Governors Island is “hidden” weekend destination in New York Harbor sitting in plain view from both Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. In the decade since the Coast Guard gave up its use, the 172-acre island has become a historic playground for picnics, biking, concerts and more. More than half the island is open to the public Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from the first week in June to mid-October.
Before You Go
Getting to Governors Island is limited and simple: You take a boat. No bridges or subway lines go there. The Governors Island Ferry departs from the Battery Maritime Building on 10 South Street, next to the Staten Island Ferry in Lower Manhattan. On Fridays, NY Water Taxi runs the NYHarbor Way Water Taxi that makes stops at Governors Island as well as the Fulton Ferry Landing, South Street Seaport and Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. (The boat serving Brooklyn can only take a limited number of bikes, so if its busy, be prepared to have to wait a trip or two.) There is no public parking at the Governors Island ferry building. There is for-fee parking across the street from the Battery Maritime Building.
Before floating over, make sure you bring plenty of sunscreen and water to deal with the summer heat. There are food vendors scattered about the island, but feel free to pack and bring your own eatables. (Note that alcoholic beverages are not permitted on the island.) Indoor bathrooms are in the building next to the Governors Island ferry landing, but only portable bathrooms are found elsewhere.
Governors Island Attractions
Visiting for the Arts
Governors Island has become a micro-collective of both funded and outside art. You can check out contemporary architecture exhibitions from the Architectural League (http://www.archleague.org), the “The Sixth Borough” historical storefronts exhibits (http://www.nolongerempty.org), the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Artist Studios (http://www.lmcc.net/spaces/building_110_on_governors_island), the Public Art Fund Project (http://www.publicartfund.org/pafweb/projects/04/govern_island_04.html) or other sculpture exhibits around the island (http://www.sculptorsguild.org).
Visiting for the Kids
Don’t miss the free circus skills workshops through the Big Apple Circus, the Friday Morning Summer Programs for Kids, the National Park Service activities (to earn that Junior Ranger badge) or the Children’s Museum of the Arts Free Island Outpost Program for painting and drawing (http://www.cmany.org).
Visiting for the Family
By midsummer, Added Value’s 3-acre organic fruit and vegetable farm (http://www.added-value.org) has produce available for purchase. Also check out the interactive sculpture gardens and miniature golf (http://www.figmentproject.org) and shop the special exhibit for handmade gifts (http://thenewnewny.com).
Visiting for the Outdoors
Hit the water for kayaking from Pier 101, or stay high and dry with bicycle rentals (http://bikeandroll.com), music concert (http://www.thebeachconcerts.com), nature exhibits (http://www.bwac.org) or hiking tours through former military outposts (http://www.nps.gov/gois).
Happening This Weekend
Check out the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation’s website at http://www.govisland.com/Visit_the_Island/this_week.asp for the latest info on what’s happening next.
Governors Island (NPS)
National Park Service
Governors Island (GIPEC)
The island is open on Fridays-Sundays from June 5th to October 10th.
Special tours are offered on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 10am and 1pm.
The Governors Island ferry and all paths are wheelchair accessible.
Ferry from Manhattan: FREE ferry, Friday-Sunday, from the Battery Maritime Building at South and Whitehall Streets, adjacent to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, in Lower Manhattan.
Ferries from Brooklyn: FREE ferry, Saturday & Sunday, from Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6, located at the foot of Atlantic Avenue at the corner of Furman Street.
PAID ferry on Friday, from Fulton Ferry Landing and Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, stops at Governors Island.
Subways to the Ferries
- To the Manhattan ferry: R/W to Whitehall Street, 1 to South Ferry, or 4/5 to Bowling Green.
- To the Brooklyn ferry that runs Saturdays & Sundays: 2/3 or 4/5 to Borough Hall.
- To the Brooklyn ferry that runs Fridays: A/C to High Street or F to York Street.