The Queensborough Bridge from the cable car.
North America,  USA

Roosevelt Island by Cable Car

During my trip to New York we happened upon the Roosevelt Island Tramway and as tickets were cheap and we had some time spare we decided to take the tram across the East River. If you’re taking a trip to NYC, I highly recommend you put this on your to do list!

Roosevelt Island Tramway stop
I’m so glad we found this!
Roosevelt Island poster
I’d love a copy of this to hang in my flat.

Roosevelt Island sits between Manhattan Island and Queens and since the 1800s has been home to hospitals, asylums and a prison, which makes for an interesting history. To get there you can choose to go by boat or subway, but I recommend you try out the Roosevelt Island Tramway. The four-minute journey from Manhattan offers up beautiful views of the river and both islands so make sure you get a spot by a window!

The view as you set off from Manhattan.
The view as you set off from Manhattan.
The beautiful East River from the center of the cable car line.
The beautiful East River from the centre of the cable car line.
The Queensborough Bridge from the cable car.
The impressive Queensborough Bridge from the cable car.

Opened in 1976, the tramway consists of two gondolas which take commuters and tourists back and forth to Manhattan and Roosevelt Island every 15 minutes. You get great views of the impressive Queensborough Bridge too and at one point you get extremely close to a Manhattan office block – so much so you can wave to the inhabitants while they go about their working day!

The cable between the bridge and office blocks.
You can almost see what people are having for lunch when you pass the office block on the left!
The impressive Queensborough Bridge stretching over the River.
The impressive Queensborough Bridge stretching over the river.

Once across, we walked along the river down towards the south tip of the island which gave stunning views of the Manhattan skyline (I took many a panoramic shot on the shoreline here!).

The Manhattan skyline from Roosevelt Island.
The Manhattan skyline from Roosevelt Island.

A 15-minute walk brings you to an abandoned building covered in overgrown ivy. This used to be the Smallpox Hospital. Positioned at the very tip of what was then called Blackwell’s Island, it kept infected patients far enough away from the main population of New York City. The now crumbling hospital dates from the 1850s and is an official New York City Landmark. There are plans for it to be opened to the public soon, so make sure to research before you go!

The smallpox hospital on the Island.
A hidden gem for explorers and lovers of gothic architecture.

We walked back towards the tramway stop along the other side of the island which looks over towards Queens – another good spot for some stunning panoramic photos! We visited Roosevelt Island as it was turning from evening into dusk into night, so we managed to see the views from the cable car in the light on the way there and in the dark on the way back – a fantastic sight if you can time it right.

The view towards Queens.
The view on the other side of Roosevelt Island is just as serene.
The view from the cable car at night.
At night, the Manhattan streets are made up of streetlights and headlights.
Coming back to the Manhattan stop at dusk.
Coming back to the Manhattan stop at dusk.

Tips and tricks for visiting Roosevelt Island by cable car

  • The entrance to the Roosevelt tram is at 2nd Avenue and 60th
  • If you have a MetroCard then travelling is free, but if not a one-way ticket only costs $2.50.
  • The tram operates between 6am-2am every day except Fridays and Saturdays when it’s open between 6am-3:30am.
  • Commuters use the tram like the subway so don’t be surprised if it’s busy during rush hour.
  • Find out more about the Roosevelt Island Tram online.

Enjoy this story? Then why not check out our other New York posts?

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Wander Mum

Laura works for a charity as a communications manager and uses as much of her holiday as possible to travel the world. She loves to go on European city breaks as well as longer trips further afield and is keen to see more of the USA and South East Asia...


  • Rachel

    Ok, this looks like SO much fun. What a great way to see some more of the city, and good value too! Roosevelt Island looks like a great place to explore as well as get some good views, it definitely sounds like somewhere I’d like to find out more about. Also, how cool would it be to get to work on a cable car every day?!

  • Katherine

    I wonder if Roosevelt Island’s asylum was were journalist Nellie Bly faked her way into in the 1880s? I read her story a couple of years ago and it chilled me.
    But enough of that, I don’t remember hearing about Roosevelt Island before, and definitely didn’t realise you could catch a cable car to visit it. It looks really cool! #CityTripping

  • Sarah Christie

    Wow this looks incredible, we never got time to go when we were in NYC but it is on the list for next time. And you cant beat the view of Manhattan streets from high up and night can you x

  • clare

    I love going over to Roosevelt Island it is so calm and quiet and can be such a nice break from Manhattan. The lighthouse at the north end is so pretty and the park at the south end is a lovely place to sit for lunch. #XmasComp

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