The Interesting Islands of New York
Usually, when New York tourists start to plan their sightseeing of the city, they immediately think of all the attractions located on Manhattan island like Times Square, the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. What many people fail to realise is that the Big Apple boasts some smaller islands that are worth visiting as well. Better still, these islands are sufficiently close to Manhattan to allow for a convenient journey. Here are a few of the best islands to consider:
The population of this island is only 491 and it is an ideal place to take a temporary break from the busier areas of New York. Situated off the Long Island coast, the island is roughly thirty-one miles in length. It is reachable by ferry from Islip, which is a town in Long Island. If you are familiar with the US sitcom “Will & Grace”, you might recognise the name Fire Island, because it was often referred to by two of the main characters of the show: Jack and Will. The reason for this is that, over the summer holidays, the island is a popular destination for gay men. Vehicles are not allowed on the island during the summer, and it gets so quiet you will find it difficult to believe that you are actually in New York.
There is a national beach area on Fire Island, and a large part of this is designated for nude sunbathing. The majority of these beaches are meant for gay men, although Cherry Grove is fine for heterosexual couples. This sleepy island does not offer much in the way of night life. Nonetheless, Houser’s on Bay Walk is a popular bar with a laid back atmosphere, and Matthew’s Seafood House is renown for its’ Margarita Madness on Thursday nights.
While many tourists take the Staten Island ferry to see the Statue of Liberty, most of them do not actually stay on the island. Set in Richmond County, the island is among New York’s most suburban areas and it offers visitors an insight into the daily lives of traditional American housewives.
With numerous free ferries travelling back to Manhattan each day, Staten Island is an ideal place to stay if you want somewhere quieter, or if you are travelling with kids. The island even has several of its’ own attractions, such as Historic Richmond Town. This exhibition takes tourists back to 1695 to visit America’s oldest school house and learn about the ancient art of soap making. This video from Time-Out magazine gives a good overview of this museum/community:
Lots of people visit Roosevelt Island solely for the splendid views over the Hudson River. This island can be reached from Manhattan by tramway, although this ride is not for the faint of heart. The cable car moves at roughly 28.8 km/h (17.9 mph) and travels 940m (3100 feet) in three minutes, up to a height of 76.2m (250 feet).
There is only one main attraction on Roosevelt Island, and that is the smallpox museum ruins that featured in the film “Spiderman”. Unfortunately, until the planned $4.5 million stabilization project is completed, you are not allowed to walk around the building as it is deemed to be unsafe. However, with the great views of Manhattan, the island is still always popular with cyclists and picnickers.
If you just limit yourself to Manhattan on your trip to New York, then you will miss out on a host of other interesting sights. For a longer stay, Manhattan can be a little too intense for some people’s tastes. Thus, a trip to one of the islands above will be a welcome respite, and a good way of injecting your holiday with a bit of extra culture and variety.
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