Ellis Island
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids New York City (AMC Books)
Address:Battery Park, State Street and Battery Place, Manhattan, NY (ferry departure point)
Hours:9:30 A.M. to 5:15 P.M. daily
Fee: Ferry: adults $13; children ages 4 to 12, $5; children under age 4, free. Museum entrance: free.

nps.gov/elis/historyculture/index.htm; nyharborparks.org/visit/elis.html; 212-363-3200. Tickets: statuecruises.com; 877-LADYTIX

Bathrooms: Main building
Water/Snacks: Water fountains at the restrooms; concession area

USGS Jersey City

The American Immigrant Wall of Honor should not be missed, and a walk around the island offers terrific views of the Statue of Liberty, Battery Park, and Liberty State Park in New Jersey.

On the ferry ride to Ellis Island, passengers can see the island’s Immigration Museum.
Photo by: Cheryl and William de Jong-Lambert

It is estimated that 40 percent of Americans can trace their roots though Ellis Island. From 1892 to 1924, it was the nation’s busiest immigration depot, processing more than 12 million individuals. After serving as a detention center, the island closed in 1954, and following almost four decades of disuse, the Immigration Museum opened on the northern part of the U-shaped island in 1990.

The museum is free and well worth visiting. The National Park Service offers the Junior Ranger program here, and kids can complete an activity pack to earn a special badge. The activities take about an hour, and lead children all around the museum.

Touring the island itself is an equally moving experience. Behind the museum, the vast and continuously growing American Immigrant Wall of Honor displays more than 600,000 names of newcomers who passed through the island. It is an awesome exhibit to walk around, and a lawn nearby offers a wonderful view of Manhattan.

When walking the nearly half-mile perimeter of the northern section, you can’t help but think about how such a stroll would have been an impossible luxury for the immigrants who were processed here. As they shuffled through the Great Hall, they would have seen Liberty Island to the south and Governors Island to the east—but their sights would have been set on Manhattan to the north.

The island’s southern half—and the 28 buildings on it—remains closed despite periodic discussions about rehabilitating the area. Remember: Park rangers lead free, 45-minute museum tours, which depart from the main building.

Plan B:

You might be able to fit in a trip to Liberty Island (Trip 70) on the same day. Alternatively, head back to mainland Manhattan to tour Battery Park (Trip 23) after disembarking.


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