Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I generally use any excuse to get off of the beaten path but this past weekend, Ash and I played tourist in our own city and had a ball. There were a few awkward moments when waiters or other tourists insisted on taking our photo (and we posed for what we knew would be bad photos because they seemed so enthusiastic). Otherwise, like I said, it was super fun.

During our adventure, I got an idea to share some favorite NYC places in a new mini-series (because you know I love a series). I’ll be posting about this topic for the next couple of months so if you have a suggested place to add or a question about travel to NYC, e-mail me or leave a comment.

An Open Oasis for the Arts: Public art and New York's Governors Island from Forecast Public Art on Vimeo.

Today, it’s all about Governors Island. I posted about a trip there a couple of years ago but there have been so many improvements, I decided it was worth an update.

Getting there: There are two dedicated ferries that will get you to Governors Island. One leaves from the Battery Maritime Terminal in downtown Manhattan every day.  The other leaves from Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 on weekends and holidays.   The ferries are FREE before noon for adults and $2 after noon. Children under 12 are free. You can get to both ferries by using the subway. You can see the schedules and subways to take here.

You can also take the East River Ferry but it is more expensive and only goes to Governors Island on weekends. More information here

Tip: Try to get in line for the ferry early so you can get a spot outside on the top deck. That way you can soak in the view (and snap a few quick pics) while heading across the river to the island.

Getting around:  You can walk or bike around the island. It is quite a bit of ground to cover so many people prefer bikes. Bring your own (no surcharge on the dedicated ferries) or rent one from Blazing Saddles on the island. Cruisers (for adults and kids) are free until noon for the first hour. Going with the family? You can rent 4 and 6 seat Surreys and tandem bikes as well. Get the rates and more information here

Tip: You will need a credit card to rent a bike. They’re only charged if there is damage to the bike.  

Food:  There is a food court on the island. Whether you want a full meal or a sweet treat, you have an option. There are also several Vegan, Vegetarian and Gluten Free options. You can also skip the food court offerings and bring a picnic of your own. You can find a full list of food vendors here.

Cocktails/Beers/Wine:  Little Eva’s in the Liggett Terrace Food Court has a charming little beer garden (complete with white picket fence) filled with table and chair groupings, picnic tables, couches and Adirondack chairs. In addition to food, they serve wine, beer, sangria and spiked frozen drinks. You can also grab a beer or a top shelf cocktail at Governors Beach Club (if its not closed for a private party).

Tip: If you want a “festive” drink, be prepared to stay a while. You can’t leave Little Eva’s with alcohol. You also can’t bring your own alcohol.

Water/Juice/Soda: There are beverage vending machines at several places on the island. There is also a water filling station. Most vendors sell an assortment of beverages. From custom soda (Brooklyn Soda Works) to your run of the mill can of Coke, you will be able to stay hydrated.

Cash: While some vendors take credit and debit cards, you’d do yourself a favor to bring cash with you. The ATMs on the island charge a $5 fee!

Lounging:  There are 30 acres of beautiful park space on the island. Hammock Grove is prime real estate on a nice day so try to get over there early if you plan on snoozing/lounging/reading for a large chunk of the day. If you don’t get a hammock, you can always spread out a blanket anywhere on the vast grounds and chill out/picnic. Liggett Terrace offers lots of food options, beautiful seating areas and gardens. You can also head to the “beach” but it’s more a food and play scene.  

Art Installations and Exhibits: When I was on the island, there was a photography exhibit in one of the houses. There are also all kinds of art installations on the lawns around the island. You can get up close and personal with the art (or your kids can). For special exhibitions, you can check the calendar/foreign language calendar.

Home Tours: Many of the homes on the island are abandoned but a restoration project appears to be underway.  We were able to walk through a couple of homes while we were there. There isn't much inside but you can details on the history and even a few photographs of places on the island when it was actively used. The open houses are marked with large blue VISITORS WELCOME flags.  Some of the houses have been converted into shops where you can buy assorted artisan crafted goods.

Playtime: With the park remodel, there are natural turf ball fields perfect for softball. There is also a kiddie park with a huge jungle gym. Not enough? There’s free miniature golf as well.

Tip: The miniature golf course is pretty small. Don’t come expecting the theme courses you’d typically think of. That said, it’s still a fun activity—especially if you have kids.

Tip: If you want to play organized softball or Little League baseball on Governors Island, you will need a permit (more info here).

Furry Friends: Unfortunately, pets (outside of service animals) are not allowed on the island. 

All in, Governors Island is a great place for a date (unless your significant other hates nature) or for time with family. I've marked it as budget friendly largely because you can bring your own food. Prices for food and drinks are consistent with NYC prices (which aren't exactly wallet friendly) To give you an idea, Ash and I spent around $45 at Little Eva's for 2 cups of peach sangria ($9 each) and food (taco for Ash, sandwich for me). Then we split a $5 gourmet ice cream sandwich. In short, it's a budget friendly as you make it. Governors Island is a nice oasis that feels remote from the City though it is only a stone’s throw away. Pick a sunny day, go early and stay all day.

You can find more information on the Governors Island website. If you have specific questions about my visit, let me know! 

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