Have you ever visited Governors Island? I feel that this is 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 – from 1783 to 1966. The island was a United States Army post and it served as a training ground for troops and it also as a strategic defense point during wartime. After that, Governors Island served as a major United States Coast Guard installation until 1996. Following its decommissioning as a military base, it was opened for public use in 2005.
When is the island open?
Until last year, Governors Island was a seasonal destination, only open to the public from May to October. But that changed in 2021 and the island is now open all year round – from Sunday to Thursday, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and from Friday to Saturday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
How to get there?
Ferries from Manhattan and Brooklyn provide access to the island.
Trust for Governors Island-operated ferries depart from:
- Lower Manhattan (daily): The Battery Maritime Building, located at 10 South Street.
- Brooklyn (Saturdays, Sundays, Holiday Mondays): Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, near the intersection of Furman St. And Atlantic Ave., and Atlantic Basin in Red Hook, near the intersection of Pioneer Street and Conover Street.
- Also, NYC Ferry serves Governors Island daily year-round.
- The round-trip ticket is $4 – and on Saturdays and Sundays before noon it’s free (not valid for NYC Ferry).
- You can check the schedule here.
Things to do in Governors Island
Governors Island is a car-free island, which makes it the perfect place to ride a bike! particularly love to ride a bike on Governors Island. If you are a first-time visitor, it is probably the best way to have an idea of the space and areas. There are two bike rental options:
- There are three CitiBik docks on the island and you can check them through the CitiBike app – two near the ferry landings and one on the south side.
- Blazing Saddles offers bikes, Go-Carts, surreys, pedal cars, scooters, sleds and more for rental. Free Bike Mornings allow visitors to borrow a bike from Blazing Saddles for free for up to one hour every weekday between 10 AM and noon. Information and reservations here.
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.
Areas for kids
There is an area with slides – Slide Hill, that features New York City’s longest slide at 57 feet – and also a playground, perfect for the little ones to burn off energy.
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! There are so many spots on the island to have a picnic – you can even reserve a grill from May to November by clicking here. At the southern tip, there’s a really cool area called Picnic Point – probably the only place in NYC to have a picnic with a view of the Statue of Liberty.
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!
- Arts – there are always art exhibitions and installations on the island. You can click here and check out.
- Events – There are always cool events, like an annual 1920s jazz party and vintage car show. To check the calendar, click here.
- Kayaking – yes, you can do kayaking in the island area. It’s free and runs on weekends. Click here to learn more.
- Food – in addition to the suggestions in the post, there are several food trucks on the island, with diverse and delicious options. Click here to check.
QC NY Spa was a a long-awaited development. There are gorgeous grounds featuring unprecedented views of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and New Jersey, relaxation rooms (each with its own meticulously curated personality, scent, and music), themed saunas, and other incredible wellness experiences such as vichy showers, infrared beds, foot baths, hydro jets, steam baths and more. Luxurious bathrobes, sandals, towels, shower products, and a storage locker will all be provided – all that is needed is a swimsuit. Open all-year!
Collective Retreats – glamping
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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. Besides the luxurious accommodations, there are some experiences and activities like yoga, s’mores, and wine tasting. Collective Retreats also offers a gourmet dining experience delivers a contemporary American menu with a focus on wood flame grilling and offers breakfast and multiple dinner options. Both Overnight and non-overnight guests are invited to enjoy the Chef’s Tasting and a la carte menus in addition to an extensive selection of specialty cocktails and wine offerings.
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This bar and restaurant is right next to the landing ferry area and has incredible views of Manhattan and a menu with tropical drinks and seafood dishes.
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Gitano Island is a restaurant and beach club in New York City. The beach vibes are real – you will see by the decor, the chairs, the umbrellas and the real sand. They have food and drinks – although I think the food is a little overpriced. But I recommend coming here for drinks at sunset.
Did you like this post? What is your favorite activity on Governors Island?
Content creator and journalist in New York City. Here, I share lifestyle, beauty, NYC tips, thoughts, and the struggles about living in the most amazing city in the world! I’m not gonna pretend to be another person: I’m a Brazilian immigrant and I think this is my soul, it is part of who I am. I hope you enjoy my content! Follow me on Instagram!