Great views of East Harlem, the
South Bronx and
Although Governors Island tends to get all of the attention, there’s another isle off Manhattan where families can go for great views, picnicking and relaxing under the summer sun: Randall’s Island.
Located in the East River and bordered by Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx, the isle has recently undergone major renovations with more planned or underway. While it’s not as bucolic as Governors Island—the RFK Bridge cuts right through it so you never forget you’re in the city—Randall’s Island offers many kids’ attractions like mini golf, Sports fields, batting cages and a playground, so it’s a great place for families to explore.
Previously owned by the Randel family, the 480-acre isle was purchased by the City of New York in 1835 and the Parks & Recreation Department took control in 1933. Since then, Randall’s Island has hosted countless sporting events and many notable concerts, like the New York Rock Festival in the summer of 1970 (featuring Jimi Hendrix) and Lollapalooza in 1994.
Today, Randall’s Island boasts more than 60 sports fields, which account for over half of all fields in Manhattan. You’ll find fields for baseball and softball, lacrosse, soccer, rugby and football (although many require a permit for use), plus Sportime, a state-of-the-art tennis complex and Randall’s Island Golf & Sports Center, which offers mini golf and batting cages. There’s also the 5,000-seat Icahn Stadium, which hosts local, national and international track and field events, even Olympic training and trials.
If you’re just looking for a place to relax for an afternoon, you can picnic on the open grassy lawns or lounge by the water and enjoy views of East Harlem, Astoria or the South Bronx, depending on where you’re sitting. There are lovelylandscaped areas and themed gardens to explore and designated barbeque areas. It’s best to bring your own lunch as food trucks are rare and the sole restaurant is the Courtside Cafe in the Sportime tennis center.
For cyclists, waterfront bicycle and pedestrian paths already circle most of the island. Just this April, the Hell Gate Pathway was completed.
There is one modest playground on the island and bathrooms are located at both information centers. Public restrooms are also available in the tennis complex.
Randall’s Island also hosts frequent events like outdoor concerts, art exhibitions and sporting events, some free, like FLOW.12, an environmental art exhibition on the shoreline, others requiring admission. In the past, Cirque du Soleil has pitched its tent here and Check its calendar for a complete schedule.
If you’re driving, Randall’s Island is easily accessible from Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx via the RFK Bridge. The M35 bus on 125th Street also goes to the isle. You can also walk or bike to the isle via the recently reopened 103rd Street Footbridge. Another pedestrian bridge connecting the island to the South Bronx is slated to open in 2013. Check the website for complete directions.
Find more seasonal activities in our Summer Fun Guide.