Randall’s Island Park, a multifaceted public park covering most of an island in the East River between East Harlem, the South Bronx, and Astoria, Queens, has more to offer families than scenic views. The park is home to a variety of facilities, activities, and natural areas for every member of the family to enjoy.
The 480-acre island was once made up of two separate islands, Randall’s and Wards, which for hundreds of years consisted of a home for boys, a hospital, and a home for civil war veterans. In 1936, Randall’s Island opened for recreational use, but eventually fell into poor conditions by the 1980s. By 1992, the Randall’s Island Park Alliance was created to revive the park. This nonprofit organization began working with the City of New York and the Department of Parks & Recreation to provide a wide range of sports venues, recreational facilities, and more for New Yorkers. The transformation began in 2005 with the building of Icahn Stadium, a 400-meter running track used to accommodate local, national, and international track and field events. In addition to a variety of events hosted on the island—yoga, tours, birding, workshops, and outdoor movie nights—the offers families the chance to spectate and participate in various sports and explore nature.
Hit a Hole-in-One
The Golf Center at Randall’s Island Park offers a spacious venue for professional and rookie golfers. The center includes an indoor-outdoor, two-tier driving range with 80 stalls, a 36-hole miniature golf course, batting cages, golf lessons, and complimentary Wi-Fi service. If you’re looking for a snack or an end of the day meal after a fun match, you and your family can head over to the kid-friendly Liquid Bread Beer Garden and Grill. There’s a wide range of choices to satisfy your taste buds, from mac and cheese to specialty hot dogs and flatbreads.
Randall's Island is home to a 36-hole miniature-golf course.
Become the Next Tennis Star
The Sportime Tennis Center is the place to be for the rising star in the family. And even if you don’t plan on pursuing tennis as a professional career, you can still enjoy this venue on a family day out. The center offers many resources for family, such as 20 indoor and outdoor courts: 10 Har-Tru clay and 10 Deco-Turf hard tennis courts, a training and fitness center, locker rooms, a café, a pro shop, and meeting and event facilities. Tennis programs, athletic training, and youth camps are available for all ages and levels.
The Urban Farm, located at the southern end of the island, gives families the opportunity to plant, harvest, and compost. The goal of the farm is to educate local families about agriculture in an urban environment, and teach skills through hands-on classes. The farm offers lessons on sustainable gardening practices such as rainwater capture, soil fertility, pollination, and botany. Your family can catch a glimpse of this year’s flock of chickens, the only known rice paddies in New York, an apple orchard, greenhouses, and a berry patch.
There are five themed gardens on Randall’s Island that were created using native species and sustainable practices. The Rock Garden utilizes Eastern and Western traditions of rock gardening; the Waters Edge Garden extends along the waterfront bicycle and pedestrian pathways. The White Garden is composed of plants with flowers or foliate in various tones of white. The Hell Gate Wildflower Meadow provides food and shelter for various pollinators and other insects, while the Freshwater Wetlands Wildflower Meadow gives visitors the opportunity to see various insects and unusual native plants.
The park also has a variety of natural areas to explore, including freshwater wetlands, a tidal marsh, an urban forest, and nearly 5 miles of coastal upland habitat. RIPA has worked to restore and maintain these areas, and most are accessible via the almost 8 miles of bike and pedestrian pathways that run throughout the park and along the waterfront.
Watch the Local Baseball Teams
Randall’s Island is home to more than 60 playing fields. Families and friends can come out to play and enjoy a good game of soccer, softball, lacrosse, rugby, and more. “RIPA works closely with the City of New York and local school and community-based organizations to ensure that the fields are available for New York City children, as well as adult leagues and teams,” according to RandallsIsland.org. Parents can wear their baseball gear and come out to support their favorite local team, and little ones can play catch for the first time while their furry friend tags along.
This baseball field is 1 of more than 60 athletic fields on Randall's Island.
Visiting Randall's Island
Location: 20 Randall’s Island Park
Hours: daily, 5am-12am
Restrooms: Available at Icahn Stadium, at the Golf and Tennis Centers, and in the comfort stations located at the Sunken Meadow, Wards Meadow, Hell Gate and Bronx Shore Fields.
For more information: 212-860-1899 or randallsisland.org
Main image: A tennis player practices at the Sportime Tennis Center on Randall's Island.
All photos by Sabrina Sooknanan
Get Weekend Events Sent to You
Find More Family Outings in the New York Metro Area