Governors Island in New York: The ultimate guide to NYC's island oasis

Find the best things to do on New York's Governors Island, and check out upcoming events for summer

No summer in New York is complete without a trip to Governors Island, the car-free oasis in Upper New York Bay. Use our handy guide to find the best things to do on Governors Island, whether you prefer biking or outdoor art, plus the hottest events taking place in the park all summer long.

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Governors Island is open from 10am–7pm on Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays from May 25–Sept 28. How to get there: Free ferries leave from Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 6 (Atlantic Ave at Furman St, Brooklyn Heights) every 20 minutes, and from the Battery Maritime Building (10 South St near the Staten Island Ferry Terminal) at 10am, 11am, and every half hour after that. You can also take the East River Ferry; tickets are $4, and a full schedule can be found on the East River Ferry website.

Things to do on Governors Island

Things to Do

What's new at Governors Island in 2014

Expect expanded hours, acres of new parks and a full calendar of open-air summer fun Big changes are in store for Governors Island, NYC’s military base turned summer fun spot, which is just about to open for the season. For starters, the island will be accessible seven days a week. Catch a daily ferry from the Battery Maritime Terminal, as well as from Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 on weekends and holidays. One change you might not like: The formerly gratis cruise will set you back 2 bucks, round-trip, though if you can shrug off your weekend hangover, the ride is free before noon on Saturdays and Sundays (children under 12 are always free). There’s no surcharge for bringing a bike, and riding a two-wheeler is one of the best ways to see the 172-acre harbor oasis. Most popular events this week Popular features in Things to Do The New York bucket list Here are the ten New York experiences you simply can’t miss. Cheap date ideas for fun-seeking New Yorkers Don’t fret, penny-pincher—each of these fun cheap date ideas will cost you $30 or less. Don’t be a tourist: Find in-the-know things to do in New York Tired of swamped tourist traps, huh? Check out these alternative things to do in New York. Parties There are festivals, barbecues and events of all kinds held all summer, but the weekend-long Jazz Age Lawn Parties are can’t-miss affairs (June 14, 15; Aug 16, 17). New Yorkers do their best Jay Gatsby impressions, while dancing and lounging to the sounds of Michael Arenella

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Things to Do

Jazz Age Lawn Party takes over Governors Island

Jazz Age Lawn Party is an essential annual summer stop for revelers looking to dance in the open air. Governors Island is the perfect venue to leave the 21st century behind for the delights of the Prohibition-era (including “speakeasy” booze). Dress the part with festive, period-appropriate attire, and come ready to dance at the Jazz Age Lawn Party. Jazz Age Lawn Party 2014 Jazz Age Lawn Party Brush up on your Fitzgerald and Hemingway in time for this outdoor bash, where part of Governors Island is transformed into a Prohibition-era soiree. Over two separate weekends, you can Charleston to Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra playing jazz staples, while donning your finest flapper garb and Zoot suits. Then Lindy Hop over to the bar for decade-appropriate cocktails (that promise to taste better than bathtub gin). Relive the Jazz Age What's new at Governors Island in 2014 Expect expanded hours, acres of new parks and a full calendar of open-air summer fun Big changes are in store for Governors Island, NYC’s military base turned summer fun spot, which is just about to open for the season. For starters, the island will be accessible seven days a week. Catch a daily ferry from the Battery Maritime Terminal, as well as from Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 on weekends and holidays. One change you might not like: The formerly gratis cruise will set you back 2 bucks, round-trip, though if you can shrug off your weekend hangover, the ride is free before noon on Saturdays and Su

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Car-free bike paths in NYC—and where to rent wheels nearby

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Bars

Bars near Governors Island: Where to go for summer drinks

Make sure you have a post–Governors Island drinking plan before you board the ferry to Brooklyn Bridge Park or the Battery Maritime Building. No summer in New York is complete without a trip to Governors Island, the car-free oasis in Upper New York Bay. After a day spent clambering over installations in the Interactive Sculpture Garden, playing a round of minigolf, or just gazing at the views of the harbor and Statue of Liberty, enjoy a nightcap at one of these bars near the ferry terminals at Brooklyn Bridge Park or the Battery Maritime Building. Near the Battery Maritime Building The Porterhouse at Fraunces Tavern This Revolution-themed bar, the first American spin-off of Dublin’s Porterhouse Brewing Company, lures its worldly crowd with house drafts such as the Oyster Stout ($8) and a selection of international brews, including Victory Prima Pils ($7). Energy is high in the main room, where cowhide-covered booths and glass cases filled with empty beer bottles outfit the old-timey lodge. Patrons can also guzzle grapefruit juleps (vodka, grapefruit juice, grenadine, lime, honey, mint; $12), or sip bourbon (Jefferson’s selection $12) in the neighboring Dingle Whiskey Bar. 4-minute walk Bar Seven Five This swanky bar isn’t the type of place you hit in cutoffs and flip-flops, but the cocktails and decor still scream summer fun. Seasonal drinks ($14) at the Andaz hotel hot spot include Squiggly Line Punch (cranberry and pineapple juices blended with lime and spiked with rum) an

