Ellis Island has a birthday on January 1

While I was getting the links for my post on things to do in New York City on New Year’s Day, I saw that Ellis Island is also open, plus that it’s having a birthday tomorrow. It first opened on January 1, 1892.

Friends of ours went to New York City earlier in December and did take the ferry to Liberty Island where the Statue of Liberty lifts her torch and then on to Ellis Island, but they didn’t get off the boat in either place. They missed out on what I think is one of the more interesting museums I’ve been to–and I’ve been to A LOT of museums. Sure, it’s neat to see the Statue of Liberty from up close, but if you only have time for one place, get off at Ellis Island for at least an hour or so. Plus, the museum is free. You’ve already paid for the boat ride, so why not get your money’s worth?

Ellis Island does not have the flashiest of museums, but it is steeped in American and world history and, I think, is important to the multicultural fabric of the United States–one that is good to pay tribute to. If you have kids, it’s an excellent way to teach them about who has immigrated to the U.S., when the various ethnic groups came and the various things that were happening in the world that prompted them to relocate.

My two favorite displays are the 3-D graphs that show who came and when and the section that highlights various families and the belongings they bought with them. If you do go here, take time out for the movies and the talk by the National Park ranger.

The last time we were there, my son caused a double-take. When the ranger asked, “Who here was born in another country?” and my son, then age 4 raised his hand and shouted out, “I was. I was born in India,” the ranger looked at my son’s blond hair and fair skin in confusion. “For real?” he asked.

For real. My son’s immigration story is not quite as exciting as an ocean journey from Europe, but it will provide some party talk when he gets older.