Visiting the Ellis Islands was with no doubts one of the highlights of my visit to New York. I can guarantee you it’s one of the best experience you can have when visiting the United States.
When we were booking our visit to The Statue of Liberty, I would never imagine that stepping into the Ellis Island Immigration Museum would be such an intense experience that would touch me in some many levels.
Yes, I know. There were the Statue of Liberty as well to check, but the museum itself is the main attraction of this ferry trip. Believe me.
How to get there?
Staying in Jersey City allowed us to take the ferry from the Liberty State Park. The trip is held by the Statue Cruises and the single ticket costs $18.50 for the Pedestal Reserve ticket that included both attractions.
Visit the website to check the departures and arrivals times from New York (Battery Park) and New Jersey (Liberty State Park).
I have booked the tickets in advance and I do recommend you do the same because The Statue of Liberty is one of the most visited attraction in the US, as you can imagine.
Plus, you have to prepare yourself to go through a “airport level” security check, passing through metal detectors and having bags also checked before embarking on the ferry to the island.
It’s all understandable considering the Statue of the Liberty is the most visible and revered national moment in the United States. Big rucksacks and metal objects will be confiscated. It’s better to pack light.
And it’s not possible to take bags up to the Statue of Liberty deck either. You will be asked to leave it inside a locker in the entrance of the premises.
The Ellis Island Immigration Museum was our first stop. I was honestly impressed with the size of its facility. It’s immense. It’s impossible to not feel overwhelmed and imagine how many people have been arrived to this place in the past.
If you are familiar with the history of the United States , you probably know that Ellis Island was the first port of arrival in the United States for millions of immigrants coming from all over the world in the late 18th century.
They arrived by boats ( after long journeys in the sea) and gone straight to the building to find out about their luck. Most of them didn’t speak English. Imagine the thrill and the excitement of going for the whole process without knowing your future.
For many of them, it was the only glimpse they could have from life in America. For other many ones, it was the green light to become an American citizen.
Today, the location is a memorial that keeps registered the history of those brave men, women and children.
As an immigrant, it was impossible to not feel represented by those families that left their beloved lands to try a better life somewhere else. It’s not easy.
It wasn’t easy for anyone there for sure. As you step into the history of Ellis Island, visiting room by room of this museum, it’s possible to feel the mental and physical state of these people. The strength and braveness.
The relief and the sadness of each one of them. “But whatever they were, it was better than before”.
The view from the registry room is impressive. That was the place where adults and children were first checked for any kind of disability.
They would spend five hours on a queue until be checked, but it didn’t last more than 30 seconds to have their future decided. If you were fit, you could go through it.
Many nurses and doctors worked for many years on the island, looking after everyone that arrived, whether they had permition to enter the United States or not. Most of them made their best to make those people feeling at home.
It’s needless to say that families were separated in this process, and many lives were changed for good. That was the price for liberty for many that couldn’t go back to their homelands. It was literally the Isle of Hope and Isle of Tears.
The Ellis Island Immigrant Museum is an exceptional memorial that should visited by any immigrant living anywhere else in the world.
It teaches us so much about strength and courage. It’s an incredible experience. But if you never have the opportunity to check it, read about it.
It’s a long day out, so it’s better to eat there. The Ellis Island café is one option if you feel hungry. I don’t remember if it was permitted to have food at the ferry, so we decided to have lunch at the Island; with a view to the Statue of Liberty, of course.
Don’t forget to have a look at the American Immigrant Wall of Honour filled with thousands of names of all people that represent the diversity of the country. They ones that stepped at the island and changed their life ( and their generation) for life.
It’s also a great moment to enjoy the magnificent views of Manhattan skyline.
The Statue of Liberty – when we took the stairs to the pedestal
After spending over two hours at the Immigration Museum, we headed to the Statue of Liberty. The access is made by the same ferry and it takes less than 15 minutes to reach the monument. It’s packed, as you can imagine.
Be prepared to face queues to take the ferries, both ways. The Lady of Liberty itself is quite beautiful but not that big as I imagine. Still, the symbol of the American dream.
We had the idea of taking the stairs up to the pedestal. Only 195 steps until the top, and again a beautiful view from the bay itself. But, too crowded to enjoy it properly. Overall, it’s something to be done, of course.
It was great experience as well, but I am glad I have spent more time at the Immigrant museum.