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Everything you need to know to explore Governors Island

Have you ever visited Governors Island? I feel that this a secret spot in the city – I know, I know, technically, it is not a secret, but I feel that not all New Yorkers take advantage of this beautiful place. This is probably the only place in NYC where you can have a picnic looking at Lady Liberty. Yep, that’s right. As Governors Island is one of my favorite places in the city – I thought it would be useful to put together a guide. Trust me: you need to visit it!

Whats is Governors Island?

Governors Island served as a military base for almost 200 years and is located approximately 800 yards south of Manhattan. In fact, if we consider that it was open to the public only in 2005, it is kind of a new place in the city.

When the island is open?

Governors Island is open to the public during a season, which begins in late May and runs until the end of October.

How to get there?

Ferries from Manhattan and Brooklyn provide access to the island. Ferries run from:

  • Lower Manhattan: The Battery Maritime Building, located at 10 South Street (DAILY)
  • Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park (currently not available)
  • Brooklyn: Red Hook/Atlantic Basin, located at the intersection of Pioneer Street and Conover Street (SATURDAY & SUNDAY ONLY).
  • Fares: $3 Adults | Free for Seniors 65 and over and children 12 and under, NYCHA residents, IDNYC holders, Military service members (former and active) and Governors Island members. Passengers ride free on Saturdays and Sundays before noon.
  • There is no surcharge for bicycles at any time. Space for bikes and strollers is limited, and they will be allowed on each ferry on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • All ferries are wheelchair accessible.

Things to do 

Beautiful views

There are a lot of reasons to visit this island like green space, outdoor activities, and privileged and wonderful views. From Governors Island, you can see the skyline of Manhattan, New Jersey, the Hudson River, Brooklyn Bridge, and even the Statue of Liberty.

Ride a bike 
  • CitiBike has some docks around the island and you can easily rent a bike to explore better. I particularly love to ride a bike in Governors Island. If you are a first-time visitor, is probably the best way to have an idea of the space and areas.
  • Blazing Saddles New York also has a location on the island and you get a discount when reserving online.

The Hills

Located in the south of the island, this area has artificial hills up 70 feet above sea level, providing a 360-degree view. One of the hills has a lookout, with a view overlooking the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty, and, of course, the view of the iconic Manhattan skyline. The area of The Hills has paved lanes, where you can ride, as well as some extensive grassy areas with chairs and tables, perfect for a picnic. Check it out Slide Hill as well: rising 40 feet, is home to four slides, including New York City’s longest slide at 57 feet!

Lower Manhattan Cultural Council 

As Governors Island’s first permanent tenant dedicated to the arts, LMCC’s expanded Arts Center opened in September 2019 with over 40,000 square feet of space for artistic practice and public engagement. This beautifully renovated former munitions warehouse features open plan artist studios for up to 40 artists, two floors of galleries, performance and rehearsal spaces and a café, while its design reveals the stunning structure of the historic waterfront building.

 

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Glamping – Collective Retreats

Staycation, anyone? The Instagram-worthy accommodations pair style and comfort with designer furnishings, ultra-comfortable high thread count bedding, air conditioning, and gourmet room service. Indulge in the rustic glamour of the available tents. Book now!

 

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Oysters and Drinks

Island Oyster was recently nominated for a James Beard Foundation award for Best Restaurant Design. Featuring easygoing summer fare, a tropically inspired cocktail program and panoramic views of New York Harbor and downtown Manhattan, is a perfect spot for a summer day.

Picnic

Not in the mood for oysters? Bring your own snacks and a blanket and choose a spot for your picnic. The only bad thing is deciding the best spot with so many options!

Playgrounds

Kids will have so much fun at the playground and also exploring the slides at The Hills.

Hammock Grove

Head to Hammock Grove to relax and swing in the Island’s iconic red hammocks. Kick back in peaceful nooks among the lush foliage of the park. You may even see the Statue of Liberty and the City skyline peeking over you!

Visit the Castle Williams

Castle Williams, the centerpiece of the system of fortifications designed to guard New York City just prior to the War of 1812, has long been off-limits to the public. After an extensive rehabilitation project in 2011, the National Park Service opened the Castle to the general public for the first time in the fort’s 200-year history. Access to the Castle’s first floor and its outdoor exhibits is free, unrestricted, and self-guided. Tours of the Castle that take visitors through all three levels and the roof require a free ticket. Tickets are available one hour before each tour begins, and may be picked up inside the Castle.

Events

Jazz, vintage car, music festival: a lot of events take place at Governors Island. Make sure to visit the website and check the calendar to see what is happening.

Stay tuned!

Day spa QC Termé comes to the island offering rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation in a one-of-a-kind setting as well as opportunities for its guests to enjoy the Island following its projected opening in 2021. How excited is that?

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