Everyone has their favorite places to visit in New York City. For some, it’s a shady spot in Central Park or standing at the top of the Empire State Building. For others, it’s a favorite bench, a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge or perhaps a favorite museum. In my book, no visit is complete to New York City without a visit to Ellis Island.
Between 1892 and 1954 over 12 Million immigrants entered the United States through the gateway of Ellis Island, a small island in New York harbor close to the Statue of Liberty. Included in that 12 million were several members of my family, such as Agostino Arado, my great-grandfather from Genoa, Italy who we believe arrived on the SS Karl Wilhelm II in 1900 at the age of 20.
To get to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum you take the same ferry that goes to the Statue of Liberty. I recommend carving out at least a few hours to visit both islands. If you have school-aged children, this is a wonderful way to bring American History alive; walking the hallways of the old Main Building you get a real sense of what our ancestors went through to become American citizens. In my opinion, Ellis Island is one of the most important historical sites in the United States.
In more recent years, starting in 1984, Ellis Island underwent a major restoration, the largest historic restoration in U.S. history. The $160 million dollar project was funded by donations made to The Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. in partnership with the National Park Service. The Main Building was reopened to the public on September 10, 1990 as the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Today, the museum receives almost 2 million visitors annually.
Tickets to the museum are free though a 45-minute audio tour (available in several languages) costs $8.00 for adults (worth it!). Free public tours of Ellis Island given daily by the National Park Service. Times are posted at the Information Desk. Make sure to take time to visit the American Immigrant Wall of Honor where the names of over 700,000 immigrates are inscribed in a memorial overlooking the New York Harbor.
**Tip: bring a blank sheet of paper and pencil/crayon and you can bring home an etching of meaningful family names– a wonderful souvenir!
Over half of today’s American population can trace back to ancestors who crossed through Ellis Island. The Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. is also a major genealogical center for research. While visiting the museum you can utilize the American Family Immigration History Center where you can further investigate immigration history, family documentation and genealogical exploration. Alternatively, on their website there are a variety of free documents and records that can be obtained including passenger manifests for the ships that docked here.
Let me help you plan a New York sightseeing itinerary that includes plenty of time at my favorite place, Ellis Island. Feel free to call me at (212) 302-4019 or e-mail TMrkulic@newyorkguest.com for advice and assistance! Visit NewYorkGuest.com for more suggestions on must-do activities in New York City!