When going to New York, lots of people have a list of well known landmarks they just have to visit. Just bare in mind that there’s one place on your list that you have to add – Ellis Island. The Ellis Island Immigration Museum has opened its doors in 1990 and it has welcomed millions of visitors ever since. For me, it’s not just like any other museum. You get taken on a trip down memory lane. You get to learn about the stories behind the immigrants. You can even try to trace back some of your own ancestors who have passed through this beautiful site, one of the 12 million immigrants that have been processed here.
There is no entrance fee for visiting Ellis Island. However, as the name says, it’s located on an island, just off Manhattan, so you will have to board the Statue Cruise. You can buy your tickets in advance online or at their offices in Battery Park. Go early and avoid the longer queues during the morning and afternoon peak. When boarding the cruise, he first stop will be Lady Liberty. She looks smaller than I’d expected and she’s got a stern look on her face, but she’s the symbol of the USA and NYC. You can get off here and visit the grounds or you can remain on the boat that’ll take you to your second stop. By the way, don’t forget to take lots and lots of lovely pictures from Manhattan when leaving Battery Park port. You’ll have some amazing views!
Now, as I am writing this, Ellis Island is back open for business, but a few years ago, hurricane Sandy passed by NYC … she destroyed a lot of things during her passing, one of them being Ellis … Luckily, the building held its ground, but still a lot of damage was done. Therefore, keep in mind that not all of the exhibits are open yet or some of the artifacts are still in storage. Let’s enter this beautiful building:
This entrance alone can keep me staring at it for quite a while, it’s so beautiful. Once inside, do take the time to go through the entire building and try to see all the exhibits that are on show on the three levels. If you’re short on time, don’t miss out on the Great Hall, where the immigrants were processed right up until the 1920s.
As I am roaming around this hallway, I can almost feel the presence of these people, full of hope, trying to get into the country. Go look at the Arrival Records where names are listed of the many immigrants. Maybe you’ll even find the name of a 5 year old little boy trying to get into the country, by the name of Bob Hope. He was processed right here in 1908! There’s a huge passenger search database and you can retrace where the immigrants that were allowed into the country settled down.
You can then move onto the exhibit Through America’s Gate where you retrace the immigrant’s experience step by step. The third floor of the Ellis Island building are showing exhibits like Treasures from Home – cherished items that immigrants brought with them on their trip to the States. Bibles, linens and really personal things like teddybears and puppets.
New since October this year is the reopening of the hospital! It hasn’t been touched up and there are life-sized pictures of immigrants projected on the walls. You’ll have to walk around in hardhats as this building has not been renovated. Looking forward to doing this tour on our next trip! Take care: you’ll have to pay for this guided tour, get your tickets in advance: http://www.saveellisisland.org/tour-ellis-islands-historic-unrestored-hospital-buildings/
Ellis Island to me is all about people, personal stories, hope and desperation. You can feel the history that’s been made here. You can feel the ghosts of the men, women, children and babies still roaming the halls. A must see, a must do when you are in the NYC area.