How Much Time Do You Have?
A Few Minutes to An Hour?
Visit the Registry Room on the second floor. Also known as the "Great Hall", this is the heart of Ellis Island. Millions of immigrants were "processed" through this room from 1900 through the early 1920s.
At the west end of the Registry Room, walk down the Stairs of Separation. Read the brass plaque that explains why the stairs are separated and notice the wear on the original steps. At the bottom of the Stairs of Separation, turn left to return to the Baggage Room and the museum exit.
If you have a bit more time, visit "Through America's Gate" before walking down the Stairs of Separation. This exhibit chronicles the immigrant's experience, step by step, at Ellis Island. The exhibit begins in the southwest corner of the Registry Room.
Other activities include:
Park Ranger tour (free, 45 minutes)
Audio Tour (minimum 45 minutes)
"Island of Hope, Island of Tears" documentary (free, 45-minute program)
Two to Three Hours?
You can supplement any of the above activities by visiting our third-floor exhibit galleries:
"Treasures From Home" - A collection of belongings that Ellis Island immigrants brought from their homelands;
"Ellis Island Chronicles" features the geographic history of Ellis Island through photographs, documents, and models;
"Silent Voices" and "Restoring A Landmark" showcase the Ellis Island Immigration Station after its closure in 1954 and reveal how the Main Building was restored.
A restored "Dormitory Room" and historic photographs of the Registry Room are also on the third-floor balcony overlooking the "Great Hall".
If there is a temporary exhibit in our third-floor "Changing Exhibits Gallery", you are welcome to enjoy it.
You might also be able to fit in "Peak Immigration Years". This exhibit, on the east side of the second floor, explores the reasons people had for immigrating, where they came from, how they got here, and the challenges they encountered in America.
A Half-Day or More?
You'll probably be able to enjoy most, if not all, of the activities listed above, including a ranger-guided tour and "Island of Hope, Island of Tears". You should also be sure to visit our newly-updated "Journeys: The Peopling of America 1550-1890" exhibit on the first floor (behind the Baggage Room).
Many visitors begin on the third floor and work their way down through the exhibits, making sure not to miss a visit to the Registry Room.
Because they have not yet been restored, the other buildings on Ellis Island, primarily hospitals built for the care of immigrants, are not open to the public.
Did You Know?
On July 30, 1916, a major explosion at the railway terminals on the Black Tom Wharf in Jersey City did considerable damage to the Ellis Island buildings. The walls, ceilings, roofs and foundations of the hospital buildings were weakened, and many windows, casings and doors were blown out. The repairs to the facilities took about a year at a cost of nearly $400,000.00(about $8,333,333.33 in 2012).