A Ultimate Guide: The Roosevelt Island Aerial Tramway 2024

1. Introduction

Roosevelt Island Views
Courtesy: Tripadvisor, scenic view of Roosevelt Island

Today we will dive into the iconic Roosevelt Island Tramway, an aerial tramway that crosses the beautiful East River which is often called as Sound River by residents of Long Island Sound.

Uniqueness of Roosevelt Island Aerial Tramway

Roosevelt Island was called Minnehanock by Delaware people and Hog Island by the Dutch people in the colonial era, later being renamed as Welfare Island. In the year of 1960s, Welfare Island which is now Roosevelt Island received infrastructural investments and prospects in the year of 1969.

In 1973, the island was renamed after the U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and continuingly progressed into a beautiful residential society by the end of 1975, far from the metropolitan sound ache. In 2017, Educational Institution “Cornell Tech” migrated to the Island, making it one of the most technologically advanced campuses in the world.

The Scenic View and Tramway

Roosevelt Island offers the people a once in a lifetime opportunity at feeling peace in the busy life schedule. The riverside walks without crowds gives the mind an environment of mental recovery. Further adding to it, is the beautiful sunset views of Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Tramway comes in the frame to make it a cherry on the top experience overall. This aerial tramway made its debut on the island on May 17, 1976, becoming the first ever aerial tram in the U.S. It initially opened up us a temporary medium of transportation but slowly evolved into becoming a permanent fixture over East River.

2. How to get to Roosevelt Island

Wondering how to get to the Roosevelt Island using Roosevelt Island aerial tramway? Well, we have the perfect medium of transportation for you, the Roosevelt Island aerial tramway operated by Leitner-Poma on behalf of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation. The tram’s scenic overlook over the East River makes it the perfect cherry on top, since it is the one of the most modern aerial tramway in the 21st century . It runs every 7-15 minutes from 59th Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan to Tramway Plaza located on Roosevelt Island. The tramway ride between Manhattan and Roosevelt Island takes approximately 5 mins.

Boarding Location

A subway station known as Roosevelt island station
Courtesy: Wikipedia

The Manhattan tram station is located on the 2nd Avenue which is between 59th Street and 60th Street on the Upper East Side.

If you are taking a subway, the No.4,5, and 6 to 59th Street, in the same way the N,R, and Q trains to Lexington Avenue /59th Street. From there you can walk a few blocks towards the tram.

The nearest subway station to Roosevelt Island Tramway in Manhattan is Lexington Avenue/63 Street, which is an estimated 2 min walk.

If you are taking bus, you can take bus lines Q60, M15, M103, M102, M101 that stop near Roosevelt Island Tramway. The nearest bus station is located in Tramway Plaza East, which is a 1-2 min walk.

Suggestion: You can take the NYC Ferry on the Astoria Route, which goes to Long Island City (Gantry Plaza State Park) on the way back to enjoy a better view of the East River and the metropolitan city.

Note: Animals are not allowed on the tramway except animal enclosed in container, service animal, and working dogs under law enforcement agencies.

Schedule and Cost of Tramway Rides

The Roosevelt Island tramway times run differently on the weekend and weekday with a slight tweak. From Sunday to Thursday the Roosevelt tramway starts from 6 AM and ends the last ride at 2 AM, meanwhile on Friday and Saturday, the aerial tramway starts at 6 AM but ends the last ride at 3:30 AM.

Peak Hours

Fortunately, there are certain exceptions to Roosevelt Island Tramway times frequency of the tram during its peak hours of running.

Period of the dayTimingFrequency
Morning (Monday – Friday)7 AM to 10 AMEvery 7.5 minutes
Evening (Monday – Friday)3 PM to 8 PMEvery 7.5 minutes
Weekend (Saturday – Sunday)7 AM to 10 PMEvery 7.5 minutes
Normal/Non-peak hoursN/AEvery 15 minutes
HolidaysEvery 15 minutes except on (Memorial Day, Independence Day, New Year’s Day, Labor Day, Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day during which it runs every 7.5 minutes)
Peak Hour Schedule of the tramway

Roosevelt Island Aerial Tramway Fare

An individual one-way ticket costs $2.90, making the round-trip ticket cost $5.80 for an amazing view over the city as it passes over the East River.

Individuals with an unlimited MetroCard NEED NOT pay anything for the trip.

MTA MetroCard and OMNY are only accepted. ( Note: MetroCard are available for purchase at the Tram Station, ranging from a single ride costing $2.90 to a 7-day MetroCard costing $34.00)

Regardless of age, children who are 3.6 feet or under are allowed to travel in the tram for free.

