Governors Island was a recruitment depot during the Civil War, and a planning station for the D-Day invasion of World War II.
When it was an army headquarters, enlisted men lived there with their families, and then the Coast Guard took over in the 1960s. The island has served many purposes—mostly military—but now it’s a 172-acre oasis that sits just 800 yards away from Lower Manhattan. It’s the ultimate urban escape. Pack a lunch and hop on the ferry to laze away an entire summer day, and be back in the city with plenty of time to make your evening plans.
Remnants of military history dot the island, including two 19th century military forts, but now visitors are more likely to see a hip art installation than a military display. Since it opened to the public in 2008, Governors Island has become a favorite seasonal destination for those in search of innovative artwork, all types of festivals, and some green space to help you get back to nature.
Governors Island is open every day from May 1 – October 31. The following activities are offered every season, but have various operating hours. Before you head out, be sure to check the website for specific information, and for many more activities and events that the island hosts.
There are seven miles of bike trails on Governors Island, uninterrupted by cars. Visitors can bring their own bikes on the ferry or rent one from Blazing Saddles, who also rents surreys, bike trailers for kids, and more. There’s a Citi Bike docking station on the island, too.
Climb and Slide
Completed in 2016, The Hills is part landscape art and part playground. It’s a series of four hills that rise 70 feet above sea level. They have inviting names like Grassy Hill, Outlook Hill, and Discovery Hill. The most popular by far is Slide Hill, where four winding slides are built into the hillside, including one that reaches 57 feet in length. Embrace your playful side as you charge down the longest slide in New York City.
Pairs can glide together side by side on the Flywire Zip Line. The cable is 300 feet long and the highest point of the experience reaches only 35 feet high, so it’s not too intimidating for people who don’t love heights.
An artist’s forum known as FIGMENT has designed an art-focused mini golf course on Governors Island for the last several years. So not only can you brush up on your mini golf skills, you can also see a sampling of the tremendous talent of emerging artists.
Governors Island has become a haven for New York’s endless music, art, and cultural festivals and events. During last year’s season, events that drew in visitors included such diverse events as the Holi Festival, a Civil War Weekend, the NYC Poetry Festival, Night of 1,000 Jack O’Lanterns, the annual Jazz Age Lawn Party, and so much more.
If you’ve ever wanted to camp in the sightline of the Statue of Liberty, the summer of 2018 is your chance. Governors Island recently announced that they’ll pair up with Collective Retreats, a hospitality startup that provides luxury camping experiences around the U.S. Guests will be able to stay overnight in a range of accommodation styles on a six-acre space reserved for this specific purpose.
Need to Know
Governors Island is open from May 1 – October 31. Weekday hours are 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Ferries run from Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Check the schedule for times and prices. Visitors can bring a picnic onto the island. Bringing your own alcohol isn’t allowed. Two food courts sell a variety of food. Alcohol is sold and can be consumed in designated areas. See the full list of rules and regulations.