Roosevelt Island Tram

Roosevelt Island Tram 1 - Babyccino NYC Guide Roosevelt Island Tram 2 - Babyccino NYC Guide Roosevelt Island Tram 3 - Babyccino NYC Guide

Judging by my daughter’s joyous reaction to most of New York City’s public transportation options, our journey to a particular destination is often nearly as much fun as the destination itself. We sometimes opt for the subway or bus when a cab or Uber would be far more efficient simply because we know she loves them, and ferry rides are certain to make her day. It was with a certain amount of excitement of our own, then, that on a recent sunny Saturday morning we traveled to the East Side of Manhattan to introduce her one of New York’s more unique transit options: the Roosevelt Island Tram. The verdict? Kid approved!

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Linking Manhattan to Roosevelt Island in the East River, the 3-minute tram ride provides a commuting option for the island’s 11,000 or so residents, and a very scenic way to access the island for those coming for a visit. One of only three commuter trams in the country, the two cars cross the river heading in opposite directions at 15-minute intervals (more frequent service is available during the morning and evening rush hour). The tram runs parallel to the north side of the Queensboro Bridge as it crosses the East River, offering excellent views of Manhattan, the bridge, and the East River. A definite highlight is the moment you’re approached by the tram car headed the opposite direction: waving and smiles ensue on both sides!

Riding the tram over the river and back in quick succession is one option, but beyond the tram station, Roosevelt Island offers several options for exploring should you choose to spend an hour or two there. I’ll confess that we’ve only ever turned and walked south, along the western edge of the island toward Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park. The walk along the river is lovely, with panoramic views of Manhattan, cherry trees shading the path, and a front-row seat to all manner of boat traffic traveling up and down river (that said, it’s impossible to miss the major construction underway on your left on a new Tech Campus for Cornell University) A ten-minute stroll from the tram station brings you to Southpoint Park, with lovely gardens and New York City’s only landmarked ruins – the photogenic remains of a smallpox hospital.

Roosevelt Island Tram - Babyccino NYC Guide Roosevelt Island Tram 9 - Babyccino NYC Guide Roosevelt Island Tram 10 - Babyccino NYC Guide Roosevelt Island Tram 11 - Babyccino NYC GuideBeyond Southpoint Park and occupying the southern tip of the island, the recently-opened Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park memorializes the 32nd President of the United States. With its name taken from one of Roosevelt’s most famous speeches, plans for the park were first set in motion back in 1973 after the island was renamed in his honor. Finally opened to the public in 2012, it’s a pristine and beautiful public space.

A few further details:

  • The tram costs $2.75 per person (3 children under 44 inches ride free with each adult). You pay your fare with the same Metrocard you use to ride the subway and the bus.
  • A visitor center is located on the grassy plaza outside of the tram station on Roosevelt Island.
  • The island’s approachable size makes it easy to explore on foot, but a free bus circles the island, stopping at all major points of interest.
  • In addition to the tram, you can access the island from the F subway line (Roosevelt Island stop) and by the Roosevelt Island Bridge from Queens (the Queensboro Bridge travels over the island but doesn’t offer access)
  • Options for purchasing food on the island are relatively scarce. We found a food truck just outside of Four Freedoms Park, but bringing snacks or a picnic to enjoy wouldn’t be a bad idea.



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