The Ellis Island Immigration Museum is a must-visit place for anyone interested in American history. Almost 12 million immigrants came to the United States through Ellis Island, and I have read that nearly half of modern-day Americans are descended from them.
You can start off your visit with an inspiring and hanky-requiring movie on immigration. Museum exhibits showcase passports and documents from around the world, as well as many items from the daily lives of immigrants (in multiple languages!) once they got here.
Sadly, in the fall of 2012 Hurricane Sandy closed Ellis Island to visitors, so check to make sure it has reopened before you attempt a visit. The only way to get to the island itself (rather than merely cruise past it and wave) is through Statue Cruises. Information on getting to Statue Cruises’ departure point is available here.
Once the museum reopens, keep in mind that in summer it is a good idea to go early in the morning to avoid lines. Also, don’t be concerned by the fact that the boats stop at both Liberty Island (home to the Statue of Liberty) and Ellis Island. You don’t have to get off at both islands unless you want to, and if you do, boats run frequently, meaning you are unlikely to be stranded on either island for very long.
Ellis Island Immigration Museum
New York, NY 10004