Ellis Island Immigration Building © chensiyuan
From 1892 to 1924, nearly every immigrant (totalling more than 20 million) moving to the US was funnelled through the crowded halls of Ellis Island, just off the coast of New York. No longer in use as an immigration port, today the island draws millions of people each year as one of the most popular tourist attractions in New York City.
The Ellis Island Immigration Museum offers multimedia exhibits showcasing the island's crucial role in the history of the US through the stories of various immigrants that passed through. An interesting exhibit is the American Family Immigration Center, which allows visitors to access passenger records to find relatives. A 45-minute audio tour (available in about nine languages) offers visitors the chance to experience the island as an immigrant might have, and is a good option for those with limited time. Special children's tours are also available.
Getting to Ellis Island involves a crowded ferry ride (be sure to bring a jacket) from Battery Park. The ferry also stops at Liberty Island (home of the Statue of Liberty), making it a convenient way to see two of New York City's most popular attractions in a single morning. It is best to buy combined tickets ahead of time, as ferry queues can take several hours.