My friend and I had an appetite for exploration last Saturday and set our sights on Governors Island, this odd little drop of land in the New York City harbor accessible by a short ferry ride. We knew very little about Governors Island except that it was once used by the U.S. Army and Coast Guard, and that most of the activities there are free!
The free part starts with the ferry ride, which is just 10 minutes from lower Manhattan. Once on the island, there were free park ranger talks, mini golf, art projects for kids (or convincing adults) and kayaking. Bike rentals, including tandems and the amazingly fun quad-bikes are available for $10 per hour. If you’re the planning type, the island also has bocce ball and badminton tournaments on the weekend for you to showcase your lawn sport skills.
Most of the activities are based on tooling around the island. There is Colonel’s Row, which is a walkway with historic houses that oddly resemble fraternity houses from a tree-lined college campus, and various other abandoned U.S. army houses that are slowly being converted to something useful. The best hangout spot is Picnic Point, which looks out to Lady Liberty and the Financial District of lower Manhattan. Here you will find picnickers, bikers resting and various food vendors to satisfy a hot lunch or ice-cream craving. The beach consists of undeniably imported, fake sand so it doesn’t bring much to the scene, but if you aren’t a beach snob, there is that option too.
We were surprised to find that Governors Island was so sustainable and granola! First, we stumbled upon an Etsy boutique set up in a Victorian styled house. The boutique offered trinkets and goodies from many of Etsy’s home-made vendors, which is fun alternative to the website marketplace. Next, we discovered a sustainable vegetable garden that sells its produce and a complimentary compost pile making lesson. All of this was topped when we found a Red Jacket Orchards stand (a staple vendor at the Union Square Farmer’s Market), and indulged in some home grown plums and Joe’s Summer Blend juice! We also noticed a mermaid-princess dream-catcher in one of the trees. Way to appeal to the crunchy crowd, Governors Island!
The island also draws many concerts throughout the summer, and recently hosted M.I.A. a few weeks ago. Aside from the concert venue, I think it’s the perfect spot to take a mental and physical break from the city. The mix of buildings and greenery is a hybrid of an East Coast college campus, abandoned projects and military fort, and definitely offers more space and quiet than Manhattan’s parks. One cool thing the island has coming its way is the annual Vendy Awards on Sept. 23 where NY’s food trucks will compete for ultimate street vendor glory. Cross 23 off the Summer Bucket List!