Randall's and Wards Island
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids New York City (AMC Books)
Address:East River Lane, Manhattan, NY
Hours:Dawn to midnight daily
Fee: Free

randallsisland.org; 212-830-7722

Bathrooms: Icahn Stadium, golf center, and tennis courts; portable toilets near some playing fields
Water/Snacks: Water fountains at the bathroom

This destination offers abundant opportunities for all kinds of outdoor activities, with great views of three surrounding boroughs.

The view of Hell Gate Bridge is among the delightfully unusual vistas at this island getaway.
Photo by: Cheryl and Williams de Jong-Lambert

Thanks to easy access from Manhattan and the RFK Bridge (for both bikes and cars), and to an array of headline summer concerts, performance arts, and professional sports that take place at Icahn Stadium, Randall’s and Wards islands are becoming better known—and that’s a wonderful thing.

Located at the confluence of the East and Harlem rivers, with commanding views of Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx, these once-separate islands were joined by landfill in the 1930s and now span 500 acres. Despite the physical connection, Randall’s and Wards still maintain distinct identities that are best appreciated on foot.

Begin your trip on the Upper East Side of Manhattan by walking across the East River on the 103rd Street pedestrian bridge. This will put you in Wards Island Park, which features more open space and gentle hills than its counterpart to the north. When you leave the bridge, follow the paved pedestrian path (suitable for strollers or kids on scooters and bikes) to your left and take it about a half-mile north. It will curve right and take you into the salt marsh and wetlands areas, and then onto Central Road. From here you can go left to visit Randall’s Island, which is mostly filled with popular athletic fields and the awesome pillars for the RFK Bridge.

A walk through more open space can be had by turning right and continuing a loop around Wards Island Park. There are sports facilities, to be sure, but also many lawns and well-landscaped wooded areas. The islands’ sole playground, Scylla Playground, is located near the fields just south of the Hell Gate Bridge. It has swings, slides, and brightly colored climbing equipment for children of different ages. Remember: Randall’s and Wards islands are a work in progress, soon to feature more waterfront pathways and projects to restore the native environment.

Plan B:

Head back into across the East 103rd Street pedestrian bridge and walk down the East River Esplanade (Trip 14).

Where to Eat Nearby:

Vendors selling snacks and drinks are sometimes on the island, but it’s best to bring a picnic.


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