Maximum 3 children (3.6 feet or under) are allowed to ride for free under the supervision of one adult paying rider.

It is recommended to have an OMNY contactless tap-to-pay for an easy and smooth travel.

Alternative options of transportation

Roosevelt Island NYC Ferry
Courtesy: TripAdvisor

In terms of cheap and affordable, NYC Ferry is the best option with a bare cost of $2.00. The Astoria route has a stop at Roosevelt Island with the initial departure port being East 90th Street/ Wall Street Pier 11.

Another option is taking the bus, Q102 is the best option if you are travelling from Queens which follows the Astoria route. You can also prefer to take the Roosevelt Island Red Bus which is free and makes stops at both subway and Tram.

The Red Bus is comfortable and easy to access for visitors who prefer on stopping through out the island.

3. A Memorable Tramway Experience

Roosevelt Island Manhattan Skyline
Courtesy: TripAdvisor

The Roosevelt Island Tramway ride is a unique and memorable experience that stays with one forever. It might be one of the most novel to let your eyes see New York City in a whole new perspective. Being the first commuter aerial tramway, it outdoes itself when you see the beautiful Harlem East River.

Manhattan skyline and the Harlem East River

It takes around 15 minutes before you get to board the iconic Roosevelt Tramway. Don’t expect the Roosevelt aerial tramway to be air-conditioned, because at the price of $2.90 you are already getting more than the bargain value by enjoying the scenic Manhattan skyline over the deep blue Harlem east River on a sunny afternoon when it soars high and movies parallel to the Queensboro Bridge. The ride can take around 4 to 5 minutes to reach the Island, just enough time to make an Instagram reel to go viral.

Capture Amazing Moments

We suggest going on non-peak hours, firstly because there is limited amount of seats, which means it might be taken before you know it during the peak hours. Another reason, is because if it is peak hour period, there would be hardly any space for you to notice the incredible view and capture it with your camera lens.

Try your best to remain on the front or the backside of the aerial tramway, as it will allow you to take perfect angle pictures of the incredible New York City.

4. Reaching Roosevelt Island

Roosevelt Island aerial shot
Courtesy: Wikipedia

You finally reach Roosevelt Island, which has a long history written to its name. Roosevelt Island initially known as Blackwell’s Island, had the first Smallpox hospital that was made for patients suffering from it. These hospitals and asylums are now shut and are in ruins. Here are the first few attractions which you might notice after arriving at the Roosevelt Island.

Nearby Sights and Attractions

There are 9 main nearby sights and attractions which you can visit on the Roosevelt Island that are The Blackwell House, The Octagon, Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, Chapel of the Good Shephard, Smallpox Hospital, Southpoint Park, The Strecker Laboratory, Blackwell Island Lighthouse, and Cornell Tech.

Self-guided map of Roosevelt Island

Even if the Island the looks tiny, and might seem like an easy job to see the attractions all by yourself. It’s better to have a self-guided map to track all the attractions as you visit them one by one.

5. Exploring the Roosevelt Island

Roosevelt Island Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park
Courtesy: TripAdvisor

By now, you should have already understood the historical significance of the Island as a contribution to New York. There are a few architectures which tell the initial story of how the Island began its own story in its early stages of development.

Historical walk of Roosevelt Island

The island has walked different paths in various centuries which unfolds into the history of what we know today. From the shift from a well-known island for Smallpox hospital to a full fledged tourist spot, the Roosevelt Island has come a long way. There are a few special attractions which tell us the story of the How the Island came into life. These points of attraction of different story to tell which fulfills our hunger of curosity.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park

Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park is an important part of the Roosevelt Island. It is a tribute to one of the greatest leader who provided courage and optimism to the American people during the ordeals of the Great Depression and World War II. It is designed by Louis Kahn, an American architect who is well known to have designed other famous structures such as Kimbell Art Museum, Yale Center British Art, and Bangladesh National Parliament House.

The initial construction of this public memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt began on March 29, 2010 and was completed in September 2012, which was open to public from October 24, 2012.It is spread over an area of 4 acres.

The Four Freedoms Park signifies the importance of the Four essential human freedoms as per his seminal Four Freedoms Speech in 1941. The Four freedoms are freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

Franklin D. Roosevelt served four term as the 32nd President of the U.S. began on March 4, 1933, which ended on April 12, 1945.

The Aerial tramway maybe a bit claustrophobic for some people but once you reach the Four Freedoms Park you will feel a bit more relaxed while allowing you to stroll around with amazing view of Manhattan.

