Ellis Island

This island served as New York’s main immigration station from 1892 until 1954.

TravelCurious Tip

Always purchase your ticket online to avoid huge queues, and don’t forget to pick up a free audioguide in the lobby

Historically, Ellis Island was the gateway to America. Before planes became so ubiquitous, immigrants would step off a steamboat and pass through this processing station to enter New York. Between 1892 and 1924, over 12 million immigrants did just that. It has been estimated that almost 40 percent of all current U.S. citizens can trace at least one of their ancestors to Ellis Island.

Over time, Ellis Island has known many names: it was, for example, Oyster Island during the Dutch and English colonial periods due to its abundant oyster beds. Yet when Samuel Ellis became the island’s private owner in the 1770s he put his name on it — and it stuck. Since then it has variously been a site for pirates, a harbour fort and ordinance depot called Fort Gibson, and finally an immigrant station, watched over by the Statue of Liberty.

Island of Hope, Island of Tears

The museum can be found in the Main Building of the former immigration station complex, a restored Renaissance Revival structure. It provides a poignant tribute to the experience of being an immigrant, focusing on those passengers in third class who faced a more arduous and desperate journey, always with the risk of being sent back where they came from.

The exhibitions focus on their stories, while also taking a broader historical perspective to understand the geopolitics behind the flux of people — be sure to check out the World Migration Globe, a radiant sphere that illustrates migration patterns throughout human history. Besides that, there is also a huge collection of personal objects, official documents, photographs and film footage to be seen.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in New York
Battery Park
This historic park on Manhattan's southern tip hosts a number of memorials and a rather special carousel.
Charging Bull
A guerilla installation following the 1987 stock market crash, the Charging Bull remains in the financial district as a symbol of energy, strength and unpredictability.
Statue of Liberty
An emblem of America and its ideals of freedom, Lady Liberty has welcomed visitors since 1886.
Pedestal Museum
Located inside the Statue of Liberty's pedestal, the museum displays interesting Liberty exhibits including her original torch.
Bowling Green
Small park where a statue of George III used to reign over Lower Manhattan
Castle Clinton
19th century fort in Battery Park

Related Tours

Democracy and Hope: the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Tour
See New York through a different perspective in a tour which takes you out to the islands in Upper Bay. With visits to both the State of Liberty and Ellis Island, you will be able to see New York from the perspective of so many of the immigrants who helped grow the wealth and history of the United States. 

  • See the breathtaking Statue of Liberty
  • Appreciate the contribution of American immigrants visiting Ellis Island
  • Go around the historic Castle Clinton
Lady Liberty

You will begin your tour at Castle Clinton, a former Fort in Battery Park, where you will board the ferry to the famous Liberty Island. Along the way, you will learn about the remarkable history of the Statue of Liberty, as well as its significance to modern America. From here you will also be able to enjoy a breathtaking view over the Manhattan skylines and harbor. 

Boarding at Liberty Island, you will hear all about the fascinating history of the Liberty figure, and how this 100th birthday gift to America from France was shipped from Paris to New York, and finally unveiled after 10 years of construction in 1886. You will also pay a visit to the fascinating Pedestal Museum, where you will be able to venture to the top of Lady Liberty’s pedestal for a perfect view over the harbor. 

Built on Immigration

It is estimated that forty percent of the entire US population can trace at least one relative's arrival to the US, through the port of New York and Ellis Island. At Ellis Island you will discover the many extraordinary stories of families journeying to New York City since the earliest days of the United States founding. At the museum, your expert local guide will talk you through some of the exhibits on display. You will also have time to properly enjoy the museum at your own pace, as you immerse yourself in a similar journey to that of a newly arrived person. You will be able to grab a bite to eat on the island, or alternatively, you may purchase some snacks on the ferry back to Manhattan.



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