This weekend I wanted to go apple picking! I did the research… mapped out our destination and was promptly shut down by my 13 year olds who had zero interest in sitting a car for 90 minutes each way to collect apples they could easily acquire in a store. Knowing that forced family fun was not in the cards the girl child smartly countered with: “How about Governors Island?” A quick subway down to the South Ferry stop and a 7 minute ferry ride away… How about that Governors Island?
It was our second time to the island having first “discovered” it last year. On this journey to the island the kids were excited to re-visit their favorite parts (the food and the playground) and check out new things (experiencing the island on wheels via the bike rental program). We did both. As we made our way around the island it struck me how perfect this island is for just about every group. So here is a tour of Governors Island through the lens of different iterations of groups.
Groups who love the view: This might be my most favorite part of the island. The ferry crossing from Manhattan is approximately 800 yards, but the views from all angles of this short passage are outstanding. Lady Liberty is in the distance, boats are whizzing by, and there is always something about gazing at the downtown Manhattan skyline as you make your way away from it. This skyline will figure prominently into your Governors Island experience no matter how you choose to spend your time once there.
Groups who love history: History buffs should plan to arrive early and stay late. If only this island could talk about it’s numerous permutations and wide array of owners. You can read about the islands history beginning in 1524 when it was popular with the Native American Tribe, The Lenape, who used it seasonally as a camping and fishing destination, until 2003 when the Island was returned to the people of New York here. Probably a good exercise for everyone to study up on the island’s background before taking the trip.
Groups with little kids: Little kids love space. Little kids love to run around. Little kids love ice cream and playgrounds and popcorn. Little kids like big adventures like zip lining and climbing rock walls. Little kids can do all this and more when they visit Governors Island. For the chaperones there is ample seating on the grass, at picnic tables, in hammocks, or in inviting red Adirondack chairs. So you can relax as your little ones get their Governors Island on.
Groups with big kids: See Groups with little kids.
Groups who like to hike: There are walking paths throughout the 172 acre park. Walk along the water. Climb one of the four “hills” to get yet another perspective of the island and another dazzling view of the Manhattan skyline. Somehow we missed the 57 foot slide which happens to be the longest slide in NYC. It is a new instillation at the park. So you go and tell us how it is!!! I am tempted to go back there right now!
Groups who like to bike: Full disclosure – this island is NOT for the endurance biker, but the day cruiser will LOVE this island. So pleasant to putter around on some wheels, but remember to pull over often to admire the view and be mindful of pedestrians. We had a few close calls last weekend on our cheerful six passenger Surrey.
Groups who like to eat: You can bring your own food to Governors Island or choose from an abundance of eclectic food trucks to satiate your sweet or salty tooth.
Groups who like to drink: You may not bring alcohol onto the island, but you can acquire some while you are there. In the distance I spotted a beer garden which looked like a fun way to pass the time.
Groups of two who want a little romance: As we stood in line for our free ferry ride back to our concrete jungle, I spied Island Oyster. What? Champagne and oysters in a bar that hugs the water overlooking lower Manhattan??? That is worth the $2 ferry ride from Manhattan alone and would be a most excellent way to kick off a 1st or 101st date. Must go back with the husband.
As I was researching this post I stumbled across this event that sounds pretty magnificent: The Night of 1,000 Jack O’Lanterns. The event is held the weekend before Halloween and marks the last weekend that Governors Island will be open for the season. I bought tickets on the spot! Sunday, October 29th I will be grabbing my group and going there at 5:45pm.
As you have by now derived, I am an unabashed Governors Island enthusiast. Spend 3 hours – spend the day – but spend some time there. The one thing you will not see here is dogs. 🙁 No dogs allowed (unless they are of the service variety). I love Governor’s Island, but no one is perfect. Grab your group and go!