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No visit to New York City would be complete without a visit to Ellis Island, especially for visitors to the city who have family connections with America.
The Immigration Museum is part of the Statue of Liberty National Museum complex and every year thousands of visitors flock to the museum to learn how it all began for the immigrants that came to this brave new world.
Also part of the same complex is the American Family Immigration History Centre, which allows visitors insight into family histories with the help of computer and multimedia technology, historical documents, professional advice and assistance for those, who embark on a journey of discovery into their family roots.
It is possible to buy Ellis Island and Immigration Museum tickets online, which cuts down on the time having to queue on the day of visiting. The Immigration Museum is housed in the actual former immigration station through which some 12 million immigrants entered New York City and a new life.
These brave immigrants are the forbearers of nearly 50% of today’s American population and visitors can find out more about the immigration process that awaited those who came in search of a better life by taking a 45 minute audio tour, which is available in nine different languages to reflect the diversity of the immigrants who arrived at the station.
There are also additional tours available, which enable visitors to hear first hand accounts and in-depth interviews with architects, historians and archaeologists involved in the various projects that led to the creation of the Immigration Museum.
Apart from various temporary exhibits, there are many interactive displays, videos, photographs and moving oral histories of those who came to America seek their fortune. More permanent exhibitions can be found at Journeys: The Peopling of America Centre, which deals with the American immigration history from 1550 to 1890, namely the era prior to the Ellis Island Immigration station being opened.
The Ellis Island Immigration Museum as well as Statue of Liberty are free for visitors. The audio tour costs USD 8.00 per adult and USD 7.25 for children under 12 as well as for senior citizens. There’s a gift shop selling souvenirs and collectibles and people wishing to explore their family history can obtain free forms and charts for collecting family history data from the Genealogy Learning Centre.
How to get there: The AirTrain from Terminal 4 at John F Kennedy Airport connects the NYC subway service and the main Bus Terminal as well as Grand Central Station and Penn Station on a half hourly service (for more information and time tables, please visit www.NYCAirporter.com). Several suppliers of car hire rentals have their service desks at John F Kennedy Airport, too.
From the main bus or train stations in central New York visitors should travel either to Battery Park in New York city or Liberty State Park in New Jersey and take a Statue Cruises ferry across to Ellis Island. Cruise ships operate from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm daily and during the summer months these hours are extended.
Visitors can purchase the audio tour at the same time as buying their ferry ticket (www.statuecruises.com). Thanks to tight security measures being in place, visitors need to be at the ferry at least 45 minutes prior to their actual boarding time.