Roosevelt Island, a place that was once known for prisons and abandoned buildings, is now one of the most attractive places to explore for its green spaces, stunning views, and rich history.
It has a population of 11,722 diverse residents, composed of 45% Whites, 27% African Americans, 14% Hispanics, and 11% Asians.
Living on the island is one of the best options for those looking for a dense urban vibe with low crime rates and excellent public schools for children.
As a tourist, you’d be glad to know that the island has numerous amazing restaurants, green parks, historical landmarks, and coffee shops to tick off from your bucket list.
The island is a perfect side trip or a weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle of New York City.
Check out what you can do on this narrow island of Manhattan through this list I have created for you. But first, get to know a bit about Roosevelt Island.
Where is Roosevelt Island
Roosevelt Island is located in East River, New York County. This two-mile-long narrow island is in the New York City borough of Manhattan and is bordered by nearby neighborhoods, including Lenox Hill, Ravenswood, Queensbridge, and Midtown East. Moreover, it can be found in between the boroughs of Long Island and Queens.
How to Get to Roosevelt Island
If you want to drive or walk to the island, the best option is going through the Roosevelt Island Bridge, which is accessible from Astoria, Queens.
For those coming from Manhattan, you can hop on the Roosevelt Island Tramway for only $2.75 for a one-way ticket.
The train is also another available transportation to visit the island, specifically the F-Train from either Queens or Manhattan.
You can also take the Q102 Bus Line from Queens for easy access. If you are the type who doesn’t get seasick, then the NYC Ferry is another great option.
What to Do on Roosevelt Island
What is on Roosevelt Island and what can I do there? Roosevelt Island is popular for its architectural history, which means you will find several historical buildings and national landmarks.
Aside from sightseeing and visiting the landmarks, Roosevelt offers more interesting places to explore and restaurants to dine to make your Roosevelt Island experience worth the trip.
888 Main Street, Roosevelt Island, Manhattan, NY 10046
Originally built in 1834 and later restored in 2006, The Octagon is among the six must-see landmarks of the island.
Today, it is an upscale residential place loved for its park and green spaces. Moreover, it is one of the best places to hang out since it has several restaurants for eating and stores for shopping.
Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park
1 FDR Four Freedoms Park, Roosevelt Island, NY 10044
Located on the southern end of the island, Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park or FDR Four Freedoms State Park is a four-acre memorial park created in 2012 and is a designated New York State park.
The park is an ideal place to stroll, exercise, learn history, and participate in hosted events. On top of that, it offers stunning panoramic views of the city skyline.
Southpoint Park, Roosevelt Island, NY 10044
Opened in 1892, Strecker Lab or the Strecker Memorial Laboratory is a historical building that used to be a laboratory for City Hospital, a historic hospital built in 1832.
It features Romanesque Revival architecture and was designated a New York City Landmark in 1972. It was also included in the list of National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
E Rd, New York, NY 10044
Smallpox Hospital or Renwick Smallpox Hospital was a hospital that opened in 1856. It is a spooky old ruin that is part of the list of the National Register of Historic Places. The architectural style features a Gothic Revival that was designed by James Renwick Jr.
Blackwell Island Lighthouse
Northern end of Roosevelt Island, NY
Known as Roosevelt Island Lighthouse, Blackwell Island Light is a lighthouse constructed in 1872 on the East River. It is a 50-feet lighthouse that was first lit in 1872 and was shut down in 1940.
It is another stone Gothic Revival structure that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and a New York City Landmark in 1976.
New York Public Library
504 Main St, New York, NY 10044
Among the 92 New York Public Library locations, one of them is located at 504 Main Street in Roosevelt Island. It started as a community library and later became a part of the New York Public Library system in 1998. So if you are looking for a place to read free books, the New York Public Library will surely encourage your interest in reading.
Roosevelt Island Garden Community
Between the Octagon Field and Pony Field, NY
For the garden enthusiast or nature lover, Roosevelt Island Garden Community is a non-profit organization run by volunteers to help create beautiful community gardens.
It is located between the Octagon Field and Pony Field and is open to the public on the weekends. Diversity is one of its main agendas as they are most welcome to all races, colors, genders, religions, and many more.
E 59th St & 2nd Avenue
New York, NY 10022
What better way to have an aerial view of the city than riding the Roosevelt Island Tramway. Located at E 59th St and 2nd Avenue, the Roosevelt Island Tramway is the first public sky tram in North America. It is a 3,100-ft long line operating at a 17.9 mph speed.
Roosevelt Island Visual Arts Association (RIVAA) Gallery
527 Main St, New York, NY 10044
Roosevelt Island Visual Arts Association (RIVAA) Gallery is the best place to appreciate contemporary art.
The association includes 35 artists who are passionate about showcasing talent and delivering excellent artwork. Not only can you appreciate art, but also live music in the gallery.
