Day Trip to Roosevelt Island

Have you ever wondered about that small island that sits right between Queens and Manhattan in the East River? It’s called Roosevelt Island, and it’s the next stop in our urban day trip series. It has a rich history that dates back to the 1600s, and boasts an impressive six landmarks within its 147 acres. There are tons of ways you and your family can spend a day on the island.

The six landmarks on Roosevelt Island range from the original Blackwell House, which has been restored, to the mysterious Octagon Tower, which housed New York City’s first ever municipal asylum. Since the entire island is only two miles long, it’s possible for you and your family to walk around and see them all.

Blackwell House

This former farmhouse is one of the few left in New York City, and it happens to be the oldest surviving one, dating back to the Revolutionary War.

The Chapel of the Good Shepherd

This small church dates back to the late 1800s. Originally Episcopalian, it’s now open to people of all faiths. It was restored in 2003.

The Octagon Tower

This tower served as the main entrance to the New York City Lunatic Asylum in the mid 1800s. It has since been restored, almost exactly, to its original state. It’s now the lobby to green, or eco-friendly, homes.

Lighthouse Park

The lighthouse on the tip of Roosevelt Island is now surrounded by a park, complete with BBQ and picnic areas. From this point on the island, you can perfectly see the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the Triborough/RFK Bridge, and even Socrates Sculpture Park in Astoria.

Smallpox Hospital

This is the only official landmark ruin within NYC. It has served as a smallpox hospital, nursing school, and a city hospital. It’s currently undergoing a stabilization effort, in the hopes of one day making it more accessible for viewing.

Strecker Laboratory

This is possibly the least exciting of the landmarks, as it’s now owned by the MTA and used to house subway equipment, but in its day, it was the top pathological labs for medical and bacteriological  research.


Aside from the history lesson, you can also ride bikes, skate, or have a picnic in one of their many parks and playgrounds. There is also an outdoor concert series held every summer in Firefighters’ Field. For their current schedule, click here.

Roosevelt Island is very accessible. You can get there by car, train (F line), bus (Q102), or by tram. The Roosevelt Island Tram has recently reopened after a major renovation. It connects the island to E 60th Street in Manhattan in 3 minutes. It costs $2.25, and provides riders with a view of the Manhattan skyline that you really cannot see anywhere else. There’s also a Red Bus that you can take around the island for only .25 cents a ride. For the tram and red bus schedule, click here.

A day trip to this well-kept secret is definitely a great way to spend time with you family, and since it’s so close, you can visit again and again.


Jesseca Stenson


More pictures of Roosevelt Island: