Travel by ferry to the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration. Imagine the joy and hopes that earlier immigrants felt as they finished much longer and rougher sea voyages to finally arrive in America. Over 12 million people entered the country through this structure’s golden doors. About half of today’s more than 300 million U.S. citizens descended from these brave immigrants.
Immigration services operated here between 1892 and 1954, with newly arrived visitors spending hours in an inspection process determining if they would be allowed to stay in their land of hope or would be among the 2 percent denied entry. View exhibits showing interpreters, nurses, doctors, inspectors and clerical staff whose daily actions determined the fates of hopeful visitors. Photos and stories relate the dreams of those visitors.
Note Ellis Island’s unusual rectangular shape. A smaller natural island was expanded by landfill to provide a functional base to build the original immigration and service buildings and expanded farther over time. See the history of these major projects in the exhibits on the places of importance on the island. The Main Immigration Building, now filled with three floors of exhibits, opened in 1900.
Immigration services ended here in 1954 and the buildings sat idle until the site became part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument. By 1990, the National Park Service opened the renovated Main Building to visitors. Search arrival records in the American Family Immigration History Center.
The only way to reach Ellis Island is by ferries leaving from Battery Park at Manhattan’s southern tip or Liberty State Park in New Jersey. Purchase ferry tickets from the authorized National Park Service operator for a specific time and be sure you are in line well before departure time.
The site is open daily except Christmas Day. Join a ranger-led walking tour of the building or purchase a hard-hat tour to see the immigration hospital. Plan to spend several hours at the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration and enjoy a second stop to see the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island, which is included in the same ferry fee.