Ok so I may be a bit bias because I work on Roosevelt Island but I think it is a great place to come explore and I keep telling people to visit (and bring food because the Island is lacking in the food department). Roosevelt Island is reachable by car from Queens and by the F subway train or Ferry from Queens or Manhattan. However, the tram from Manhattan is the best way to visit if you’re in it for the experience. The Roosevelt Island tram leaves from 2nd ave and 59th – one block away from Bloomingdales one of my favorite NYC landmarks!! The riding the tram is basically like on a ferris wheel in an amusement park, except NYC is the amusement park!
The southern park is closest to the tram station, just exit the tram and make a left when you are facing the Manhattan skyline. You will walk underneath the Queensborough bridge [ FYI, interesting fact, the bridge use to have a car elevator as transportation to the island before the welfare bridge, tram or train]. The buildings you will pass on the left are part of the new Cornell Tech campus that was just featured on the cover of Architectural Digest and catches beautiful reflections of sunset. The Cornell Tech Café in the Bloomberg building is open to visitors and has some Cornell Ithaca made kosher ice cream!
Continuing past Cornell Tech along the water you will get to the entrance of Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park. The park contains the creepy remnants of the small pox hospital as well as a dedication to President Roosevelt and his speech about the Four Freedoms. The park offers great views of both Manhattan and Queens. I love coming to this park on my lunch breaks, it almost feels like my own secret garden with only a handful of tourist and the occasional school trips. Starting April 21st the park is hosting the Cheery Blossom Festival of 2018 and I think there is no better time to come visit! ( I mean look at these beautiful trees!!)
As I mentioned before, food is not Roosevelt Islands strong point. Just one block north of the tram station along the water is Starbucks and Duane Reade – my two main sources of nourishment when I forget my lunch at home. Also note, because Roosevelt Island has become mainly residential Starbucks may close earlier than other NYC locations so check times before your visit.
A little known fact, the Island has its own transportation that happens to be free! The red bus with the logo RIOC loops around the Island and is the easiest way to get from the tram to the north park and the old lunatic asylum. In my opinion the north park is not as fantastic as its southern counterpart. The north park does have a 50 foot stone lighthouse that stands at the northern most tip of the island hence, it is often called the Lighthouse park. If you want to avoid the tourists visit the Lighthouse park, but if honestly the Four Freedoms Park should not be missed.
Feel free to venture down main street in these absurdly quaint NYC neighborhood and then come visit me at work! I hope you enjoy!