Ellis Island Immigration Museum:
Tips & Info for a Perfect Visit!

The Ellis Island Immigration Museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in New York City…and for good reason! It is the historic gateway to America, where millions of immigrants, my ancestors, and probably yours, arrived in the new world, between 1892 and 1955. In fact, today, more than 40% of Americans have an ancestor who entered the country through Ellis Island.

When I visited, I couldn’t help but imagine what it must have been like for immigrants to finally reach this free nation, especially after a difficult journey.

Take time to plan your trip to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum slowly and carefully. Click on the link above to be directed the the Ellis Island Immigration Museum site for a detailed list of available activities. But, before you do, check out my best tips below as well as other important information that I’ve learned from experience.


MY BEST TIPS FOR VISITING
THE ELLIS ISLAND IMMIGRATION MUSEUM

1. Arrive Early and Visit on a Weekday. Ferry lines can be very long especially on summer weekends. So, I recommend, strongly, that you visit during the week and GO EARLY…FIRST THING! Additionally, consider taking the ferry from the NJ side where lines are often much shorter and parking is plentiful!

2. A ferry ticket allows you access to both islands, however, it can take as many as 5 hours to fully experience both islands. I don’t recommend it. If you are only visiting one island plan on at least 2 – 3 hours from the time you arrive at the security check until you return to the dock.

3. If weather permits, go to the front of the top deck of the ferry for awesome views and wonderfully-fresh air.

4. If you or anyone in your group is prone to motion sickness take medication before the ferry ride. Also, bring extra tissues in case the bathrooms run out of toilet paper—which they often do.

5. Prepare for the weather. Bring and wear sun block if the weather is hot and sunny and wear a hat and sunglasses. Conversely, dress warmly in the cold weather. The island is open and can get quite cold.

6. Bring your own food. Avoid long concession lines and save money on expensive, bad food by bringing your own food. Additionally, pack bottles of water. You’ll do a lot of walking and will get thirsty.

7. Wear comfortable shoes. I cannot stress this enough. You will do an enormous amount of walking and standing, so wear your most comfortable shoes.

8. Learn about your own family roots at The American Family Immigration History Center. Purchase computer time for just $5, and you can quickly search through 3.5 million pages of passenger records and learn about your own family roots. This is particularly intriguing for kids.

9. Take advantage of the FREE ranger-led tours. No reservations are required. Knowledgeable rangers offer forty-five minute tours that depart from the information booth inside the main building. They offer a great overview of the Ellis Island experience.

10. Attend one of the free movie screenings “Island of Hope, Island of Tears.” It's another good introduction to the rest of the Ellis Island experience. Narrated by Gene Hackman, hear the stories of real immigrants who passed through these halls and see amazing video footage and photographs. You’ll also have the opportunity to listen to an introduction from a park ranger and get your questions answered.

11. For first-time visitors, it is impossible to see everything at Ellis Island during one visit, so take some time to plan carefully. I recommend taking the ranger-led tour, seeing "Island of Hope, Island of Tears" screening, and choosing an exhibit or two to see. You’ll enjoy your visit more!

12. School-age kids will enjoy the interactive play performed throughout the day and it’s just $5. Many of the exhibits feature audio components my son really enjoyed. The free Board of Inquiry hearings held several times daily offers your child the opportunity to participate in a mock board hearing. A big hit!

13. If you’re visiting with children, peak their interest by starting a family search before you go to Ellis Island.



HOW DO I GET TO BATTERY PARK?

Ferry service leaves Battery Park every 30 minutes from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM every day. Battery Park is located at the southern most tip of Manhattan. So, allow appropriate travel time. The ferry trip takes about 15 minutes. You may also choose to take the ferry from New Jersey, which is often much less crowded and offers more parking.

Directions To Battery Park:
By Bus: M1, M6, M9, or M15
By Subway: R or W to Whitehall Street, or 4 or 5 to Bowling Green, or 1 to South Ferry.

Check this subway map for directions to Battery Park. Need help? Don't worry, this link has an automatic trip planner.

Going by bus? Check this bus map!


WHERE AND WHEN DO I BUY TICKETS?

The great news is that admission to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum is absolutely FREE! Sorry, can't provide a discount on FREE! Or can I?...See below for great tips on how to save on the Ferry ride!

However, it's located on an island, so unless your swimming skills are like Michael Phelps', you'll have to take the ferry. But, fees are reasonable.

Keep in mind that one round-trip ferry ticket includes visits to both Liberty and Ellis islands. Although it's sensible to visit both for financial reasons, I do not recommend it. It will take you at least 5-6 hours to visit both sites and your feet will cry!

REGULAR-PRICED FERRY TICKETS

  • Adults (13-62): $25.50
  • Seniors (62 plus): $21.00
  • Children (ages 4-12): $16.00
  • Infants (4 and under): Free

FERRY TICKET DISCOUNTS


WHEN IS THE ELLIS ISLAND IMMIGRATION MUSEUM OPEN?

It's open every day except Christmas and is closed from Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day weekend.


TRAVELING WITH KIDS TO
THE ELLIS ISLAND IMMIGRATION MUSEUM?

If you are traveling with children, check out my best tips for keeping crankiness to a minimum! I guarantee that there is AT LEAST one tip that will help you during your holiday. Click here and scroll down to the very bottom of the page.


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