I had wanted to visit Little Island, New York City’s newest tourist attraction, since it opened in May, but I wasn’t often going into the city due to Covid. It’s easy to get into Manhattan for the plethora of activities, but it can be an anxiety-inducing experience to ride PATH during a pandemic — I have complained numerous times about the lack of mask policy enforcement on the trains. Nonetheless, I have made the journey more than a few times since I’ve been vaccinated because I want to meet friends.
I booked two tickets online — Little Island has (currently free) digital timed tickets to prevent overcrowding. It is still popular and opened to quite the fanfare.That does not mean, however, that people leave within a certain amount of time. There are events, shows, food, and drinks to enjoy throughout the day — it would be easy to spend a full day there considering food and drinks aren’t overpriced for a Manhattan attraction.
I met my friend for mediocre Mexican food (my mistake; I mistook it for a different place) in the Meatpacking District before walking over to Pier 55. All ended up fine as we had second dinner after Little Island at Leitao, a Portuguese restaurant/bar on Hudson St, with Amêijoas em Caldeirada (clams in wine broth with tomatoes, chorizo, and spicy salami).
The walk over to Pier 55 wasn’t as direct as I thought. Fortunately, my friend had been there before and knew where to cross at the the West Side Highway because I haven’t been there in a long time.
Entering Little Island is easy, though not as organized as anticipated. It’s a wide walkway with a couple staff asking to see that people have their digital tickets ready before heading farther ahead to the actual ticket scanning.
Once inside, the park opens up into winding paths through exquisitely planned gardens, and those golf tee-looking pillars disappear unless you’re by the edges. We headed up the steps to the left, which is where most people go upon entering. The views are rather crowded as it’s a first stop before everyone disperses throughout the space.
I wasn’t surprised by the crowd, and it only felt crowded in a few areas where everyone wanted to get a picture. The design of Little Island seems to have considered the crowds that would be attracted to a city green space. And coming from Jersey City, which lacks green space, I was happy to be surrounded by any amount of plant life.
My friend and I stopped multiple times along the western edge of Little Island to take some pictures of the sunset across the Hudson River. It’s not often I get to enjoy the view of New Jersey, and this spot in New York makes that possible. It was unfortunately hazy due to smoke from the wildfires on the west coast, but watching the sunset over Hoboken was still beautiful. Even with the crowd and nearby traffic at Little Island, it was a peaceful moment in the city.
We stopped multiple times along the paths to admire the plants and wonder what they were. The one thing that was lacking at the park was a guide to the plants (I guess I need an app to identify what I come across in parks or on hikes).
Even with the crowd and noise, there are some peaceful spots within the park. Sometimes it was a matter of stopping by the flowers and watching the bees.
I was surprised to find that this oasis in the city built over the Hudson is open late — it might be a fun experience to gaze at the lights of New York or across the river at New Jersey if you come to the area around midnight.
As the sun set and it grew darker, my friend and I headed out along the Hudson River Greenway before crossing back into the city to find our second dinner. It was luck that brought us to Leitao, which was a delightful way to end the evening.
There is plenty at Little Island to keep visitors entertained. And the vendors serve beer and wine, making the experience even more fun for a picnic (I don’t know if they check whether visitors bring their own food and drinks).
It’s not the best park in the New York City, but Little Island is worth checking out. It’s the type of park — one that creates additional space in a city — that I wish Jersey City would build (there’s already a pier park in Hoboken that’s not quite as cool as this). I advise checking it out before the hordes of tourists return to the city. There are also concerts and other events planned in the park, so it’s another reason to visit in the future.