The Octagon

The Octagon ( formerly known as New York Lunatic Asylum ) was built in 1835 by Alexander Jackson Davis. The Octagon closed its doors as the Metropolitan Hospital in 1955 which later reopened for the people in April, 2006 to become a lobby entrance of the residential complex made neighboring to it.

The Octagon had become infamous when Nellie Bly ( Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman) an American journalist wrote about the mistreatment and neglect of women being treated in the New York City Lunatic Asylum in the book called “Ten Days in a Mad-House”. Fun Fact: Bly went into the asylum on a pretext of being insane but ended up finding people who seemed sane as an average human should be.

Lighthouse Park

The Lighthouse was built by prisoners in 1872 using stones from the island designed by James Renwick Jr. The Lighthouse Park is located at the tip of the Roosevelt Island which also includes the famous Blackwell Lighthouse. The Lighthouse park offers an excellent scenic view of the Manhattan skyline and Queens East River along with cool breeze felt from all sides.

Unfortunately, the Lighthouse is not open to any public but the grounds are open which make it the perfect place for picnic, fishing and barbeque with family and friends. The barbeque spot is based on first come first serve and personal grills are not allowed in the vicinity.

6. Dining and Snacks

Panorama View Rooftop Lounge Bar with fancy seating and dazzling lights
Courtesy: TimeOut

Since the transformation of Roosevelt Island into residential and tourist spot, there has been increase in dining spots within the Island. These restaurants cater to the tastebuds of the people along with diverse cuisines to choose from.

Piccolo Trattoria Ristorante Pizzeria

This Italian Pizzeria is located on 455 Main St on the Island with outdoor seating. It is very well known for its Classic take on American Italian tastebuds. Some of its top dishes are Meat Supreme Pizza, Pasta, Bolognese, Cheese Pizza, and Meat Lovers Pizza which has all the meaty goodness of Pepperoni, sausage, ham, bacon.

Nisi Kitchen

Nisi Kitchen is located on 549 Main St and it is one of the recommended restaurant for any visitors in the Island, It is known for its amazing Smaash Burgers, Desserts, and its tasty hot Nutella Chocolate drink. The Nisi Kitchen has both Indoor and Outdoor seating for its guests.

ZhoongZhoong Noodles

Got a craving for Asian cuisine? ZhoongZhoong Noodles located on 568 Main St is known to serve delicious and money worthy Ramen and dumpling dishes. This eatery is based on Chinese Japanese fusion. One of the top dishes to try at ZhoongZhoong Noodles is Sechuan Braised Beef Noodle. Unfortunately, it has only indoor seating and has vegan options to its guests, where they interchange meat with vegetables and pork soup with vegetable stock.

Fuji East Japanese Bistro

A happening Japanese bistro that takes Japanese food culture seriously. Its located on the 455 Main St on the Roosevelt Island. It serves diverse Japanese dishes ranging from teriyaki, udon, soba, crunchy tempura, and classic traditional sushi. This Bistro has outdoor and indoor seating with various vegetarian options available for vegan guests. One of the most loved dishes in the bistro is the tofu ankake which is a mixture of onions, broccoli, carrots, red and green peppers.

Granny Annie’s Bar & Kitchen

Granny Annie’s Bar & Kitchen is a vibrant sports bar and dine-in serving Irish and American dishes along with chilled craft beers to its guests. It is located on 425 Main St on the Island. Its a good restaurant option if you prefer to have great cocktails while you enjoy watching sports on TV. Grannys’s Irish Ale Battered Fish and Chips and Traditional Shephard’s Pie are the most recommended dishes of this spot.

Island Rolls N Bowls

Island Rolls N Bowls is a Mexican restaurant that focuses on wraps and tacos along with rice meals. It is located on 502 Main St, New York. It is well known for robust Mexican dishes with some being recommended by many of its previous guests such as the Tiger Roll and Spicy Combo Poke Bowl.

Anything At All

Anything At all is a classic American Italian diner serving homemade pastas in a cozy library themed environment. It is located near Graduate New York (hotel) 22 N Loop Rd on the Roosevelt Island. The restaurant is well known for its home-made pasta especially the Bucatini.

Panorama View

Didn’t get enough view of the Manhattan skyline, then Panorama View is your go-to restaurant in this case. Panorama View is a lively rooftop lounge focusing on exotic cocktails to lighten your mood while you enjoy the magnificent views. It is located in Graduate New York on 22 N Loop Rd, New York.

