Ellis Island, a site that holds importance for many American Immigrants, is an inspiring sight. It’s in New Jersey and New York and was once the busiest immigrant processing station in the U.S. This station is in the New York Harbor and offers views of the infamous Statue of Liberty, a sign of hope for many wanting to live in America. Today, visitors can tour both landmarks as a way to momentarily step back into history.
Known by many as the “Island of Hope,” Ellis Island is an important national landmark with great importance in America’s history. When most people hear its name, images of Lady Liberty and boats crossing into America arise. With such a notable impact on the U.S.’ history, the first question that seems to arise in many people’s minds is “How do I get to Ellis Island?”
Luckily, visiting the Liberty and Ellis Islands is easily done via ferry. Below are all the details you’ll need to visit these iconic locations deeply rooted in American history.
How to Get to Ellis Island: A Look Into Ellis Island’s History
Ellis Island initially opened in 1892 with the intent of being an immigration processing station. It served this purpose for about 60 years before shutting down in 1954. An impressive number of immigrants went through processing on Ellis Island. Interestingly, about 40% of the U.S. population can trace their roots back to at least one ancestor who entered the country through Ellis Island.
Many immigrants were traveling to the U.S. hoping for a better life, hence the nickname “Island of Hope.” It is estimated that about 1,900 people traveled daily through Ellis Islands’ immigration station.
After passing the immigration process, many travelers made their home in New York. This large number of immigrants likely helped increase New York’s diversity, making it one of the most diverse cities in the U.S.
Ellis Island Activities
Ellis Island has many attractions, from Ellis Island Museums to the American Immigrant Wall of Honor. Visiting Ellis Island is a unique and educational experience that should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Ellis Island Immigration Museum
This Ellis Island national museum is found in the restored Main Building of what was once part of the immigration processing center. The Ellis Island Immigration Museum features historical records that you can search through, photos, heirlooms, and more.
This Ellis Island Museum allows you to explore areas that were once dormitories for immigrants, interactive exhibits, an ancient baggage holding area, etc. As you weave through the museum, you’ll see the story of immigration in the U.S. It also explores the immigration process before and after Ellis Island for additional insight.
Family History Center
The Family History Center is an excellent resource for those who know or suspect one of their ancestors to have gone through the immigration process at Ellis Island. This center features a searchable database with about 65 million entries. Research assistants are also available (for an additional fee) who can help you on the hunt to learn more about your family history.
American Immigrant Wall of Honor
Visiting the American Immigrant Wall of Honor allows you to view a list of 775,000 people who traveled through Ellis Island. You can add your own inscription (for a fee) for any ancestors who went through this processing center.
Take a Trip to Ellis Island: Tour Options
Multiple tours allow you to enjoy different perspectives of Ellis Island through Statue City Cruises. Statue City Cruises is the official and only provider of boat tours to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Below, you’ll find the available tours you can select.
The Early Access Statue of Liberty VIP Tour with Ellis Island is ideal for early risers. This tour offers access to the first ferry of the day, allowing you to view the attractions with a small group of 25 people. On this tour, you’ll be able to see stunning pieces of history like the blueprints for the Statue of Liberty Museum.
The New York Ellis Island Hard Hat Tour offers a different perspective on the typical Ellis Island tour. This tour takes you through the Immigrant Hospital Complex, an unrestored island area. You’ll also be provided a self-guided audio tour with this option. You’ll meet with the group in Battery Park.
The New Jersey Ellis Island Hard Hat Tour is similar to the above option. However, this tour leaves from Liberty State Park.
How to Get to Ellis Island: Planning Your Trip
Once you’ve purchased your tickets to New York or New Jersey, you must put together your itinerary. Remember to schedule your Ellis Island tours beforehand, as tickets go quickly. Check below for common FAQ questions and answers.
Can You Visit Ellis Island?
Yes, you can visit Ellis Island by taking a ferry. Ellis Island is free to visit, though there is a fee for the ferry ticket. Only one company has the authorization to provide Ellis Island tickets – Statue City Cruises. Any other cruise ships that offer a trip to Ellis Island are not legitimate.
How to Visit Ellis Island?
Still wondering, “How to get to Ellis Island?” If you’ve purchased your ferry tickets in advance, you’ll need to locate the boarding area. If you still need to purchase your ferry tickets, you’ll need to locate the ticket booth. There are two ticket booths – one in Battery Park in New York City and one at Liberty State Park in New Jersey.
Each ticket includes a roundtrip ride from the island back to NYC, or NJ, and an audio tour you can collect on the islands. The audio tours are available in 12 languages, making them accessible to many visitors.
Where Do I Catch the Ferry to Ellis Island?
You can catch the ferry from the same parks that sell ferry tickets – Battery Park in New York City and Liberty State Park in New Jersey.
How Long is the Ferry Ride to Ellis Island?
The ferry ride only takes about 15 minutes to reach Ellis Island. From Ellis Island to Liberty Island, it’s another 15 minutes. Then, a final 15-minute route will take you back to your initial pickup spot.
There is also the option of riding the ferry without getting off to see each island. If you select this option, the roundtrip route is about one hour and fifteen minutes.
What Are the Hours For Ellis Island?
The hours for Ellis and Liberty Islands change for each season. Up-to-date hours and island openings are found on the National Park Service website.
Ellis Island is open to visitors every day except for Thanksgiving and Christmas day each year. So, you can likely see Ellis Island in person regardless of when you visit.