Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
New York, NY
Lady Liberty, rising out of the New York Harbor off the southern tip of Manhattan, is one of America’s most iconic sights -- but don’t waste a whole afternoon in NYC taking the ferry to see it up close. It’ll cost you more time and money than it’s worth, and anyway there are perfectly good views of the statue from Battery Park. Ellis Island, which is accessed via the same ferry ride as the Statue of Liberty, was an important historical site, but isn’t much of a landmark. As an immigration processing station, the island was basically a building for bureaucracy, and visiting it today is only moderately more interesting than a trip to the DMV.
What to do instead: If it’s an amazing view of lower Manhattan you want, take a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, where you can get the best views of the city and the harbor -- Statue of Liberty included -- for free. And if it’s the immigrant history you’re after, a much better alternative to Ellis Island is the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side. Just a 10 minute walk from the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge, the Tenement Museum offers a remarkable glimpse into how New York’s old immigrants actually lived once they got through Ellis Island, with fascinating tours of restored tenement apartments where German, Irish, and Jewish immigrants crammed together over a hundred years ago.