13 Best Things To Do in Roosevelt Island, New York

Must see in roosevelt islandImage Source: wikipedia.org

Roosevelt Island nestled in New York City is a beautiful two-mile island visited by a number of travelers worldwide. This hidden gem is usually missed by many owing to its haunted historical importance. There are fantabulous places to visit in Roosevelt Island like the Roosevelt Island Historical Society, Octagon, beautiful lighthouses, Blackwell house and many more. One of the top tourist attraction in Roosevelt Island is the ride in “Tram”. It is an exhilarating 4min ride that offers spectacular views to passengers. It is a fun way to travel across New York City whilst enjoying the breathtaking views at almost every stop. This small island will not only add color to your itinerary but will give you a firsthand experience of its rich history and culture.

Let's explore Roosevelt Island points of interest and 13 best things to do in Roosevelt Island:

1. Four Freedoms Park: Land of fun-filled activities

The Four Freedoms Park is located at the southernmost tip of the island and gives you a panoramic view of Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Roosevelt Island. This park was officially opened in 2012 and is New York’s newest treasure. It comprises an open-topped deck line and large granite block which is one hell of a view. This place is also home to various events that include books reading, power yoga sessions, playgroup for toddlers, public gatherings and talks, kite flying competitions and spectacular music performances. These activities start in May and continue up to October. This park project was designed by architect Louis Khan and is a now a memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is thus also known as Welfare Island. This park gained much attention in 2015 when Hillary Clinton held her first presidential candidacy. Roosevelt’s tourist’s attractions are more about experiencing than reading.

2. Cornell Tech: Floating dream palace

This little island is home to the world’s first residential passive and high rise-built homes. It has a stunning building with 355 units for residential area and has a total of 26 stories that houses 530 graduate students, faculties, and staff. Known for its fantabulous architecture, the Cornell Tech campus includes a vast open area for public space and a new chain of hotels and restaurants that offers some of the best cheddar cheese curds, a product specialty of the campus. It is also the tallest Passive house in the world. The best part of this campus area is that they have constructed green buildings keeping in mind the concept of sustainable development.

3. The Octagon: Swirling up and down

It is simply mesmerizing to stroll in and around the Octagon, located at the magical 888 Main Street. It was a former asylum for the unwanted and maniacs which is now transformed into a luxurious residential building. This 19th-century remnant is more than just an island retreat. The transformation took place in 2006 and has been ever since known as the high-end housing society. A point of interest is the winding staircase located in the center of the rotunda, adjoining the gallery flaunting its elegance and built. Other points of interest in the Roosevelt Island is the North point lighthouse that is certainly a sight to behold. Don’t miss the South point Park which is located at the extreme southern end of the island.

4. Small Pox Hospital: Be haunted

Smallpox hospital is located right next to the Four Freedoms Park and is known to be the most haunted place in the whole of Roosevelt Island. It was built by James Renwick in 1853. This was the first hospital in the country known to have cured the most viral infections ever known, particularly smallpox. It is also called as the Renwick Ruin. Although you will not be allowed to wander through the ruins a small peek-a-boo into the aging structure of this landmark in New York City is a must.

5. The Tram: Where the fun never ends

The most vital component of New York City is the “Tram”. Over 25 million passengers including students, travelers, and seniors use the tram. It holds a capacity of 220 people per cabin and makes approximately 100 trips daily. It speeds at 16 miles per hour. This convenience car that opened in the 70’s is now the most economical public transport that offers New York’s most spectacular views throughout.

6. Chapel of Good Sheppard

This beautiful church was built in the late 19th century and is one the Island’s oldest church. It is located at 543 Main Street. The roots of this chapel go back to when Roosevelt Island was home to some of the city’s most unwanted, sick and mentally ill people. George Bliss was the man who stepped forward with heavy funding to the architect Frederic Clark Withers who finally designed and initiated the most beautiful church for the most neglected sect of humankind. This historical church was completed in 1889.

7. Much of an Art lover- Roosevelt Island Visual Art Association (RIVAA) is the place to be

It is the main Street gallery located close to the subway station known as RIVAA. The place will surely bound you in its artistic spell. It is a local association which supports cultural development of the Island by promoting musical performances, theatre, book signings and poetry reading. They even collaborate with schools to promote public involvement. Works by great artists are also exhibited in the Octagon gallery. 

8. North Point Lighthouse

This typical Gothic-style lighthouse cannot be missed. It was built in 1872 using hard stone mostly granite with the sole purpose to light the way for navigating boats because of the treacherous and roaring waters of East river that was located just north of the island. Adjoining the lighthouse is a beautiful green park which is a perfect spot to lay and enjoy the splendid views of Manhattan and Queens. It looks north towards the Randall’s Island and is a simple five-minute walk from the island bus systems and a hard 20-minute walk from the tram.

9. The Blackwell House

The Blackwell House is the best place to start exploring Roosevelt Island. It is one of the most visited Island’s landmarks- here at New York City’s 6th oldest house. This house was constructed in 1796 for the Blackwell family and designed in the most modest colonial style. The family owned the island for many generations; hence the island was named after them, Blackwell Island. It was in 1828, that this beautiful paradise was purchased by the city of New York for dedicated to welfare institutions for the ever-increasing population. Over a long period of time, many institutions ceased to be unnecessary and started to close year after year. After going through this metamorphic journey, Blackwell house was refurbished and named after the former president Franklin D. Roosevelt and is utilized as a community center. It is thus the New York’s national landmark. 

10. Roosevelt Island Historical Society Visitor Centre

A perfect place to buy the souvenirs for your loved ones coupled with historical books containing all the important historical facts about the island. The staff here is native to the island and is well-acquainted with every nook and corner of the island. This informative visitor center is opened from Wednesday to Sunday from 12:00-5:00 p.m. It is closed on Monday and Tuesday.

11. Tom Otterness Sculpture

Fascinated by the sculptures? Then be sure not to miss the group of bronze sculptures on your way to the north point of the island along the western promenade. These beauties were created in 1996 and reflect the artistic vibe of the place flaunting its playful figures. The mastermind behind these sculptures is none other than Tom Otterness who is also the mastermind behind the beautiful whimsical figures at the 14th Street and Eighth Avenue subway station. 

12. South Park Point

It is a beautiful, quaint, and a spacious park with the shimmering blue sky and green flora. It is the best spot to get a full panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline. The place is never too crowded and is a must visit by every individual visiting the Roosevelt Island. The garden is well-maintained and has public restrooms located at the entrance. Not to miss on the clear water fountains throughout the park cooling the place and keeping you hydrated at all times.

13. Strecker Memorial Laboratory

This unique laboratory was built in 1892 which is now dysfunctional. This was the first laboratory built in the country devoted solely to bacteriological research. Unfortunately, this lab was closed in the 1950’s and reopened in 2000. This building is today registered as an important landmark in the National Register of Historic Places.

Author: Arundhati Bhand
An animal lover at heart, marketer by education and artist by passion, Arundhati aims to seek out to all that satisfies her diverse interests. She believes that it is only through experiences that one learns, and a traveller of sorts, she strives to ...

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