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 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!
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!
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!).
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!
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.
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.
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