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Visit Little Island at Pier 55

Updated: April 16, 2024

When Little Island opened in 2021, we were pretty excited about this nifty public park at Pier 55 in Chelsea.

Many of us at Free Tours By Foot in NYC spend time here so we wanted to share with you some tips on visiting Little Island.

Our local tour guides love to show visitors Little Island on our walking tours.

In this post, we include what you can see there, when it is open, how to get there, and what we like about it.

And, in the video below, Kyle, a tour guide with us, Free Tours by Foot NYC, takes you on a virtual walking tour of Little Island.

If you are interested in visiting with us, check out our pay-what-you-wish High Line, Meatpacking District, and Little Island Tour.

About Little Island

This 2.4-acre park on Manhattan's west side is truly innovative. It's unlike any park in NYC, and perhaps the world.

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 so we like to see some shows during the year since they are high-quality and downright cheap!

Find out more about the activities at Little Island here.

Tickets, Reservations, and Hours

Little Island is free to enter, and there are no tickets or reservations required unless you are there to see a performance.

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. The park always opens at 6 am but the closing times vary.

  • March 18, 2024 – May 26, 2024: 6:00 am – 11:00 pm 
  • May 27, 2024 – September 2, 2024: 6:00 am – 12:00 am 
  • September 3, 2024– November 10, 2024: 6:00 am – 11:00 pm 

Given the closing times, you can come at sunset or night. At sunset, you'll get pretty views, but there are better locations to get sunset skyline vistas.

Honestly, we like it during the day the most so we can enjoy the natural environment, especially on sunny days.

At night, Little Island is pretty but even more so when looking at it rather than visiitng it.

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 unique 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 based on time we've spent here since it opened.

Compared to other parks we hang out in, Little Island is indeed little! But we love it anyway!

While you could see it all in 15 minutes, set aside at least 30 minutes to take in the spectacular views and take pictures.

We found that the best location for photos, the southwest overlook, can be pretty crowded during peak tourist season, so you may have to wait a few minutes to find a spot to squeeze to take great photos.

As New Yorkers living in the concrete jungle, we relish any opportunity to see nature. So we like spending some time wandering Little Island's windy paths, lined with an array of beautiful plant and flower life.

There are 30 species of trees, 65 species of shrubs, close to 300 varieties of grasses and vines, and 66,000 bulbs! It's a dream for those of you who are into botany.

When we took the official Little Island audio tour, we learned a lot about the flora and fauna of the park.

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.

We've used both bridges and there is no difference.

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 to those of us who like history, the piles are a nice reminder of NYC's days as a shipping city.

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!

The hills here are cute, but when we are in the mood for large rolling hills with great views of NYC, we prefer 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 light green triangular roof. This is the relatively little Woolworth Building, once the tallest building in the world!

As we mentioned above, this spot can be a bit crowded with people taking pictures, but be patient and you'll get your snapshot too!

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 a multi-use public/private complex with a marketplace, restaurant, and several outdoor public spaces, including a rooftop park, with views to rival those of Little Island!

Definitely check it out! We brought lunch there and sat on a bench alongside a tidy lawn. The views of Little Island and beyond were excellent.

9. The Play Ground

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

We've tried the food at the concession stands and it's pretty good. For more options, we grab 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

English designer Thomas Heatherwick designed this gem of a park 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.

Nearby Attractions

About The Author

Courtney Shapiro

Courtney is a lifelong New Yorker in love with the city’s history, culture and food. She's a world travel as well and enjoys sharing her travel expertise with others. She joined Free Tours by Foot in 2011, first as a guide and then as a writer. She still leads tours on a part-time basis. READ MORE...
Updated: April 16th, 2024
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