Governors Island is a 172-acre island located just off the southern tip of Manhattan. It's separated from Brooklyn to the east by the narrow Buttermilk Channel waterway. For more than 200 years, it served as a military base for the U.S. Army and the Coast Guard and while it wasn't open to the family then, Governors Island now serves as a fun-filled and educational destination for the entire family.
It's open from May 1 through Oct. 31 and is easily accessible via a ferry from lower Manhattan or Brooklyn. Pick a beautiful day to visit, as most of the activities are outside.
Lounge in the Hammock Grove
Governors Island has an entire area dedicated to hammocks. There are 50 red hammocks ready for you to jump on them and swing the day away! Some are located in the sun for getting a tan. Others are shaded by mighty trees to protect you. You can even get views of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan skyline from a few. It's one of the most relaxing areas not just in Governors Island but in all of New York City.
Try New Food at the Food Court
Governors Island has its own food court with tasty snacks and meals for you to try. Some of New York City's best food purveyors set up shop there, from Island Oyster, where you can try oysters from around the country, to Taco Vista. There are also vendors selling coffee, ice cream, and even gourmet popsicles.
Build Creations in The Yard
The Yard is a 50,000-square-foot adventure playground, described as a junkyard for youth. Meant to encourage creativity among kids, the space is staffed with team members from play:groundNYC, who are on hand to help kids create from the loose scraps of wood and metal. There are no rules (except safety first!) so that kids get to use their imagination.
Rent Bikes to Explore the Island
Governors Island is one of the most carefree places to bike in New York City. There are seven miles of paved roads reserved solely for bikes. You can bring your own bike or rent a CitiBike at the ferry landing. There is also a rental shop named Blazing Saddles that has a variety of bikes, including balance bikes for the little ones. You can even try your skills on a tandem bike. Bike rentals are free for an hour between 10 a.m. and noon on weekdays.
Browse Art with Pioneer Works
Pioneer Works is an arts center based in Red Hook, where it stages quirky, mind-blowing exhibits that touch on subjects like society and technology. But on the first Friday of every month, along with every Saturday and Sunday, art residents, scientists, astronomers, and photographers from the center will do exhibits, lectures, and shows for the public on Governors Island. They will be located in 8B, one of the historic 18th-century brick and wood-frame houses located on the island.
Race Down Slides at Slide Hill
Slide Hill is one of the newer attractions at Governors Island. It's a space in the park that has slides of various lengths and made of different materials. Looking to ride the longest slide in New York City? It's here, and it's 57 feet long. You can even wave to the Statue of Liberty from the top. The slides are part of a larger climbing area made of wood so older kids can get more adventurous and conquer different challenges.
Drink Local at Threes Brewing
Threes Brewing is not just famous for its delicious beer. It also knows how to set up a beautiful space for people to mingle and play (while drinking their perfectly-crafted concoctions.) The brewery already has outposts in Gowanus and Greenpoint, and now they have a new location on Governors Island where you can drink beer and try food from Brooklyn hotspot, Popina. Don't skip the Public Property, a variety brewed specially for Governors Island—10 percent of the proceeds will be donated to the Governors Island Trust to better improve the park.
Kayak for Free in the East River
At the downtown boathouse, located at Pier 101, kids and adults can learn to kayak for free. Boathouse staff will set you up with a kayak, paddle, and life jacket. They will tell you everything you need to know for a safe adventure, and then send you on your way in the water. From the water, you'll get a different view of Governors Island. You can stare up at the massive army buildings from below and see the rocks that physically form the island. It's a memorable experience for the entire family. Kayaking is available on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.