Click Here for Michael's NYC story: We Are A Nation of Searchers
WHAT IS IT? Immigration inspection center of the United States from 1892 to 1954.
BEAUTY (7/10) We had always imagined Ellis Island to be a grimy, dirty place resembling a mental institution. Instead, a colorful castle-like structure covers the main island. Definitely imposing. Most certainly grand. Lady Liberty looks over the Island and Manhattan beckons in the distance.
HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (10/10) For millions of individuals and families this was the beginning of their lives as Americans. The Ellis Island introductory film is titled, Island of Hope, Island of Tears since clearance or refusal from an immigration official changed the lives of everyone who entered the Hall, as well as their descendants, including us.
CROWDS (8/10) It was packed. Passengers filled the ferries to capacity. Crowds of people swarmed around exhibits specific to their countries of origin. The multilingual din in the Halls and Exhibits in the Main Building never quieted. We wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
EASE OF USE/ACCESS (3/5) Ferries and the Main Building are accessible to individuals with disabilities. Although lines were thick and long, we were always able to board the next available ferry. There are no formal security checks once passengers are cleared to board the ferry from Castle Clinton. All other NYC stipulations still apply – parking impossible, prices high, public transport necessary.
CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (2/5) Not as thorough as we would have liked. Lots of souvenirs. Not many books.
COSTS (2/5) $10 to take the Circle Line Ferry to Liberty Island, Ellis Island and back to Battery Park. $5 to use the Family Resource Center for a ˝ hour with access to staff and the ability to print out any documents you might find. However, anyone can go to www.ellisisland.org and search their archives for free.
RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (1/5) We only saw one and he was working hard, giving the hourly ranger-led tour and introducing the movie with an interactive Q&A with the audience.
TOURS/CLASSES (8/10) Even with minimal ranger assistance, we learned a lot at Ellis Island. The exhibits have well-written explanations. Many items and photographs speak volumes themselves. There is an interactive display based on the 2000 census showing the tides of people moving in and out of the United States over the years.
Ranger-led tours begin at the top of every hour. A movie is shown in two theatres every 30 minutes. One of the theatres was closed when we went so the movie was shown once an hour. There is also a $5 live play performance beginning 15 minutes after every hour if you like that kind of thing.
FUN (8/10) Yes, But also very moving, particularly if you are among the first few generations of Americans in your family.
WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (10/10) We spent hours here. Security, lines, the ferry ride – were all less stressful than we had anticipated. If you are anywhere near N.Y., try to schedule this into your plans. This has been one of the highlights of our trip.
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