Native Americans may have been the first to stumble upon Governors Island, a 172-acre island located half a mile south from the tip of Manhattan, but ever since New York City bought the island for $1 in 2003, New Yorkers have been flocking to the US military base turned public park for respite from the city’s heat.
easy five-minute boat ride from Manhattan, this barely-known city treasure –
which was named by the English to signify its importance as the new home of His
Majesty’s Governors -- opens its doors (or rather, harbour) to the public for
four months each year with many family-friendly activities.
Visitors can relax in the
well-maintained grounds, tour the
impressive historic district of colonial homes and admire the two military
forts, Fort Jay and Castle
Williams, the latter of which was the
former fortress for New York City.
Castle Williams recently underwent a $6
million renovation and is now open to the public for the first time in its
run around the circumference of the island, and cycles are
available for hire by the day or hour. The Water Taxi Beach, a bar with real sand and
volleyball courts, serves up drinks and snacks, as well as spectacular views over
to Ellis Island and Manhattan.
This year, Governors Island is cementing its position as a hub for New
York’s robust art scene with a 10-piece interactive sculpture garden where
visitors can scramble over a full-size replica of the Statue of Liberty’s face
and an imaginative 9-hole mini golf course, both by participatory art collective Figment.
For the most part, the sculptures on offer change every year. July’s GlassLab glass blowing festival and
September’s 4Heads art festival, which
brings together more than 100 artists, are two other favourites this summer.
The island is also hosting some longer-term exhibits, including the Smithsonian’s
Hewitt exhibit on art and graphic design (until 3 September), the Children’s Museum of Art hands on painting and
sculpture forum (until 30 September), and Mark di Suvero’s sculptures
that tower over the public lawns (until 30 September).
Governors Island is open to the public every weekend and public holidays during summer
until 30 September. Free ferries
leave every 30 minutes from Manhattan’s
Battery Maritime Building,
starting at 10 am, and from
Brooklyn Bridge Park’s
Pier 6, starting at 11 am.
The last ferry leaves Governors Island at 7 pm; don’t miss it as there is
nowhere to stay overnight. A full listing of special events can be
found on the Governors Island website.