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The best things to do on Governors Island

Pack a picnic, wear sunblock and catch the ferry to enjoy all the things to do on Governors Island this summer

Photograph: Courtesy Timothy Schenck

During the warmer months, there are plenty of things to do on Governor’s Island. New York’s car-free oasis in Upper New York Bay is the perfect place to spend a day in the sun, and we’re about to share an incredible list of reasons why it’s considered one of the best NYC parks for things to do outside. After launching The Hills—a 10-acre park equipped with slides for adults and hill-y landscapes offering unreal 360-degree views of New York Harbor—last summer, the island continues to grow and expand it’s programming by offering new attractions like a beer garden, ziplining and rock climbing as well as host exciting events like the Holi Hai Festival of Color. If you’re searching for NYC events in May through October 1, Governors Island is a good place to start.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Governors Island

Best things to do on Governors Island


Jazz Age Lawn Party

Slap on your spats and practice the Charleston because the Jazz Age Lawn party is returning to Governor’s Island. Sip on Prohibition-era cocktails like a classic St-Germain with mineral water and a twist or a glass of bubbly and none of the back-alley hooch of the day. Food vendors will be on hand to keep your Lindy Hop hoppin’.

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Governors Island , Governors Island Saturday June 10 2017 - Sunday June 11 2017


From noon to 9pm each day, 12,000 revelers—dressed in nothing but pink and white, duh—will descend onto Governor's Island for this rosé-themed fest. Settle onto rosé-hued designer blankets for stemless glasses of still, sparkling and champagne rosé selections. The afternoons will be soundtracked with live DJ sets and more performances.

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Governors Island , Governors Island Saturday June 24 2017 - Sunday June 25 2017

Holi Hai Festival of Color

For the first time ever, Governors Island will host the Holi Hai Festival of Color during its opening weekend. If you’re not familiar, Holi Hai is a party celebrating the coming of spring through live music and dancing, while guests throw rainbow-hued powders all over each other. That’s right: Everyone gets tye-dyed!

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06 May 2017

Figment Festival

Arts group Figment takes over Governors Island with its usual hodgepodge of mind-bending, genre-crossing projects. For its opening weekend, wander through more than 300 projects, which include live performances. Two installations will be up all summer long: a minigolf course and a Pavilion titled “Cast and Place.”

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Governors Island , Governors Island Saturday June 3 2017 - Sunday June 4 2017

City of Water Day

Anyone who’s spent time in landlocked parts of the country will tell you that a city without water is like, er, a city without water. The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance celebrates NYC’s best accessory at Governors Island (and other locations, too!), offering activities that remind us just how good we have it. Get gratis access to a plethora of water-going vessels, including canoes, kayaks and rowboats; or fish, bike or kick back with food and music on dry land. Locations vary; visit cityofwaterday.org for details.

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Various locations Saturday July 15 2017

NYC Poetry Festival

For the last seven years, a number of the city’s poetry-reading series and their affiliated collectives have taken over Governors Island for a day, creating a stage for the many voices of NYC, both celebrated and underground. This year, the crew of the Poetry Society of New York does it again, presenting readings from more than 200 poets and 50 organizations.

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Governors Island , Governors Island Saturday July 29 2017 - Sunday July 30 2017

PopUp Dinner on Governors Island

Governors Island is getting its very own version of the French-inspired and super-exclusive outdoor dinning event Dîner en Blanc! The gimmick is similar in that guests must don all-white attire, bring their own lavish table decorations as well as food and drink. Tickets ($40)—yes, you still have to pay even though it’s BYO everything—benefit The Friends of Governors Island.

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Governors Island , Governors Island Saturday September 9 2017
Ziplining and rock climbing

Ziplining and rock climbing

The island already has an impressive playground (including slides for adults), but the landmark is creating a new attraction, Adventures at Governors Island, comprising a climbing wall, maze and a ziplining adventure within the Island’s Western Development Zone near Liggett Terrace. Just imagine that killer view of the Statue of Liberty while soaring through the island breeze! Opens Memorial Day Weekend.

Free Bike Mornings

Free Bike Mornings

Two-wheeling fiends already know that Governors Island offers amazing bike paths, and visitors are welcome to BYOB (bring your own bike), rent or hit up the Citi Bike kiosks. However, you can also borrow a bike for free for an hour between 10am and noon every weekday. Ride like a baller without the cost? Sign us up!

Eating and drinking opportunities

Eating and drinking opportunities

There are at least two dozen food vendors serving delicious fare on the island—think El Carrito Rojo, Blue Marble Ice Cream, The Pocketful and more. Boozehounds can also appreciate the island’s two beer gardens (Little Eva as well as a watering hole by veterans Alphabet City Beer and Co. and Edi and the Wolf). But guess what? Governors Island is gaining a third! Opening early this summer, Island Oyster—a pop-up oyster bar and beer garden from the folks behind Grand Banks—will serve amazing seafood and offer fabulous cocktails. The bar will also remain open past the park’s regular hours, which means you can take in those amazing sunset views with a drink in-hand.

Planning a picnic?


Eric L
Eric L

This place is incredibly boring and the photos on timeout are misleading. It's essentially an island full of abandoned government buildings and all of the attractions and events are cheap and made to be set up and broken down in less than a day - even the climbing wall. If you skip the rest of my review, just know that the best thing to do there is bring your own picnic and skip everything in the article. Check Google Maps for pics as the article above liberally uses stock-photos.

The "eating and drinking opportunities" entail a handful of run-of-the-mill food trucks (the same dirty, aluminum ones you'll find on every corner around Times Square), two rusty ice cream trucks (seriously, you guys should be punched for posting a stock-photo picture of gourmet ice cream sandwiches), and those beer gardens? They're just little wooden lemonade stands, smaller than the food trucks, with 15 rickety folding tables and chairs behind a knee-high impromptu "fence" on a public lawn. There's a corporate nod from Starbucks with a tent, and considering the quality of the rest of the offerings, you'll see most of the people wandering the island with a caramel macchiato in hand for lack of anything better.

The island does NOT have "an impressive playground" (with or without slides for adults). There's a so-called junkyard playground called play:ground the size of two Brooklyn Brownstone backyards literally strewn with junk. The signs with the name, rules and opening times are homeless-style marker-written signs, upgraded from cardboard to scrap wood. The climbing, maze and zip-lining adventures are on a single spot no more than 200 feet wide across from the 6-truck "food court".

One of the few truths above is that you can see the statue of liberty while zip-lining. At ten feet high and 100 feet in length I wouldn't say anyone's "soaring". I was looking forward to doing some of this stuff but was sorely disappointed. I decided to skip the "adventures" once I saw they're all practically toddler-safe and all look like plastic backyard toys on steroids. I've posted pictures on Google Maps to save others from the same disappointment.

Here's what I DO recommend on this island. Go to the center of it simply to see the buildings. It's pretty strange to see these abandoned, fancy buildings and all the abandoned yellow houses. There are also great stretches of green halfway to the north and further south which are perfect for a picnic, so bring your own food (no BBQ's allowed though), wine/beer (just be smart about it as there's a very light police presence in golf-carts), and folding chairs or a blanket. Maybe bring a kite or a soccer ball. There's plenty of space to enjoy and some nice spots with views of the Statue of Liberty. (Don't expect sunset, as the last ferry out is at 7pm)


there's nothing to do


The subtitle reads Hope on the free ferry . I guess it is Hop on the ferry?


Please take a look for this weekend (: