It’s balmy here in New York City and we’re dreaming of breezy bike rides and picnics in idyllic settings. Time for a trip to historic Governors Island, the small island located 800 yards from Manhattan in New York Harbor. Read on to find out how to get there (for free!) and what fun awaits.
A little bit of history…
First inhabited by a tribe of Native Americans in the early 17th Century, Governors Island is afloat with history, lore, and intriguing sights. It’s been home to Dutch and British settlers, the latter who used it for quarantining immigrants.
In 1909, Wilbur Wright flew a plane from the island, over the Statue of Liberty, and back again, thus marking the first flight over U.S. waters. From the 1960s to the 1990s, Governors Island was controlled by the U.S. Coast Guard, which erected apartment buildings for officers on the island (as well as a Burger King and a Super 8 Motel!). From 1995 to 2001, the island was ostensibly abandoned by the Coast Guard until 2003, when the federal government sold the island to the people of New York City for $1.
These days, Governors Island is open for weekend visits from May through October. Locals and tourists alike enjoy exploring, checking out some of the original Victorian homes, and taking part in city-planned events. As of this year, plans for an 85-acre park on the island are in the works.
How to get there
You may visit Governors Island on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from June 5 to October 10.
Free ferries leave from the Battery Maritime Building in Manhattan (South Street at Whitehall), and on designated weekends from the Fulton Ferry Landing in Brooklyn. The island is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Friday, and 10 a.m. (11 a.m. from Brooklyn) – 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Check out the island’s website for a detailed ferry schedule.
What to do
A full list of events and concerts on the island is available on the island’s website. Free bike rental is available on Fridays (you’ll see signs posted once you dock). On Saturdays and Sundays, bike rental is $15 for two hours and $20 for the day.
For more fun ideas, check out this comprehensive list of activities from New York Magazine.