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Where to eat near Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 6

Restaurants

Pok Pok Ny

There are plenty of chefs toying with far-flung flavors in New York, but few have flawlessly captured the true taste of distant cultures. Once in a while, though, an outsider manages to find a way in, learning to cook like a native son. Andy Ricker, raised on ski-town grub in Vermont, flipped for Thai food years back, as a rudderless vagabond wandering across Southeast Asia (working on boats in the Pacific). His immersion started in Chiang Mai, where great local cooks took him under their wings. Year after year he returned to the city to build a repertoire of authentic Thai tastes with a scholar’s devotion to detail. His first restaurant, the original Pok Pok, opened in Portland, Oregon in 2005 as a takeout shack, serving Thai-style barbecue chicken and mortar-and-pestle papaya salads. It gained momentum organically, evolving over the years into one of the country’s top spots for a serious Thai feast. Recently, Ricker exported the concept east to New York, opening a small wing shop on the Lower East Side, followed by a full-fledged replica of the Portland Pok Pok on the Brooklyn waterfront, featuring the same intense flavors and honky-tonk vibe. The new spot, like the original, replicates the indigenous dives where Ricker’s Thai food education began, with a tented dining room out back festooned with a jungle of dangling plants, colorful oilcloths on the tables and secondhand seats. Ricker is a rare out-of-town chef who hasn’t jacked up prices in the move to New York—nothing o

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Bars

Henry Public

The carefully crafted mise en scène (ragtime music, a rickety bar) at this old-timey watering hole comes to us from the owners of nearby Brooklyn Social. Henry Public’s studied collection of drinks sound awfully appealing on paper, but many don’t succeed. While the Ether (Scotch, vermouth, yellow chartreuse and absinthe) was an herbaceous delight, others—like the Eagle’s Dream, a cloying mix of gin, lemon, egg white and violet liqueur—fell short. The bar’s offerings are shaky, but the kitchen is sure-footed. Old-world snacks (plateaus of oysters) and filling sandwiches (milk-braised turkey on rye) are more memorable than the drinks.

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Restaurants

Grimaldi’s

The tourist hordes haven’t ruined Grimaldi’s, whose pedigree–going back to Patsy Grimaldi’s first job at his uncle’s pizzeria in 1941– assures it guidebook coverage. The jukebox still honors Sinatra, and the waitstaff remains surly. But oh, the pizza: a thin crust covered with a mozzarella-to-sauce ratio that achieves the Platonic ideal.

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Restaurants

Gran Electrica

The team behind Colonie pivots from farm-to-table American to regional Mexican cuisine with this 60-seat canteen in Dumbo. Chef Sam Richman—who honed his fine-dining chops at Jean Georges and London's the Fat Duck—turns out market-driven South of the Border fare, bolstered by from-scratch ingredients, like homemade chorizo and hand-pressed tortillas made with heirloom corn. Diners can dig into plates like cocteles de mariscos (seafood cocktail), mole verde oaxaqueno (Oaxaca-style green mole), and tacos stuffed with fillings like fish, tongue, braised peppers and Swiss chard. To drink, find seasonal margaritas, micheladas, homemade horchata and agua frescas (like pineapple alfalfa). The design-minded group kitted out a brick-walled Brooklyn brownstone with a wrought-iron chandelier, reclaimed-wood tables and artsy white-and-black skeleton wallpaper inspired by Day of the Dead imagery.

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Where to eat near the Battery Maritime Building

Bars

The Dead Rabbit

At this time-capsule FiDi nook, you can drink like a boss—Boss Tweed, that is. In a redbrick landmark, Belfast bar vets Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry (of Northern Ireland’s acclaimed Merchant Hotel) have conjured up a rough-and-tumble 19th-century tavern. And it’s just the kind of saloon that the bare-knuckle Five Points gang the joint’s named after (its emblem was a dead rabbit impaled on a spike) would have frequented. DRINK THIS: Resurrecting long-forgotten quaffs is nothing new in Gotham, but the Dead Rabbit’s sheer breadth of throwback libations eclipses the competition. Spanning 100-some-odd bishops, fixes, nogs and smashes, the bar squarely hits many of these mid-1800s hallmarks. The Byrrh Wine Daisy ($14), era-appropriate in its china teacup with mustache guard, is particularly well wrought: Puckery rhubarb soda, raspberry eau-de-vie and fresh citrus amp up the fruit-forward Byrrh, while bitter Amaro CiaCiaro and piney angelica tinctures squelch any overt sweetness. Some drinks are less successful in their reincarnations (the Tween Deck is a flat mix of Jamaican rum, Sixpoint cask-conditioned ale, lime sherbet and allspice), but the whopping list holds plenty of sure-footed sips alongside the missteps. GOOD FOR: A working-class drink—though that working class is now buttoned-down bankers instead of roughneck Irish dockhands. McGarry and Muldoon liberate the cocktail from its blue-blood trappings. The snug, sawdust-strewn first floor is made for pints and whiskey slu

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The Porterhouse at Fraunces Tavern

This Revolutionary-era tavern now operates as the first stateside outpost of Dublin’s Porterhouse Brewing Company. Tangles of filament bulbs above the bar and distressed mirrors on the walls smack of artificial ye-oldeness, but the real pedigree of the place still holds appeal for beer-swilling history buffs, who can geek out over the thought of George Washington drinking here in the 1700s. Hoist imperial pints of Porterhouse’s own brews—we like the smooth, slightly tangy Oyster Stout and the easy-drinking Porterhouse Red—or sample the globe-trotting selection of guest beers, including Victory Prima Pils on tap and bottles of Schlenkerla smoked beer.

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Restaurants

Zaitzeff

The sleek chocolate-toned interior and well-priced wine list are almost too polished for what Zaitzeff hawks: succulent burgers served in quarter- or half-pound patties (choose from sirloin, kobe, veggie or turkey), tucked into chewy Portuguese muffins. We liked the lean, grass-fed sirloin and greaseless sweet and white potato fries. The place was empty during dinner service, but started to fill with refugees from nearby bars after 10pm. Given its quality, treating Zaitzeff like any old postboozing destination just ain’t right.

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Bars

Keg No. 229

Set back from the foot traffic of touristy South Street Seaport, this sleek watering hole is a beer lover’s retort to the grapecentric Bin No. 220 across the road. Thankfully, the fancy wallpaper and reclaimed-wood tables doesn’t translate to inflated prices—most selections from the East Coast–leaning draft lineup (Flying Dog, Southern Tier) are fairly pegged at $6 each, while well-chosen craft cans (Oskar Blues Old Chub, 21st Amendment Back in Black) go for $5. It’s all rather civilized, until you find yourself at one of the four pour-your-own stations in the back—high-top tables with two beer taps that allow you to top off freely and track your consumption via an LED screen. With a chalk leaderboard glorifying the biggest boozers, it's tough to avoid to urge to go for broke.

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Governors Island in pictures

Jazz Age Lawn Party 2013

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Things to Do

Governors Island opening weekend 2012

New York's summer oasis welcomes art seekers, old-timey baseball players and foodies to its shores. Mother Nature offered blue skies and balmy temperatures to kick off the summer season, and New Yorkers rose to the occasion as thousands took the seven-minute ferry ride to Governors Island. Across the harbor, revelers were greeted with smoked meats and lobster rolls (part of the 5 Boro PicNYC), Cooper-Hewitt exhibition "Graphic Design—Now in Production," 19th-century-era baseball games and lots of lawns for lounging. We can only hope that the weather will cooperate for similar weekends throughout the summer. Related: Governor's Island: Ten things to do NYC's best beaches

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Things to Do

Recess New York: Bocce 2012 on Governors Island

NYC's best brushed up their lawn-bowling skills—and dress snazzily while doing so—for Recess's annual bocce throwdown on Governors Island. We love our outdoor games, and we love them even more when they're in an old-timey atmosphere and encourage vintage uniforms. That's why we're always stoked when Recess stages its annual bocce tournament on Governors Island. The 32 teams tossed wooden balls—and test-rode Linus bikes and ate ice cream in between games—until it was time to catch the ferry across the harbor and return to more modern delights. You might also like  Best offbeat eventsLast chance at summerWhere to play outdoor gamesSee more in Things to Do

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Nightlife

Made Event: John Digweed, Danny Tenaglia and Pleasurekraft on Governor's Island

Electronic house rules the dance floor at Made Event's latest Governor's Island throwdown. When: Saturday, August 11The scene: Made Event at Governors Beach Club Feeling a bit suffocated in those dark and dank dance clubs? You can always come for air at Made Event’s summer island parties, just a short ferry ride away from the southern tip of Manhattan. A breezy outdoor space lined with lighted palm trees and plenty of picnic tables, Governors Beach Club boasts a sandy dance floor large enough for the thousands of party people who turned out to hear London superstar John Digweed, beloved vet Danny Tenaglia, Pleasurekraft and Sleepy & Boo.—Natalie Gavilanes Electric Zoo: A guide to the New York City's biggest electronic-dance-music festivalPhotos: Unicorn Meat's Return to the Bubble KingdomThe best outdoor parties this summer

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