One of the top things on my NYC To-Do list (not to be confused with my Holiday To-Do List in NYC for 2010, my 26 things to do before I turn 26 list, or my rappers I’d like to face in a freestyle battle list) was to do an Ellis Island / Statue of Liberty trip which I finally got to do on this absolutely gorgeous Sunday! I know most people probably did this on school trips when they were in elementary school, but I grew up just two hours too far from the city for that. My sister tells me that I actually have been to Lady Lib but I just don’t believe her as I have no recollection of this NYC trip.
I really wanted to go to Ellis Island with family members so I ended up making the trip with my frousins (friends + cousins – don’t worry about it, yes, again, we know how cool we are) and my frister (you can figure that one out). Katie, Emily, Mike and I met in Liberty State Park in Jersey City this morning, all miraculously within a few minutes of each other. We bought ferry tickets ($12 – two bucks more than our great-grandfather carried over from Ireland), went through airport-like security (no backpacks or large bags!), and headed over to Ellis Island first.
There are three levels to the Ellis Island memorial and lots of cool exhibits. In “The Peopling of America”, there are displays about the history of immigration and statistics sliced any way you can imagine – immigrants by originating countries, gender, job held, favorite member of ‘N Sync, etc. There is also an interesting piece with faces if you look at it one way and the American flag if you look at it the other way.
“Peak Immigration Years” has photos, passports, propaganda to come to America, photos of the ships that came over, reasons why immigrants wanted to leave their homelands, and information about where they settled once they made it here. It also focuses on the impact that immigration has had on American culture.
“Through America’s Gate” shows what the immigrants had to go through during processing after landing on Ellis Island. In addition to the exhibits inside, there is, of course, a gift shop and cafeteria (I highly recommend the Jr Ranger Chicken Finger meal) and the “Wall of Honor” outside where donors pay to have their ancestors names inscribed. Luckily, someone else in the family had done this for our great-grandfather Philip so we got to check out his celebrity status fo’ free. Once we finished everything on the island, we unsuccessfully tried to deter a seagull from eating a large piece of plastic, jumped in front of the memorial, and headed back on the ferry.
We ventured over to the Statue of Liberty with the goal of climbing up, but they stop letting people up at 3:30, “no exceptions” even though some lady was furiously yelling at one of the park rangers, so we settled for some more “jumping in front of national monuments” instead and then took the ferry back while the sun was setting. I can’t pick from these pictures which I like best so please enjoy the brief but beautiful montage.
This trip was definitely one of my favorite tourist experiences in NYC so far because it was so meaningful, being at the place where my ancestors came in over 100 years ago. I’m pretty glad they came over so I could enjoy this fabulous city today. I’m sure this was their end goal.