This post is about Little Island, an innovative floating island and public park located at Pier 55 in Chelsea that opened in 2021.

We cover hours, what to see there, and directions to Little Island.

Little Island is a park used by locals, including some of our tour guides, who love leading walking tours here.

We have used our experiences visiting the park regularly to help craft this guide for you.

And, in the video below, Tour Guide Kyle takes you on a virtual walking tour of Little Island.

About Little Island

This 2.4-acre park is unlike any park you have seen before.

Located on Manhattan's west side, Little Island rests on top of 132 concrete piles rising from the Hudson River. The piles can best be described as ‘tulip pots'.

Some of the 'tulip pots' are as high as 62 feet above the Hudson River, offering dazzling views of New York and New Jersey.

The landscape is diverse, with green lawns, small slopes, and winding walkways.

The park features hundreds of different species of plants and flowers.

Also, there are two performance spaces: the 700-seat Amphitheater (known as "The Amph") and the smaller Glade.

Performances are either free or reasonably priced.

You can find out more about the activities at Little Island here.

New York Walking Tours

Tickets, Reservations, and Hours

Little Island is free to enter, and there are no tickets required.

When the park opened, tickets and reservations were required due to the pandemic.

Currently, you do not need to make a reservation but the park reserves the right to reintroduce reservation requirements in the future.

The park is accessible to the public 365 days a year unless the weather conditions are so bad that it must be closed for public safety, for example, nearby lightning or heavy gusts of wind.

Hours are seasonal:

  • October 31 – March 13: 6:00 am – 9:00 pm
  • March 14 – May 25: 6:00 am – 11:00 pm
  • May 26  – September 5: 6:00 am – 12:00 am
  • September 6  – October 30: 6:00 am – 11:00 pm

How to Get Here 

Little Island is located at Pier 55 in Hudson River Park at West 13th Street. The easiest way to get there is by subway.

The closest subways are:

  • 1/2/3 train to 14th Street and 7th Avenue
  • A/C/E and L to 14th Street and 8th Avenue

Click here for a Google map that will give you exact directions to Little Island from your departure point.

Tip:  If you are new to using the subway system, you may find our guide to Navigating the New York Subway useful.

Just north of Little Island is another of New York City's innovative parks, the High Line.

This park is 1.45 miles (2.33 km) and runs through several neighborhoods – Greenwich Village, the Meatpacking District, Chelsea, and Midtown Manhattan.

Check out our pay-what-you-wish guided High Line tours and two self-guided options: an audio tour and a downloadable self-guided tour.

Things to See and Do

This self-guided tour is a brief overview of Little Island’s sites. Little Island is indeed little, and you could walk its quickest route and see all its sites in 15 minutes. 

We recommend setting aside at least 30 minutes so you can take in the spectacular views, wander its windy paths, and take in the massive array of species of plant and flower life. 

On Little Island, there are 30 species of trees, 65 species of shrubs, close to 300 varieties of grasses and vines, and 66,000 bulbs!

For those interested in both the amazing flora and fauna of Little Island as well as some of its architectural aspects, check out the official Little Island audio tour.

If you want to learn about the history of Little Island, watch our video above!

To get on and off Little Island, there are two pedestrian bridges, the North Bridge and the South Bridge.

As an interesting side note, the architects of Little Island deliberately designed the bridges to slope at the same gradient as the two ramps at the famed Channel Gardens at Rockefeller Center.

1. Pier 54 and the South Bridge

The South Bridge connects Little Island (also known as Pier 55) to the mainland, where Pier 54 was once located.

Pier 54 has a storied past, most notably its connection to the sinking of the Titanic.

In 1910, Pier 54 was the point of departure and arrival of trans-Atlantic ocean liners operated by the Cunard-White Star line.

In 1912, the Titanic ocean liner struck an iceberg and sank, killing nearly 1,500 passengers. 

Fortunately, another Cunard ocean liner, the Carpathia, was nearby and able to rescue some 700 survivors who were brought to safety at Pier 54.

At the foot of the South Bridge is a giant steel arch, the sole remains of the Cunard-White Star building.

