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Exploring NYC’s Little Island with Your Kids

Exploring NYC’s Little Island with Your Kids

What to do and see when you visit Little Island, NYC's newest park, which opened in late May


More than a decade ago, billionaire Barry Diller had a vision of a park-within-a-park and Thomas Heatherwick, the architect behind the Vessel at Hudson Yards, was hired. It took a while, but eventually construction began on Little Island in NYC. People watched in fascination as the park started to take shape, literally: Concrete, tulip-shaped clusters rose out of the Hudson River. So, what’s it like to walk the long, gangplank-like entrance and visit Little Island park?

The answer: 2.4 acres of pure magic. Newly opened in May 2021, Little Island has paths, stairs, wave-shaped benches, more than 350 plant species, more than 110 trees (some of which will eventually grow to 60 feet tall), and two large grassy hills begging to be raced up and rolled down. Nestled amidst the hills are various stone shortcuts—ideal for impatient explorers who can’t wait to check out the views.

grassy hill in little island park
One of 2 large grassy hills, perfect for kids to roll down

  
Speaking of the views...the park’s highest point, the Southwest Overlook, offers a gorgeous  panorama. The Statue of Liberty stands sentry, the Empire State Building and One World Trade try to catch clouds, the buildings of Lower Manhattan and New Jersey glimmer. You can peer out at other New Yorkers enjoying a picnic or just lazing about on Little Island and Hudson River Park. Serene and lovely it may be, but the park’s also perfect for any kid (or grown-up) obsessed with infrastructure: Helicopters whir overhead, barges chug along, taxis stop and start on Eleventh Avenue, and Marine Company 1, one of NYFD’s fireboats, docks at the neighboring pier.

The park itself is a feat of engineering. More than 130 tulips—each one uniquely shaped—balance on 280 concrete piles. Depending on your vantage point, from the outside, Little Island looks a little like a floating leaf or rolling wave. As you enter, you pass beneath an arch of tulips. Then you can take a right or left and climb them to the Southeast Overlook. Elsewhere, as you wander, you might spy a slice of tulip, a reminder of the magic that undergirds Little Island, but otherwise you’ll never feel as if you’re moving from one tulip to another. The park undulates in a very natural way—pun most definitely intended.  

History buffs take note: In front of Little Island’s entrance is a huge steel arch—all that remains of the White Star Line, once one of the world’s most famous shipping companies. In 1912, Titanic survivors docked here, after being rescued by the RMS Carpathia. A few years later, the Lusitania departed from this pier (its sinking by a German U-boat helped spur the U.S. into World War I).  

Family Friendly Events at Little Island 

Beginning mid-June, the park will feature several performances in the Amph (seating about 700), the Glade (seating about 200), and the shaded Play Ground (where you can purchase responsibly sourced treats like stuffed cookies, yogurt pots, and avocado toast, as well as coffee, IPAs, wine, and other drinks, from NYC-based vendors). Little Island’s current roster of artists-in-residence include playwright and director Tina Landau and choreographer and tap dancer Ayodele Casel. PigPen Theatre Co. will also put on its signature musical storytelling sessions. Most events will be free; others will have a modest fee.  

There will be plenty of fun and educational options for kids, too. Kids can hang out at the Art Cart, attend one of the free educational programs held by resident artists and museum staff, or just run around. There are no typical play structures, but there are plenty of windy paths to explore. Little Park would be perfect for an epic game of hide and seek. In partnership with Teatro SEA, The Free Black Women’s Library, and Women in Comics, a Little Library will pop up on Fridays.

How is Little Island keeping guests safe during the pandemic?

Little Island and Hudson River Park follow the latest guidance from the city, state, and CDC. Little Island’s COVID policy is available here, including social distancing, masks (with disposable masks available for anyone who needs one), and timed tickets for popular times (12-8pm, daily).



a view of little island from the hudson river greenway
A view of Little Island, NYC's newest public park, from Hudson River Greenway

Visiting Little Island Park in NYC

Where is Little Island located?

Little Island is located inside Hudson River Park at Pier 55, between West 13th and West 14th streets, in the Meatpacking District.

What are Little Island’s hours?

Little Island is open daily, 6am-1am. Note: Timed-entry tickets are required from 12-8pm (its peak hours), now through Sept. 30. Slots can be reserved up to 30 days in advance, with new reservations released monthly.

How can I get to Little Island?

You can drive to Little Island, take public transportation, walk, or ride your bike. (Bike racks are located just north and south of Little Island on the Hudson River Park esplanade.) Bikes and bike riding are not allowed in the park.   

The nearest subway stations are the F and M trains located at 14th Street and Sixth Avenue; the 1, 2, and 3 trains located at 14th Street and Seventh Avenue; and the A, C, E, and L trains located at 14th Street and Eighth Avenue (ADA accessible). Walking west, visitors can cross the West Side Highway at 14th and 13th streets.

The M11, M12, and M14D SBS buses stop at 14th Street and Tenth Avenue.

Is there parking at Little Island?

No. But there are parking lots nearby, including at 309 W. 14th St., 99 Jane St., and 450 W. 17th St.

How much is admission at Little Island?

Admission to the park is free. While most of the performances will also be free, with no reservations required, some may require advance tickets. No day-of tickets will be sold. Check Little Island’s events calendar for details.  

As part of its commitment to accessibility and equity, Little Island will sell a portion of seats to the Amph’s ticketed performances at a flat rate of $25 through the Theater Development Fund.

Is Little Island ADA-accessible?

Yes! The entire park is ADA-compliant. In addition, Little Island’s Visitor Experience staff can assist with access needs. The restrooms, including the all-gender facilities, are ADA-accessible. 

What family-friendly attractions are near Little Island?

Nearby attractions include the Whitney Museum of Art and High Line. Chelsea Market—home to some 40 food vendors—is a short walk away. If your kids still have energy to burn, go north to the massive Chelsea Piers sports complex or south to the charming playground at Pier 51.  

Is Little Island on social media?

Little Island is on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook

For more information, visit littleisland.org.

All photos by Garrett Ziegler

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Jessica Allen

Author:

Jessica Allen writes about food, culture, travel, and New York City, where she lives.

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