Travel Guides USA

Everything You Need to Know About The Roosevelt Island Tram

There’s probably been a time where you’re in New York and you’re just like, “Dammit, I’m not tryna pay $25 to go to the Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building just for some nice city views.”  It’s not like you work on the 50th floor of a building, or have an apartment overlooking the city, and you sure as hell don’t know a promoter to those upscale nightclubs lofted among skyscrapers like the Boom Boom Room.

We feel you.

Enter: The Roosevelt Island Tram – a commuter aerial tramway connecting the almost-forgotten 800-foot wide Roosevelt Island to its bigger brother island of Manhattan. The island is squished between Manhattan and Queens is only connected to the “mainland” via the F subway line or the famous not-so-famous tram.

I say that the island is almost-forgotten because if you ask any New Yorker, they’ve probably either never heard of it, or have heard of it, but have yet to go there. Yes, people do, in fact, live on the island, and the fact that nobody seems to know about Roosevelt Island is the exact reason they live there. It’s almost like a secret community/calm oasis away from the city, that we most definitely recommend as either a nice getaway from the madness of Midtown Manhattan or as a nice picnic spot for your next date.

But why is there a random island between Manhattan and Queens?

Although Roosevelt Island has gone through quite the gentrification recently (yes, there’s a Starbucks), it wasn’t so much the most charming place to be in the past.  It once was known as Welfare Island and housed the Blackwell Prison, a smallpox hospital, and even the New York Insane Asylum – maybe that’s why we fit in so well. The construction of these institutions serves most likely as the reason New Yorkers, over generations, gave it the cold shoulder and have now forgotten about it. That shouldn’t stop your travel-hustle though.

Where is it?

59th and 2nd. A few blocks from 5th avenue and Central Park.

How much time do I need?

The ride itself lasts about 5 minutes and you’re lifted up 250 ft over the yellow taxis, through the skyscrapers of East Midtown, over the East River, and down onto Roosevelt Island. Not only do you never have to wait in line (in stark contrast to the hour-long lines of the Empire State Building), but you seriously feel like you’re on a roller coaster/ski lift.

How much money do I need?

Just a metro card…with two trips on it. Unless you want to be stranded on Roosevelt Island. The price is $2.50 each way and you can buy a metro card from the machines at the Tram.

And the views?

Because this tram is mainly used for residential purposes, you will probably have to fight a b*tch to get near a window, let alone a seat by a window! If for some reason, the tram is packed (most times it is not), we highly recommend waiting for the next Tram, which will come in 5-10 minutes.

Your picture quality depends on how well the windows were cleaned that day (hey, we said this was the budget version of the Empire State Building).

And once I get there?

In the case that you did want to check out Roosevelt Island, you can take the bright red shuttle bus, which in fact used to cost a whopping $0.25, but is now…*drum roll*…free. The bus picks you up immediately as you exit the Tram, loops around the island, and returns to the Tram. Roosevelt Island isn’t the most poppin’ destination in terms of things to do, but for a relaxation getaway with Manhattan views without all the crowds, it’s the place to be.

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  • Omar Awawdeh

    you can also drive on the Island from Queens via the Roosevelt Island Bridge, FYI.

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