Being a well-known restaurant on the Island it is always recommended to book your tables in advance just in case of the crowd. Would definitely recommend on trying the truffle fries which is just done right.

Note: There is also Starbucks, Subway, Bread & Butter Market ( Deli), and Wholesome Factory (Supermarket ),

7. Leisure and Recreational Activities

Light House Park with BBQ spots , People enjoying their w=food while having picnic
Courtesy: Wikipedia

Roosevelt Island is filled with various recreational activities which you can do with your family and friends making it an impeccable experience. These activities range from riding bikes to Swimming.


Biking is the best option when you visit the Roosevelt Island, since there aren’t much cars or buses going around the flat and smooth road. It makes it convenient to ride bikes on the Island which takes you on a a one whole loop covering around 6.5 KM. It is recommended if you want a peaceful travelling experience on the Island while you enjoy the few attractions on the way.

Take a walk in Community Garden

You can take a walk in the ever green Community Garden, which is open to the public from April 15th to October 15th during every weekend, from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM. You can only walk on the main path as comonn guests are not allowed inside the individual gardening plots.

If you have a passion for gardening , you can join the Roosevelt Island Garden Club which is a diverse community of gardening enthusiasts, who work together to make the Island more environmental friendly and beautiful.

Recreational Activities in Sportspark

The Sportspark at the Roosevelt Island opened in 1977 and includes various recreational activities which can be enjoyed by both children and adults. The recreational activities in the facility range from swimming, basketball, table tennis, Yoga center, pool and air hockey. The facility also has state-of-the-art fitness center along with showers and locker room to keep your personal items safe.

The Sports park is open on weekdays from 7 AM to 8 PM , while staying open from 9 AM to 5PM on weekends. Unfortunately, the facility is not free to use and requires a membership to be purchased to gain full access to the facility.

Non-Resident ( Adult )$70
Resident ( Adult )$30
Seniors/ Disabled$25
Teenagers ( 13-17 )$15
Daily Drop In ( Adult )$15/Day
Daily Drop In (17 & Under)$10/Day
Child ( 12 & Under )Free
Membership fees of Sportspark in Roosevelt island

BBQ at Lighthouse Park

Located at the tip of the island, Lighthouse Park, which is very well known for Blackwell Island Light. The park has a good space for visitors to have their delightful picnic under the cool breeze and scenic view of the East river. The park also has public BBQ grill spots that are on a first come first serve basis.

Unfortunately, personal grills are not allowed in the park or anywhere on the Roosevelt Island and the park is open from dawn to 10PM last. You can purchase BBQ food items from the Deli or super market located within the island.

Note: Take a special permit if are planning to occupy the park exclusively. Selectively, the park is not allowed for exclusive occupation during weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

8. Insider Tips on Roosevelt Island

Best Time to Take Aerial Tramway

Since, there are residents who live on the Island and commute regularly due to work. It is best to depart from Manhattan during 10AM to 3PM.

If you prefer watching the unique Manhattan skyline at night, you can do so from 7 PM to 1AM.

For the best views from the aerial tramway, a trip to the island before 10 AM is suggested.

For Best sunset views from the aerial tramway, travel on the tramway around 7 PM. Always plan ahead from November to March to maximize your chance of getting the best sunset views.

If you want better and longer duration views, its suggested to take the ferry which is almost the same price as the tramway.

If you want to get the best views of the New York City even on a busy day, its best to stand close to the tramway doors. Incase you are an introvert who also loves reading book, there is a library at the north of the shopping center on the Island.

Visit the island on Saturday for a chance to glimpse the Saturday Market which sells organic food and hand-crafted items.

Additional resources for planning your trip

For additional resources on Roosevelt Island: You can visit Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation.

Find out private tours of the Roosevelt Island, visit this website.

Know more about Roosevelt Island aerial tramway

9. Conclusion

In conclusion, traveling to Roosevelt Island via the aerial tramway is not only a convenient transportation option but also an exhilarating experience that offers stunning views of the city skyline and the East River. The journey begins from Manhattan and takes passengers on a scenic ride across the river to the tranquil Roosevelt Island. Visitors have the opportunity to explore the island’s attractions, including Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, the historic Smallpox Hospital ruins, and scenic waterfront promenades.

The aerial tramway provides a unique perspective of New York City and offers an alternative way to reach this hidden gem in the East River. Whether you’re a local looking for a new adventure or a tourist seeking a memorable experience, riding the tramway to Roosevelt Island is a must-do activity. So, next time you’re in New York City, consider taking a ride on the tramway for a memorable journey and an unforgettable day exploring Roosevelt Island.

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