Renwick Smallpox Hospital, Roosevelt Island

5 Reasons to Visit Roosevelt Island in New York City


New Yorkers are a busy bunch. Between work, social engagements, and trying to squeeze in some time for themselves, most people don’t have a lot of spare time on their hands. So when they do get the chance to take a day trip somewhere, they want to make sure it’s worth their time. And that’s why Roosevelt Island is such a great destination.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

From Cornell Tech north, Roosevelt Island’s residential community from Sutton Place. / © David Stone/Roosevelt Island Daily. All rights reserved.

Visit Roosevelt Island

Located in the East River between Manhattan and Queens, Roosevelt Island is a small but mighty island with a lot to offer. Here are just five of the many reasons why you should consider visiting Roosevelt Island on your next day off:

Roosevelt Island is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Along a two mile stretch, the island is home to some of the most beautiful views of Manhattan, Long Island City and the East River.

1. The views are incredible.

There’s no better place to get a panoramic view of Manhattan than from Roosevelt Island. The Roosevelt Island Tramway takes riders up 250 feet in the air for some truly breathtaking views. But for others, a liesurely stroll along the West Promenade is better or a sit on the Meditation Steps – about a hundred yards north of the subway station.

The view from FDR Four Freedoms State Park/© David Stone/Roosevelt Island Daily. All rights reserved.

2. It’s a haven for nature lovers.

If you’re looking for a place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, Roosevelt Island is perfect. Home to three parks: FDR Four Freedoms State Park, Lighthouse Park and Southpoint Park. All offer beautiful views across the river and plenty of green space to relax in. In Lighthouse Park, The Girl Puzzle, a memorial installation dedicated to Nellie Bly opened in December.

3. Visit Roosevelt Island because there’s plenty of history to explore.

Roosevelt Island has a rich history dating back to the days of Dutch colonization. Today, you can learn rich details at Blackwell House, a restored 18th Century farmhouse, with exhibits and guides. You can also take a walk down Memory Lane at Lighthouse Park, which is home to the island’s oldest structure, a 19th-century lighthouse. (The lighthouse is currently undergoing restoration.)

4. The architecture will knock your socks off.

From a restored 19th Century Farmhouse to large-scale, 1950s-style brutalist buildings to a 21st Century masterpiece in environmental design, it rolls out from top to bottom.

Examples of landmark architecture:

Renwick designed Smallpox Hospital, Roosevelt Island, New York City./© David Stone/The Roosevelt Island Daily News
  • Blackwell House: Now restored to reflect New York City life in the 1800s.
  • The Main Street Canyon: The Island’s four original buildings after the city turned it over to the state for developing a community are inspiring examples of brutalist architecture that burst on the world stage in the 1950s.
  • Octagon Tower: An eight-sided, Gothic-style building that was once a women’s insane asylum. It inspired Nelly Bly‘s barrier-busting reporting. Residential towers now spread out, flanking the restored tower.
  • The Passive House at Cornell Tech: A new building on the island that is one of the most sustainable in the world. Built and managed by Hudson-Related, a dynamic real estate duo, it was, on opening day, the largest passive house in the world.
  • The Smallpox Hospital Ruins: All that remains of a 19th-century hospital, designed by James Renwick, opened as a groundbreaking home for treating the then incurable disease. Still standing are vine-covered interior walls exposed by collapsed areas of the exterior. But Renwick’s touch makes it seem grander.

5. It’s easy to get to.

Roosevelt Island is easily accessible by subway (F Train), The Roosevelt Island Tram (59th Street at 2nd Avenue), or NYC Ferry’s Astoria route, making it a great day trip for New Yorkers of all ages.

Roosevelt Island is a great place for anyone who wants to experience New York City in a different way. The island offers a unique perspective of the city that can’t be found anywhere else.

So what are you waiting for? Roosevelt Island is the perfect place to spend a day in the city. Whether you’re looking for stunning views, a taste of history, or just a good meal, you’ll find it all on this small but mighty island.

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