Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Visiting Governors Island for an Afternoon

Governors Island isn't the only way for New Yorkers to while away an afternoon, but it's one of the most unique.

A former military facility -- first for the Army and then the Coast Guard -- Governors Island in recent years has turned into the city's playground, with picnic grounds, bike rentals and beautiful views of Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.

And the most unique thing about Governors Island? Despite its proximity, the only way to get there is by ferry. It's a short (and free) 10 minute-or-so trip from either Manhattan (near the Staten Island Ferry terminal) or Brooklyn. However, the island is open to the public only on Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays from the end of May to the end of September.

Despite its popularity as a day trip, Paul and I visited for the first time at the end of August. Since we had already eaten and I wasn't up for riding a bike, we mostly took in the views and rode the free tram to the picnic grounds at the far tip of the island to take a look at the scenery and statues.

The walk back to the ferry was pleasant -- Governors Island often holds special events, and the weekend we were there it was host to a bocce ball tournament. We also passed a mini golf course and went into one of the handful of shops open to visitors.

Much of the island still hasn't yet been developed. Much of it, frankly, looks and is abandoned. It's difficult to believe that it was once home to about 3,500 people.

I wouldn't visit Governors Island every weekend, but it was a pleasant way to lounge around for a couple of hours on a lovely Saturday afternoon. Next time: bikes!

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