New York, USA, Canada, Mexico
Sitting off the tip of lower Manhattan, the 172-acre Governors Island is New York City’s newest playground. And it’s pretty cool, too. On the 5-minute ferry ride you’re treated to awesome views of the Effigy of Liberty, Manhattan Skyline, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Brooklyn itself. Once on the island, a car-free environment is yours to delight in. On a weekend afternoon, you can see live music, wander through art galleries, take a free yoga class, picnic in the shade, rent a bicycle, relax in the sun, and so much more. It’s fun for the entire family, too. And best of all its free!
Governors Island is steeped in description. Wouter Van Twiller, a representative from Holland, bought the island from Native Americans in 1637 for the bargain fee of two ax heads, a string of beads, and a handful of nails. From then until the 1960s, the island served as an vital American military base including stints as a strategic fort during the Revolutionary War and as a central recruiting station during the Civil War. In 1966, the Coast Guard took it over.
After they left in 1995, the island lay dormant until it was bought by the city in 2002. Although it welcomed visitors for a tour as ahead of schedule as 2003, it wasn’t until 2010 that it opened officially to an enthusiastic public.
Getting ThereGetting to the island is as simple as walking into Central Park. A free ferry departs hourly from the Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan, close to the South Ferry, Bowling Green, and Whitehall Road subway stops. The island is open Friday through Sunday, and Monday holidays from late May through September 25. Ferries leave twice an hour (hourly on Fridays), between 10am and 5:30pm; ferries return to Manhattan every half hour from 10:30am to 7pm (5pm on Fridays). If you’re coming from Brooklyn’s Pier 6 on Atlantic Avenue, ferries run continuously from 11am to 5pm, the last ferry returning at 7pm. It’s simple to spend as much or as small time as you like.
What to DoA plethora of fun activities will keep you occupied for but long you want to stay on the island. There’s Water Taxi Beach, a stretch of sand that hosts events and the rare live band, though no swimming is permitted. At Nolan Park, a well-preserved collection of 19th-century officers’ quarters houses art galleries and gifts shops. Rent a bicycle or quadracycle for a spin on the lined 2-mile bicycle path that circles the island (come on a Friday and bike rentals are free). If you want to get in the water, sign up for a free kayak for a fleeting paddle off shore.
The Parade Ground is a fantastic place to just wander and people watch. You can hear live music, take a free yoga class, sample food from the many vendors, and take an art class. On the southern end of the island is Picnic Top, a stretch of green with picnic tables, hammocks, and close-up views of the Stature of Liberty.
Food, Food, FoodFood is everywhere on Governors Island. Vendors sell a diversity of food, from zesty Caribbean fare to hot dogs, at Liggett Terrace and Picnic Top. The Parade Ground is the place to go for ice scream, smoothies, and rare samples. At Water Taxi Beach you can order fries, hot dogs, and burgers to eat on picnic tables front the sand. You can also buy alcohol there, but it must be consumed there at the beach. You’re welcome to bring your own food and picnic on the island; but, you cannot bring alcohol to the island.
Governors Island hosts a diversity of cultural events throughout the season. Upcoming 2011 events contain Governors Island Swim (September 10), where swimmers jump off the ferry boat for a race around the island. Ongoing weekend events contain 4 Heads Art Honest, where more than 100 artists are each given a room of their own in which to make an exhibition environment of their own design, and Huge Apple Circus Family Fun Fest, which includes teaching kids and families how to juggle, clown around, and other circus tricks. Check the web site for the latest information.