
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Ellis Island is America's most famous and historically important gateway. Between 1892 and 1924, over 12 million immigrants passed through this processing station, their dreams in tow. Today, its three-level Immigration Museum delivers a poignant tribute to the immigrant experience. Featuring narratives from a number of sources, including historians and the immigrants themselves, the tour brings to life the museum’s hefty collection of personal objects, official documents, photographs and film footage. Always purchase your tickets online (www.statuecruises.com) to avoid the soul-crushingly long queues.

When you arrive, stop in the museum lobby to pick up your free audio guide, which offers rich insight into the exhibitions. If you're very short on time, skip the 'Journeys: The Peopling of America 1550–1890' exhibit on the 1st floor and focus on the 2nd floor. Here you'll find the two most fascinating exhibitions. The first, 'Through America's Gate,' examines the step-by-step process faced by the newly arrived, including the chalk-marking of those suspected of illness, a wince-inducing eye examination, and 29 questions in the beautiful, vaulted Registry Room. The second, 'Peak Immigration Years,' explores the motives behind the immigrants' journeys and the challenges they faced once free to begin their new American lives.

For a history of the rise, fall and resurrection of the building itself, make time for the 'Restoring a Landmark' exhibition on the 3rd floor; its tableaux of trashed desks, chairs and other abandoned possessions are strangely haunting. The audio tour offers optional, in-depth coverage for those wanting to delve deeper into the collections and the island's history. If you don't feel like opting for the audio tour, you can always pick up one of the phones in each display area and listen to the recorded, yet affecting memories of real Ellis Island immigrants, taped in the 1980s.

Another option is the free, 45-minute guided tour with a park ranger. Booked in advance, the tour is also available in American sign language.