I often joke around that I’m “staying on the island for the summer”…meaning the island of Manhattan, of course. But there’s another island right next door that’s super quick and easy to get to (no car needed!), and offers a lot of quiet, solitude, and nature that we’re not necessarily swimming in on the island of Manhattan. No, I’m not speaking of the Hamptons…I’m talking Roosevelt Island!
My favorite way of getting to Roosevelt Island is taking the RI Tram from 59th Street and 2nd Avenue (video of the ride below!) If heights aren’t your thing, you can hop on the F train and take it underground to the Roosevelt Island stop. See? Quick and easy!
What To Do
The Visitor’s Center
When you disembark the tram, you’ll see the teeny tiny Visitor’s Center right in front of you. The folks manning the desk are super helpful and knowledgable about anything you might want to know about the island, so I’d definitely suggest popping in for a chat and to get yourself orientated. If you’re into history, ask lots of questions! Roosevelt Island has a fascinating past, including hospitals, asylums, and correctional institutions.
Southpoint Park & Four Freedoms Park
A 10 minute walk south once you exit the tram or subway, these parks are clean (with public restrooms, yay!), and offer breathtaking views of the city. You’ll come across Southpoint Park first (which is dog friendly, Four Freedoms is not.)
It is also home to a landmark building: the old Small Pox Hospital, which is pretty cool to see up close and personal.
Be sure to walk down to the end of the island to Four Freedoms Park, which is where you will see a gorgeous memorial to President FDR himself. The parks are hosts to lots of fun outdoorsy, summery events, so be sure to check out their website for times of outdoor films, dance lessons, tours, etc.
Blackwell Island Lighthouse
Now hop on the red bus (which picks up back at the tram) and ride it about 10 minutes to the last stop on the North point of the island where you will see the Blackwell Island Lighthouse. Built by convict laborers in 1872, this lighthouse lit the way for boats navigating what was then referred to as the “Hell Gates waters”. The lighthouse is also surrounded by a park, so this is a great place to lay out with a blanket and read a book, take a snooze, or play some frisbee.
Walk The Promenade
After a bit of rest, head back down the West side of the island via foot for a nice little stroll…it’s about 2 miles (or you could always hop back on the bus!) You’ll capture beautiful views of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and see the Coler Campus of the Coler-Goldwater Hospital on your left. The hospital is a long-term care facility for patients with live-in needs, hence you’ll see a lot of wheelchairs and scooters about. I love how universally designed and accessible the island is to all…kudos, NYC!
You’ll run smack into Eleanor’s Pier, which is a cute wooden pier with tables and a container of takeout menus. You can either order takeout right from the pier, or walk just another block to the town center where the restaurants are located, and then bring your food back. (Or packing a picnic is always a great option!) There’s not a huge variety when it comes to dining on the island, but they have all the staples: bar food, pizza, and sushi. It should be no surprise what I went for!
All in all, three hours should be plenty of time to see the above mentioned sites and to enjoy some quietness on the island. Although it’s not quite a beach getaway, I promise you’ll leave feeling rested, recharged, and ready to tackle whatever may lay on the other end of your tram ride. Happy travels!
What’s your favorite afternoon getaway? Share below!
By: Jessica Tiare Bowen
This post is part of Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox.