Explore New York City

Back to Your Roots: A Trip to Ellis Island

Take a sobering trip back in time.

Having never visited before, I decided a trip to the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration was long overdue. And so, I recently hailed a cab to Battery Park, where magnificent Lady Liberty stands seemingly within reach. Boarding the ferry and grabbing a seat (quickly, as the boat gets packed within moments) was an instant lesson in the truly international flavor of this city. To my right sat a young Australian family of three; to my left, I heard the honeyed drawl of the Deep South; and, in front of me, I watched a young man furiously texting in Japanese. Once at the museum, I grabbed a headset for the audio tour (a must!), and proceeded on this sobering trip back in time. The Journeys hall chronicled early NYC arrivals (1550-1890); elsewhere, I walked through rooms which had once been crammed with bunk beds housing immigrants; and, at the History Center, where I could access passenger records, I looked for Grandpa Louis, who came here from Austria-Hungary in 1915. I didn’t find him, but it was still worth the experience.