New York City, NY, USA

New York City: Like No Place Else

NYC's natural topography offers a vast variety of unique experiences.

Smaller New York City Islands to Visit

ROOSEVELT ISLAND

The 147 acres that make up Roosevelt Island are located in the East River in the borough of Manhattan. Originally known by the Algonquin Indians as Minnahannock, loosely translated as Long Island, the island was purchased in 1637 by Wouton van Twiller, the Dutch governor of Nieuw Amsterdam, and renamed "Varckens Eylandt," or Hog Island.

In 1828, the City of New York purchased it and transformed it to serve as an island for municipal institutions such as prisons, poorhouses and nursing homes. In 1921, the island was renamed Welfare Island to reflect its role as a repository for the ill and outcast.

The island was renamed Roosevelt Island in 1973. The first residential complex opened in 1975. Since then, the island has grown in popularity as it evolved into a quiet suburban enclave with pools, tennis courts and baseball and soccer fields nestled right in the middle of the city. When you visit, make sure to walk from one end of the island to the other and stroll through the little “downtown” area which serves as the commercial center for residents, many of whom work at the U.N. just across the river in Manhattan. It’s worth the trip -- not just because the tram ride over the river is fun, but also because the views of Manhattan from the island are dramatic and inspiring.

How to get there: The coolest way to travel to Roosevelt Island is to take the tramway that crosses over the East River from 59th Street on 2nd Avenue in Manhattan. The $2 one-way trip is worth it for one of the best views of the city landscape. You can also take the F line of the subway or, if you're in LIC in Queens, you can walk across the bridge at 36th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard.

GOVERNORS ISLAND

Governors Island lies in New York Harbor just off the coasts of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Comprised of 172 acres, the island is 22 city blocks long and until 2003 was a military base for the U.S. Coast Guard and Army. In 1996, the city recognized the potential of the island as a public resource and the federal government sold the island to NYC in 2003 for $1. The northern 92 acres of the island are designated the Governors Island National Historic Landmark District and are open to the public for picnics, tours, concerts and car-free biking. The Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC) oversees 150 acres of the island while the National Park Service manages the balance: the 22-acre Governors Island National Monument which includes two 1812-era forts.

How to get there: Closed until May 30, 2009, Governors Island will be open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday beginning May 31 through October 12. On Fridays, the island is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; on Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Governors Island Ferry departs from the Battery Maritime Building next to the Staten Island Ferry in lower Manhattan. The ferry terminal is accessible by the 4 and 5 line subway to the Bowling Green Station or the W and R subway to Whitehall Street Station.

BROAD CHANNEL ISLAND

Miles from the heart of Manhattan and nestled in the middle of Jamaica Bay at the edge of a Queens wildlife refuge, Broad Channel Island seems so un-New York-like that you’d never know you were in NYC. With a population of only 3,000, the island is 20 blocks long by 4 blocks wide. It feels like a small town in Maine rather than part of one of the biggest metropolises in the world.

How to get there: Take the A or S Rockaway line to Broad Channel station. The ride is about an hour from Manhattan, but if you have a spare day and want to see a part of NYC that most New Yorkers have never seen, it’s worth the trip. You can even rent a boat at a local marina.

Tips on Boating, Kayaking and Taking Ferries in NYC

  • The free, 24/7 Staten Island Ferry takes visitors and commuters back and forth from St. George terminal to Battery Park in lower Manhattan. The ride offers spectacular views of Manhattan, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
  • The NYC Downtown Boat House Organization has three locations and offers free kayak rentals to the public. Open from May through October, both the experienced and inexperienced can enjoy the thrill of kayaking on the Hudson River.
  • Tour boats come in all forms, from private sails with small groups on power or sail vessels to regularly scheduled double- or triple-decked boats that give narrated tours of the city. NY Waterway is one option.
  • New York Water Taxi takes riders to and from different parts of Manhattan and commuters to and from Hoboken or Jersey City in New Jersey.
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