For an Excellent Ellis Island Tour, Here Are Some Tips to Remember
Ellis Island is one of the most historical landmarks of the United States. Here we highlight all the best things to do when touring the famous New York Island.
Opening in 1892, Ellis Island is one of the most historical landmark of the United States, if not THE most. Many of our ancestors and other hopeful immigrants made the long journey in hopes of a better life. For them, Ellis Island is their earliest memory of America. Many lost their native names to be assigned more simplified versions, some were turned away, deemed unfit to inhabit the new world. One thing is for certain, Ellis Island is a place a birth for many; it symbolized the beginning of a new life, an exciting journey, and entering into the world of the unknown with the highest of hopes. It is a landmark that should be cherished and visited at least once in a lifetime to be able to grasp the profound history that this site holds. We’ve got you covered—from getting to the island right down to where to eat, here’s your guide for a great Ellis Island experience.
As Ellis Island is just that, an island, there is only one way to reach the property, and that’s by ferry. There are two locations available to catch a ferry to Ellis Island, one from Battery Park located in Southern Manhattan, and another ferry can be boarded from Liberty State Park located in Jersey City, New Jersey. Both of these ferries cruise to both Ellis and Liberty Islands. A guide to timing and pricing can be found on Statue Cruise’s website, http://www.statuecruises.com.
Eating before the ferry
Before boarding the ferry for your day of exploration, you may want to grab a bite to eat. Though the ferry ride only takes about 15 minutes to arrive at Ellis Island, the food options once you arrive can be minimal and often over-priced due to the scarcity of other options. That being said, we have rounded up a few recommendations to fuel up for your trip to Ellis Island.
From Battery Park
If you are traveling from Battery Park then we highly recommend you have lunch at Hudson Eats. It’s a large, modern style food court with endless delicious options to satisfy any craving. Furthermore, it’s a great place for a quick, no-fuss meal at a low cost. It’s a perfect transit spot before catching a ferry.
From Liberty State Park
If you are traveling from Liberty State Park, then head over to Razza Pizza Artigianale for a quick slice of New York style pizza. Another great option for an on-the-go bite to eat, yet you will not sacrifice the flavor for convenience!
Now that you’re fueled up and ready for your day on Ellis Island, you must decide which type of experience it is that you want to embark on. The Ellis Island Immigration Museum offers various options for tours of the area.
If you are a good listener and prefer to wander and discover at your leisure, then the Audio Tour may be the perfect fit for you. This 45-minute guided tour takes you through the entire entry process as if you were arriving to Ellis Island as an immigrant. The tour comes in nine different languages and is one of the shorter options of the tours offered here. There is a child version of this tour available in five languages. It’s a great way to role-play the part of an immigrant, and it is interesting to use a different medium to transport you into that element. The audio tour is included in all ferry ticket purchases.
Ranger Guided Tour
Led by a park ranger or experienced volunteer, this tour is about 30 minutes and gives you the entire low-down on Ellis Island. You will be walked through the grounds and building and told information about the experiences of the immigrants that came through the doors of Ellis Island. You will also be taught of the history of the island and the building itself.
Hard Hat Tour
The Hard Hat is a tour of the hospital of Ellis Island. This version of the tour takes about 90 minutes and takes you through the hospital and beds of about 750 immigrants that stayed in them. You will also go through several other facilities such as the infectious diseases ward, the laundry room, and even an autopsy room. Many of the original equipment is still intact through out the grounds and gives you a real genuine feel for what the building felt like in its heyday. Tickets are $25 and can be found through the Statue Cruises website.
For budget travelers and those that prefer to move at their own pace, we suggest you opt for the free ferry tour. For just the fee of the ferry to both Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, you can gain admission to both sites and let yourself have a look around. This is a great way to step away from the crowds and explore the sites at your leisure.
Take A Tour Through Admissions
During your visit to Ellis Island you will certainly learn many things. The moment you step foot on the island, the aim to is be transported into a time when millions upon millions of immigrants were passing through the grounds and gaining an entry to a new life. An interesting and interactive activity that is great to take part in and will give you a small taste of what the admissions process was like is to take the Ellis Island test. This involves a mock medical examination as well as a written test. It’s a great way to take a time machine and get an authentic feel for the experience.
Get Behind The Scenes
Another cool thing to learn while traveling through the grounds of Ellis Island is the markings that were used during the screening process. You will learn during your tour how immigrants were examined and what things were deemed "unacceptable" for entry into the new world. At Ellis Island in the infirmary you can find the original list of markings used by the doctors on site. These markings were used to keep track of the immigrants and their medical status. These quick and seemingly simple markings held great value to those looking to enter into America. A single check mark or maybe a circle could be the defining factor on whether you were about to embark on a new life full of opportunity or were to be sent back on the boat to make the long journey back to your homeland.
UNFRAMED is a project that began in August of 2015 in the abandoned hospital of Ellis Island. Uninhabited since 1954, this building holds an immense amount of untouched history and an possesses a certain kind of eeriness about it. A French artist by the name of JR has undertaken the project of bringing the hospital building back to life by filling its walls with breathtaking portraits of the immigrants that would have occupied its space. This art exhibit is so unique for its time and allows us to see the stories of immigrants and staff of Ellis Island in a more concrete way. Tickets are on sale now for a guided tour of his exhibit; be sure not to miss this once in a lifetime experience!
Visit the Statue of Liberty
While enjoying your tour of American history, it only makes sense that you stop by the Statue of Liberty along the way. The ferry to get you to Ellis Island makes another stop at Liberty Island, so it is quite literally on the way. It is recommended that you purchase a ticket the day prior, but you can also obtain tickets upon arrival at Liberty Island. Here you can take in the magnitude of the sheer size of the Statue of Liberty. Gifted to the United States in 1886 from France, Lady Liberty stands at an astounding 46 meters high. It’s safe to say you will feel very small standing beside her. Once you’ve arrived on the island, you can walk around the base of the statue, or for an additional fee you can see a bit more. For an added cost you can climb inside the statue and walk up to the top of her crown where you can look out onto the New York harbor. It’s a great place to take photographs and observe an incredible view of the city. Children under 4 are not allowed up to the crown.
Learn Some Fun Facts
One of the great parts in learning about new things is being able to share your newly acquired knowledge with the people around you. After visiting Ellis Island and possibly the Statue of Liberty, you will have plenty to talk about and hopefully some great photos to share as well! During your trip to these landmarks, you will pick up plenty of general knowledge about these sites and the history of America. Even cooler than learning the general knowledge about these landmarks is the not-so-general knowledge. One of our favorite facts to drop at a dinner party is that during World War I, when immigration to America had slowed, Ellis Island was used as a way-station for the US Army and Navy. You’ll have your dinner guests impressed and can feel good about knowing some interesting and unique information about the land of the free.
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