Last weekend I visited Governors Island, I had never been, not even for the seasonal events that get media coverage there. I recently saw a tv program that was talking about how renovated it was, which peaked my interested immediately. NYC in its ever renovating state will always have something new to see and this one was no different. If you’ve never been, whether tourists or local this is a must see. Trust me, its not a complete tourist trap this time of the year, it was actually very relaxing! Here is how I spent my day there and my tips for your own excursion to Governors Island.
What is Governors Island?
It’s exactly what it sounds like, an island off the concrete island of Manhattan where Govenors lived. Originally settled by the Dutch and named Nutten Island in 1624 it was renamed Governors Island in 1689 when it was home to the British royal governor. Throughout the late 1700’s until the 1990’s it served as a military base for the U.S. Army and Coastguard and is where Castle Williams was built as a military base and then a prison. The island also holds Fort Jay, which was built in the 1700’s and was used to defend New York from the British. Barracks and houses were also constructed as military personnel and their families lived on the island. By 2001 Governors Island was established as a national park under the care of New York City. No one lives there now as it is considered a national monument and is historically preserved.
To get there you must take the Govenor’s Island Ferry from Wall Street Pier 11 to Soisson’s Landing on Governors Island. Ferries run pretty frequently, and on Saturdays and Sundays if you take any of the ferries before 12 pm its free! So that is exactly what we did. It was a short wait for the ferry and so was the ride to Govenors Island, approximately less than 10 mins. Enjoy the views as you take the quick trip back and forth.
Once there you’ll want to ask the info desk for a map. Govenors Island is a green island so the paper maps they give you have to be returned to them before you leave, or dropped in a basket in front of the info desk. We walked some of the way without it and we had to go back and ask for one as there weren’t that many maps around the park. Something we thought could be improved was the actual details of the maps, which were a bit lacking. But it’s a small Island and we walked the whole thing in one day, some parts more than once.
We decided to get our steps in as we walked the whole island, but they do have alternatives. Renting bikes from Blazing Saddles and Citi bike are available, as well as balance bikes for parents with small kids and surreys, a four wheeled cart for groups who want to ride around together. There were also pedal-carts and scooters for kids for rent as well. Every now and then as we rested we wished we rented one of the group bikes, although on the other hand every time bikers wanted to enter a histrorically preserved section of the island, like Castle Williams they would have to get off their bikes or surreys and walk.
There are plenty of food options on Govenors Island, starting with the two restaraunts you see when you get to the island. Which are Taco Vista and Island Oyster which serves seafood and is where we stopped and ate dinner before we went back to Manhattan. The food was delish and the drink was spectacular. Watching the sun come down against the NYC sykline was an extra treat. During the day we ate lunch at Little Eva’s, one of the food trucks parked near Liggett Terrace and Hammock Grove. This location is where all the food trucks park for the day, so go around and weigh your options. The food at Little Eva’s was scrumptious as well. Overall we were very satisfied with the food options they had on the island.
Things To Do
As you walk the island be sure to stop and see all the historically preserved spots like Castle Williams and Fort Jay. Artwork is also present on the island with scupltures and plays and exhibitions held in a converted church as well as various houses that belonged to mitlitary families and Governors in the past. You can also bring a picnic if you wish as there is a designated picnic area or you can lounge on the various lawns in red chairs spread throughout the whole island.
The Urban Farm is a must see as people are welcomed to walk amoungst the growing vegatables and fruits. The staff were very friendly and informative as they told us what each plot was growing and invited us to touch and smell the bounty of nutritional goodness. Composting is also done and it is welcomed if you have something to contribute. The Urban Farm is not quite done being developed as there was still a section that was under construction.
Ziplinning, mini gulfing and rock climbing are also activities you can do on Govenors Island. Take the kids to Slide Hill, which holds the the longest slide in nyc, and make sure to check out the LMCC Art Center which holds diffrent art and sculpture exhibitions. Kayaking and staying overnight in a tent in the Collective Retreats are a few other things you can do. This is not even the whole list of activities! Not to mention the other seasonal activities they have up to the closing day of Governors Island of October 31st.
Views for a Lifetime of the City
The views of NYC from Governors Island are gorgeous and they follow you around as you make your way through the island. Make sure to take in the views at the top of The Hills and on the Play Lawn. I walked to the top of The Hills and got gorgeous shots of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. If you walk the perimeter of the island you will also get great shots of the city as well.
We plan to go back once Governors Island opens again to the public on May 1st. If you plan to visit Governors Island before the closing day of October 31st this year it will be good to know that the island is open Monday-Fridays 10am-6pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 7pm. Let me know if you plan to visit or if you’ve ever been to Governors Island-T.S.