500 Main St, New York, NY 10044
Named after Jacob Blackwell, Blackwell House is a historic house built in 1796 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. It is located at the corner of Main Street and is the sixth oldest farmhouse in New York.
The house can be visited from Wednesdays to Sundays every 11 am to 5 pm. You can come inside for free but only for a limited time of up to 30 minutes.
Graduate Roosevelt Island
A rooftop lounge with stunning views of the city, Panorama Room is a contemporary cocktail bar that serves oysters and small dishes.
It is a spectacular spot for sunsets and good vibes. Try their famous East Coast oysters for $36 and shrimp cocktail for $24.
Fuji East Japanese Bistro
455 Main St, New York, NY 10044
If you feel like having a Japanese night, visit Fuji East Japanese Bistro at 455 Main Street. Their menu options are extensive, so you have choices for salads, appetizers, sushi rolls, sashimi, party trays, entrees, and many more.
People love their satisfying dishes, great customer service, and top-notch food presentation.
Zhongzhong Noodles – Roosevelt Island
568 Main St, New York, NY 10044
Get a taste of Chinese with Zhongzhong Noodles on Main Street Roosevelt Island. This noodle bar serves Chinese-Japanese ramen, noodles, rice bowls, hot pot, and dumplings.
Some of their must-try dishes are their famous beef noodles, vegan dumplings, and delicious beef trip mini hot pot.
The Cafe at Cornell Tech
2 W Loop Rd, New York, NY 10044
The Cafe at Cornell Tech is a cool spot for breakfast or lunch. You can order a variety of breakfast options such as pancakes, croissants, sandwiches, and salads. If you are going for lunch, try their free crust pizzas and flatbreads paired with hot soup. It is also a great place to stop for strong coffee such as Parliament coffee and espresso.
455 Main St, New York, NY 10044
For a refreshing drink to start your day, head over to Jupioca and choose from their selection of juices, smoothies, shots, and milk teas. Their juices are good for those who are health conscious as they are served with fresh fruits and vegetables.
Try their vitality green, crazy sexy, and brain power for that extra body boost. If you are looking for heart breakfast foods, their acai bowls are worth the try and are made from organic ingredients.
Where to Stay on Roosevelt Island
Graduate Roosevelt Island
22 N Loop Rd, New York, NY 10044
Looking for a place to stay? Look no further as there is only one hotel around – Graduate Roosevelt Island. It is the only best hotel available for a quick island getaway.
You can find it across the Cornell Tech university campus, just a five-minute walk from the station.
The hotel boasts stunning city and river views from your hotel room. Furry friends can also join you in the hotel as they have pet-friendly rooms too.
Enjoy their amenities like the fitness center and Anything At All, a restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
For unique activities to do, check out their featured special events and join them. For instance, the All About Wellness is an exclusive package for yoga and sculpt sessions.
Other packages to make the most of your stay are NYC Day Out, Pup Package for dogs, island Lovin’, and Roosevelt island Retreat.
Is It a Safe Place?
Yes! Roosevelt Island is one of the safest places in New York that is best for families and professionals. It has a lower percentage of crime rate than the New York average. Living and staying on Roosevelt Island offers a quiet and relaxed residential neighborhood.
According to Niche’s Crime & Safety grade, Roosevelt Island has a grade of B- based on overall violent and property crimes reported.
For every 100,000 residents, about 212 become victims of assault and 288 of theft. These statistics are relatively low compared to other dangerous neighborhoods.
Nevertheless, keep in mind to consistently follow travel safety tips. Don’t draw too much attention, especially wearing flashy jewelry or accessories.
If you are traveling alone, I suggest keeping your family and friends updated with your current location.
As a well-traveled tourist, I have dealt with countless scammers. So, I highly suggest staying vigilant and aware of them.
Should you decide to have a night out, drink responsibly and always go with a friend. Always remember these tips to stay safe wherever you go.
Plan Your Visit at Roosevelt Island
Roosevelt Island is a place for history buffs, nature enthusiasts, and art lovers. With a chic hotel, large green parks, and several historical landmarks, the island is a great way to enjoy New York without the crowds. So, what are you waiting for? Plan your stay and choose the best mode of transportation to get here.
Book ahead of time if you decide to stay with Graduate Roosevelt Island as rooms might be limited since it is the only hotel around. If you are aiming to do a unique itinerary, then I suggest you check out special events hosted by the hotel, restaurants, and organizations.
Lucky for you, I have already listed their contact information, so you can easily call them for monthly or annual events.
Have you ever been to one of the places mentioned? Leave a message below via the comments section and share your experiences with fellow travelers.
Did I miss anything good? Let me know in the comments section too! I would love to hear about your suggestions and can’t wait to try them.