President Franklin D. Roosevelt's stamp is all over New York, including on his eponymous island that makes for a quick escape from the city.
Roosevelt Island is situated between the East Side of Manhattan and Long Island City, Queens, and is surrounded by the East River on all sides. Named after the 32nd president in the early 1970s, Roosevelt Island today features several expansive parks, waterfront views and architecture from the 1800s.
Here are our top picks for touring Roosevelt Island, which is just a tram ride away.
Get an aerial view from the tram
There's nothing that will get you more pumped for a day trip than gazing at Roosevelt Island from a distance. Board the Roosevelt Island Tram at East 59th Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan, and you'll get aerial views of the island, the East River and the Manhattan skyline. You'll arrive at the Tramway Plaza in Roosevelt Island (near the Queensboro Bridge) in about 10 minutes. Don't forget your MetroCard.
Pick up a gift at the visitor center kiosk
This quaint shop sells kitschy merchandise, including "asylum for the insane" mugs and plush toys of the island's famous friendly squirrels. (The island was home to the infamous insane asylum that journalist Nellie Bly exposed in the late 1800s.) The tiny store is inside the former Queensboro Bridge trolley kiosk and just feet from the tram station.
Order an Indian curry omelet at Wholesome Factory
Upon arriving at Roosevelt Island, you'll notice the Wholesome Factory Market at 530 Main St. The breakfast menu offers more omelet options -- including ones featuring Indian curry and Tongol tuna -- than you've likely ever seen, and you can also order bagels, pizza and sandwiches. The grocery section offers gourmet foods imported from all over the world, including organic and gluten-free options.
Go for a run along the East River
Roosevelt Island is home to multiple parks that are perfect for a leisurely jog on a nice day. Head over to Southpoint Park and enjoy waterfront views of Manhattan across the East River.
Savor some sushi at Fuji East
Get sushi for lunch at Fuji East Japanese Bistro on 455 Main St. (Store #3A). Choose from more than 70 different kinds of rolls, including classics like the Philadelphia and special rolls such as the Long Island (king crab, tuna, salmon, avocado, soybean seaweed). Share the Fuji Crunch Tower (spicy tuna, spicy salmon, spicy lobster and wasabi crackers and spicy tomato sauce) with a friend, or the Fuji pizza (spicy tuna or spicy salmon) for $10. The restaurant also offers a wide selection of noodle soups, fried rice and teriyaki dishes.
Explore the historic Blackwell House
A visit to Roosevelt Island would be incomplete without a brief walk to Blackwell House, a historic gem located at 500 Main Street and the city's sixth oldest house. The wooden structure was built in 1796 for the Blackwell family, who farmed orchards on the property and had inherited the island from Captain John Manning. For more than a century, the island was known as Blackwell's Island, named after its owners. The city of New York purchased Blackwell House in the 1820s, and the cottage was used as housing for hospital and almshouse wardens. Blackwell House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. It is scheduled to be renovated and turned into a community center, where visitors will be able to take tours around the house. In the meantime, you can take pictures outside and contemplate Roosevelt Island's living history.
Take the obligatory lighthouse selfie
The Roosevelt Island Lighthouse, named a city landmark in 1976, is a 50-foot-tall lighthouse located at the northeast section of the island. Though myth holds that patients from mental health hospitals created the stone structure, the lighthouse was actually designed in 1872 by NYC architect Renwick Jr.
Swing by the Smallpox Hospital
Before the island was named after FDR, it was called Welfare Island and primarily used for serving patients, including those at the Smallpox Hospital on the southernmost part of the island. Also known as the "Renwick Ruins," the Smallpox Hospital opened in 1856 and was designed by James Renwick Jr., the architect behind St. Patrick's Cathedral. The hospital cared for smallpox patients until a vaccine was developed; closed by the 1950s, it's been abandoned ever since. Although it's not open to the public, the landmark is worth visiting for its spooky history and Gothic revival architecture.
Check out the new Cornell Tech campus
Discover the newly built campus, which includes a tech company incubator, academic buildings, an energy efficient housing facility, and public space, including a cafe open to the public. Grab a cup of coffee or lay out on the pristine lawn before heading back to the busy city. In 2019, a new hotel will open there as well. (2 West Loop Rd.)
Take a peaceful break at FDR Four Freedoms Park
The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park is a memorial that's free to the public and offers different educational programs for when you're ready to take a break. It offers breathtaking views of the city skyline, too. (1 FDR Four Freedoms Park, closed Tuesdays)
Discover secret menu items at Riverwalk Bar
Wind down for the night at Riverwalk Bar & Grill, which offers 50-cent buffalo wings during major sporting events and two-for-one mimosas and Bloody Marys on weekends. A go-to for sports lovers, Riverwalk features a casual bar with 20 tap and bottled beers (plus a wine list), family-style dining and 14 large television screens, so you'll never miss a moment in the game. The restaurant also serves baskets of bacon as a weekly special and nearly 100 12-ounce Angus beef burgers a day, a customer favorite. Insider tip: Ask for the Jon Chon wings or the Ronald Burger, which Riverwalk manager Jonathan Hoo describes as "a gourmet Big Mac." You won't find those on the regular menu. (425 Main St.)
Taking the tram home
Unlike the subway, the tram is not 24 hours. (You could take the F train on your way home, but why?) Tram hours are 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and until 3:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.