Pier 54 was also the dock used by another luxury liner, the Lusitania.

If the name sounds familiar, it’s because the sinking of the Lusitania by German U-boats was one of the main catalysts for the U.S. entering into World War I.

The pier eventually ceased commercial operations. 

From the 1970s to the early 80s, Pier 54 was a location where members of NYC's growing LGBTQ community could socialize without fear of harassment.

In 1986, Pier 54 began hosting the annual Dance on the Pier which is part of Gay Pride Week every June

In 1998, Pier 54 was integrated into Hudson River Park and was used for concerts, outdoor movies, and other cultural events.

But in 2011, the pier was shut down as it started to collapse.

A year later, Hurricane Sandy swept through NYC and damaged several piers along the Hudson, including the already collapsing Pier 54.

The wooden piles on the south side of Little Island are the last bit of Pier 54 that remains. 

Perhaps these old wooden piles that surround Little Island are an eyesore.

But they won't be removed any time soon so as not to disturb the existing marine ecosystems in the area.

2. Main Lawn

This lush patch of green has a few “rolling hills”. While it is certainly beautiful, the Main Lawn is not for sitting!

There are rules about sitting on the grass at different times of the year to protect the plantings, so before laying down your picnic blanket, see if anyone else is on the lawn.

If not, you should move on!

For rolling hills that you can not only enjoy but also get great views of NYC, visit The Hills at Governors Island.

3. The Glade

This is one of two performance spaces. This mini-amphitheater hosts various music, dance, poetry, and comedy shows.

4. Southwest Overlook

Little Island’s highest point (63 feet above the Hudson River) has incredible views, making it the most popular location on the island.

From here you can see the skyline of Lower Manhattan, including the towering One World Trade Center

Amazingly, you can even see the Statue of Liberty! Also, look for a building topped by a triangular roof that is light green.

This is the relatively little Woolworth Building, once the tallest building in the world!

6. Scenic View

Along the main path between the Southwest Overlook and the Amphitheater, you will have a beautiful view of Midtown Manhattan.

You can see nearby Hudson Yards, The Edge Observation deck, and the High Line.

You can even see the Empire State Building!

7. Amphitheater

With seating for 700 people, this attractive outdoor amphitheater is a lovely place to see performances, concerts, and other types of shows.

Performances are either free or highly affordable. See what’s playing here.

8. Northwest Overlook

Here you are looking out over the Hudson River and New Jersey.

To your right is a large sea green-colored structure across from Little Island is Pier 57.

It was built in 1952 as a terminal for the shipping and storage of cargo.

When shipping operations ceased, the pier was used as a parking lot for NYC buses. 

Pier 57 is in the process of being turned into a multi-use public/private complex with a marketplace, restaurant, and several outdoor public spaces, including a roof-top park, with views to rival those of Little Island!

9. The Play Ground

Don’t be fooled by the name! It is not a children’s playground, but rather a large paved plaza.

In the warmer months, you will find metal tables and chairs underneath large umbrellas that provide shade. 

With three concession stands selling a variety of cuisines and drinks, the Play Ground is the perfect spot to enjoy a snack.

You can also buy great food at the nearby Chelsea Market.

10. North Bridge

As you walk along the bridge back toward the mainland, you will see to your left, rows of wood piles sticking out of the river.

These are all that remain of what was Pier 56.

Background of Litle Island

This gem of a park was designed by English designer Thomas Heatherwick for the Hudson River Park Trust.

The amazing topography was the work of Signe Nielsen of MNLA.

Little Island's funding came mainly from the Diller-Von Furstenberg Family Foundation, created by billionaire Barry Diller and his wife, fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg.

Other Nearby Destinations

About The Author


Courtney is a lifelong New Yorker fascinated with the city’s history, culture and cuisine. She loves exploring the world, as well as sharing her travel expertise with others. She joined the Free Tours by Foot team in 2011, first as a guide and then as a writer. She has a law degree, a teaching degree and a worn-out passport. Her motto is “Have backpack, will travel”.
Updated: September 25th, 2023
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