One of the most popular outings in New York City is a trip to Governors Island. The 170-acre site in the middle of New York Harbor was used for 200 years for military training purposes. Governors Island National Monument stands on the island.
It’s a 10-minute ferry ride from Manhattan and Brooklyn and offers miles of biking and walking opportunities an urban farm, art installations, music festivals, a playground, interesting buildings, extraordinary views of New York City, New York Harbor, the Brooklyn Bridge and more.
Mixing an eerie sense of history with an exciting sense of future possibilities, the island is being repurposed for the 21st century.
History of Governors Island
The Lepanae Indians called it Paggnack and the Dutch called it Nutten Island when they bought it in 1624. It was a valuable source of food and timber for Dutch colonists.
Its present name comes from the governors of the colonies who used the island as a kind of retreat. The name and the recreational use of the island remained with the English took control of New York Harbor.
Between 1794 and 1966, Governors Island served as a military post and a major Army command headquarters. It later served as the home of the Coast Guard’s Atlantic Area Command.
Governors Island was sold in 2003 and divided between the National Park Service, which oversees the Governors Island National Monument, and the Trust for Governors Island.
As part of the First and Second American Systems of Fortification, Fort Jay and Castle Williams were erected on Governors Island between 1796 and 1811.
Getting to Governors Island
From Brooklyn, you can catch the ferry from the Fulton Ferry Landing in DUMBO every weekend and all holiday Mondays from Memorial Day weekend through a few weeks after Labor Day (the final date varies by year).
The boats run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. once an hour, with the last ferry returning to Brooklyn around 7 p.m.
From Manhattan, the ferries run every day during the open season every hour between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., and every 30 minutes on the weekends between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Where to Catch the Ferry to Governors Island
The ferry from Brooklyn leaves from Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, located at the foot of Atlantic Avenue (corner of Columbia Street). Take the 2,3,4 or 5 subway to Borough Hall; the A, C or F train to Jay Street/Borough Hall or the R train to Court Street. The B63 bus to Atlantic Avenue is also nearby.
From Manhattan, take the 1 train to South Ferry, the 4 or 5 to Bowling Green or the R to Whitehall Street. Buses M9 and M15 also stop there.
Activities on Governors Island
Once you get to the island, there's no shortage of things to do. There are plenty of food vendors but there are also spots for picnicking if you prefer to bring your own snacks. Facilities are available to host parties, and there are concerts and family-friendly activities throughout the summer.
In June, Governors Island will hosts it's annual Figment Festival, a free participatory art event that is 100% volunteer-powered. FIGMENT NYC’s summer-long projects include a mini-golf course and Pavilion entitled “Cast and Place” on Governors Island!" Another favorite activity is the Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party, which takes place in July and sells out rather quickly, so be sure to get tickets early. If you ever wanted to spend time dressed like a 1920's flapper, this is your opportunity to take a trip back in time on Governors Island.
The island also hosts music festivals, a unicycle festival, and many other events. However you don't need a special event to enjoy Governors Island, you can make a day out of picnicking on the island and taking a leisurely bike ride. If you don't have a bike. you can rent one on the island. If you do have a bike, they are allowed on the ferry at no charge, or you can rent a bike when you get to the island.
Edited by Alison Lowenstein