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Governors Island
Photograph: Trey Pentecost

Governors Island, NY guide

Ride the ferry to Governors Island, New York for fun things to do like hiking, running, biking, picnicking and outdoor drinking

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver

If you crave an escape from the city that won’t land you in debt, head to the ever-changing urban oasis of Governors Island, NY which combines park, adult playground and outdoor art space into a single lovely haven for adventure. One of the best things to do in summer is ride the ferry and visit the car-free attraction, so use our handy guide to plan your trip. As of 2021, Governors Island has officially become a year-round destination for the public to roam.

RECOMMENDED: See more of the best New York attractions

When is Governors Island open?

Year-round! In 2021, the Trust for Governors Island and NYC announced that it will be a year-round destination. It's open daily from 7am to 6pm.

How do I get to Governors Island?

It costs only $3 to cruise to the car-free paradise, with ferries leaving every day from Manhattan’s South Street Seaport (the Battery Maritime Building at 10 South Street) and on weekends, from Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park and from Atlantic Basin/Red Hook to increase access to the island from communities with less available green space.

As mentioned, round-trip ferry tickets will cost $3 for adults, but—if you get up early—ferries before noon on Saturdays and Sundays are free for everyone. Ferries are also free for New York City Housing Authority residents, military service members, seniors 65 and over, and riders under the age of 12. Manhattan ferries depart hourly from 10am to 6pm on weekdays and from 10am to 7pm on weekends, and Brooklyn ferries from 11am to 7pm. Be sure to lock in your reserved ferry tickets in advance through a new reservation system. 

Is there a huge and hilly park on Governors Island?  

You are correct! The answer to a man-made urban cityscape is a man-made outdoor park at the island’s Hills, which rise 75 feet above sea level and offer some breathing space from the city. Zoom down the 75-foot-long slide at Slide Hill; view artist Rachel Whiteread’s permanent installation Cabin at Discovery Hill; or chill at Hammock Grove.

What other outdoor activities does the Island offer?  

New Yorkers can look forward to walking, running, biking, picnicking and birding throughout the sprawling green space on the island. Visitors can also bring their bikes or rent them to use on the island via Blazing Saddles or Citi Bike at Soissons Landing, Yankee Pier and Picnic Point. 

On beautiful summer days, there is free kayaking available at Pier 101 and 102 (the Island's kayak dock). The Downtown Boathouse also offers free kayaking on Saturdays from mid-June to the end of September (11am–4pm). 

Need a spot to host a large family gathering or party? Make Governors Island your backyard and reserve a grill and picnic table and host the ultimate cookout. Reservations must be booked two weeks in advance. 

You also no longer have to trek hours to the Hudson Valley to sleep in a tent. The glamping hospitality group, Collective Retreats (which has locations in Yellowstone, Vail, Sonoma, Hill Country and Hudson Valley), has set up a permanent camp on the western side of Governors Island open during the warmer months.

You can see a schedule of events and art exhibitions on the island here.

What can you do in the winter at Governors Island?

For the first time in 2022, visitors are welcome on the island during the winter months. While it can be brutally cold and more desolate than usual, it offers a quiet respite from city life with quite a range of activities. 

Its Winter Village has ice skating, food and hot drinks by Little Eva's, fire pits you can warm up nearby and even a pop-up sauna called HotBox Mobile Sauna. You can even rent sleds for when there's snow on the ground. On Saturdays, through April, you can bring your dog to the island and take them to a specific off-leash area if you want them to run freely.

Governors Island winter village
Photograph: Sari Goodfriend

Are there any places to eat and drink on Governors Island?  

Oh, you betcha. Threes Brewing, which typically runs a waterfront craft beer stand on the island, but this year will also be teaming up with popular Brooklyn butcher shop the Meat Hook to bring you good beer and meats like sausages. Taco Vista will be back offering up waterfront carnitas and Makina Café will be serving its popular Ethiopian and Eritrean food (They also offer a range of vegan and vegetarian options.) Fauzia’s Heavenly Delights, an award-winning Jamaican-fusion establishment will be offering Caribbean classics. Other eateries include Kimchi Taco Truck, Little Eva's, Malai ice cream, Melt Bakery, People's Pops, and Terry & Yaki.

Plus, head to waterfront restaurants: Island Oyster, for tropical cocktails to lean into the whole "you're on an island" thing.

Things to do on Governors Island, NY