NYC Guide To: Roosevelt Island

I have been meaning to make the time to take a trip to Roosevelt Island for a while now. I finally managed to make the trip yesterday and had a blast. Here is a guide on how to take visit Roosevelt Island.

Getting There

Roosevelt Island, previously known as Blackwell’s Island and Welfare Island, is a long strip of land located in the east river between Manhattan and Queens. Although today the island is used commercially and people live there, over the years it was used for hospitals, insane asylums, and prisons.

There are multiple ways to get to Roosevelt Island. You can take public transportation to get there, the F train and Q102 bus will take you. You can also drive into the island through three different paths: the Midtown Tunnel, the 59th Street Bridge Upper Roadway, or the 59th Street Bridge Lower Roadway. Technically you can also use these routes to bike to the island.

I choose to get to the island through it’s Tramway. You can get it simply by swiping your MetroCard, which currently costs $2.75 per ride, and you have one the most affordable views of New York City!


TRAVEL TIP: I assumed that the best spot to get on the tram was at the front so you can see the city as you are moving away from it. However, instead, I recommend you stand on the side of the tram where the doors are; THAT’S where the best view really is. You can see from the photographs below the view from the front (or is this the back?) of the tram and then the horrible photo of me trying to photograph over people’s heads of the side view.


I clearly learned my lesson and got a nice spot on my way back. And this time it was nighttime so all those New York City lights were out. These photos are still not the best and I can bet someone with a nicer camera than my iphone and better photography skills can take much better ones.


Getting Around

Roosevelt Island has a cute little red bus that circles the whole island, the RIOC Red Bus. You can simply hop on and off at whatever location you are closest to. While I read online that the bus costs 25 cents, it is actually FREE. Running daily between  5:45 AM and 2:30 AM (be careful not to get stranded there for those three hours!), I found that the bus came pretty quickly and I never waited more than five minutes.

Things To Do

The Octagon

The first attraction I saw on the island was the Octagon. This was previously a lunatic asylum and is rumored to be haunted. At one point, the building architecture greatly impressed Charles Dickinson. If you go inside there is a gorgeous staircase and there is a gallery showing old maps of the island. However, today the place has been refurbished into residential housing. Bummer.


North Point Lighthouse 

From the asylum we walked down to the lighthouse. Built in 1872, it was used to light the lunatic asylum and the boats along the river. Although you cannot actually go into the lighthouse, you can take in it’s beauty from the red benches in the park at the very south point of the island.


Southpoint Park 

From under the Queensborough Bridge you can walk along the waterfront towards the south point of the island.


Smallpox Hospital

The last thing we saw before making our way back home was the abandoned smallpox hospital.


Other Activities 

There are of course things I didn’t manage to do, that you can totally take advantage of when visiting the island.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Southpoint Park 

While I was there, the park was still under construction. But eventually it will be finished and you can enjoy the Roosevelt memorial.


I didn’t realize that this gallery was on the island until after. So don’t make the same mistake as me and make a visit to see what art Roosevelt Island has to offer.

What to Eat


Where you wondering if you could get your green tea lemonade to refresh yourself during the warm summer days? Well… you can.

Riverwalk Bar & Grill

I was planning on going in and getting some beer and wings but never managed to make the time to get some food (ended up getting dinner in the city instead).