5 Reasons to Visit New York City’s Roosevelt Island With Kids

Roosevelt Island may just be one of the most unique places in New York City. For starters, the entire island is only two miles long, but is self-contained, complete with neighborhoods, schools, and even its own newspaper. This tiny piece of land in the East River is worth a day trip for any one of these five reasons:

roosevelt island with kids
Photo: Wini Lao
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1. To ride the aerial tramway

Really, this single feature is reason enough to take your kids to Roosevelt Island! What other destination can you take an aerial tramway to get to? The Roosevelt Island Aerial Tram connects the Upper East Side of Manhattan with Roosevelt Island. The four-minute ride soars 250 feet in the air, providing riders with incredible views of views of the East Side, the East River, and the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. (The views at night are best.) Swipe your MetroCard and hop on! Up to three children 44 inches tall and under can ride with you for free. Of course, you can also get to the island by subway, ferry, or by car… but that’s not as much fun!

roosevelt island with kids
Photo: Wini Lao

2. To get into the Halloween spirit

These activities may be better for families with older kids, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the super freaky stuff about this island, namely the Smallpox Hospital and the Octagon. Remnants of the historic Renwick Smallpox Hospital still stand there to this day, and you can nose around them… if you dare! This beautiful, albeit creepy, landmark structure is located on the southern end of the island, and was built in 1854 as the first U.S. hospital to care for victims of the disease. It’s been abandoned since the 1950s and is fenced off from the public (but it makes for some great photography). The Octagon may be an upscale apartment building today, but it was originally the New York City Lunatic Asylum. Famous writers Nellie Bly and Charles Dickens both visited the facility in the 1800’s and published pieces about their haunting experiences.

Roosevelt Island with kids
Photo: Wini Lao

3. To see the historic lighthouse

There are many legends surrounding this picturesque landmark. What we know for sure is that this 50-foot lighthouse was built in 1872 by the city to help boats avoid the rocky waters. In modern day, the lighthouse is known for being a selfie magnet!

roosevelt island with kids
Photo: Wini Lao

4. To explore the Imagination Playground

Don’t miss this temporary play installment in Four Freedoms Park on Saturday, October 14 and Sunday, October 15! The playground is a mobile, interlocking, block-based system provided by the Uni Project.

roosevelt island with kids
Photo: Wini Lao

5. To attend the Cherry Blossom Festival

Mark your calendar for next year’s springtime Cherry Blossom Festival, when the island will be in full bloom! The festival also celebrates traditional and modern Japanese culture with food, tea ceremonies, and performances.

From the playgrounds to the farmers markets to the galleries, there is plenty of outside-the-box fun to partake in on this little island between Manhattan and Queens.

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About Carmen Sognonvi

Carmen Sognonvi is a luxury family travel and lifestyle digital influencer at Top Flight Family. Her insights on travel have been featured in Wanderlust Travel Magazine, TravelPulse, HOTELS Magazine, Seatrade Cruise News and more. Carmen firmly believes that you can (and should) travel with your kids from a young age. She offers families practical solutions for travel, as well as tips on how to travel in luxury for less. She lives in New York City with her multiracial and multicultural family of four. Follow her on Instagram, FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Click here to read Carmen's articles

Visiting Roosevelt Island with kids? Here's a guide on what to do. This unique part of New York City is only two miles long but has a fascinating history.

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