Your visit to Ellis Island will be a good deal more comfortable than your immigrant ancestors’ was—but you can still get a feel for what they went through. Today, Ellis Island is a popular, attractive, high-tech tourist attraction, run by the National Park Service of the US Department of the Interior.
The former main building of the immigration facility has been transformed into the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. In addition to the new American Family Immigration History Center, the museum includes more than 200,000 square feet of artifacts and historic images. Two theaters feature Island of Hope, Island of Tears, a half-hour movie documentary, and a small stage showcases a play, Embracing Freedom, based on interviews with immigrants and Ellis Island inspectors. The movie is free; play tickets cost $3. The museum also includes a bookstore, gift shop and cafeteria.
Admission to Ellis Island is free. Entrance to the new center costs $5 per session. For advance reservations, go on the Web to www.ellisislandrecords.org.
To get to Ellis Island, you take the same ferries that serve the nearby Statue of Liberty. Ferries depart from Battery Park in Manhattan (tickets sold at Castle Clinton) and Liberty State Park in New Jersey from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily, with extended hours in summer. Round-trip tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and $3 for children. If you want to include a climb to the Statue of Liberty’s crown in your trip, be sure to catch the first ferry of the day.
For more information on the ferry, call (212) 269-5755. For more information on the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, write 52 Vanderbilt Ave., New York, NY 10017, call (212) 883-1986, fax (212) 883-1069, or see www.ellisisland.org.