7 reasons to get excited about Governors Island this summer


Governors Island doesn’t open until May 28, but in the midst of a monsoon-like spring, we need something to look forward to. This 172-acre pocket of parkland will be unveiling some impressive new features this summer, along with its usual lineup of great events. If you always read about the fun things happening on Governors Island, but never actually end up making it there (or haven’t since Governors Ball was actually on Governors Island all those years ago), this is the year to remedy the situation. As usual, there will be ferries from Brooklyn Bridge Park and along the Brooklyn waterfront via the East River Ferry. And if you fund this Kickstarter, you could actually walk there one day–it’s only 1400 feet away.

Here’s what you can expect on NYC’s fun island this summer:

#1 Governors Island is getting enviable vistas

The view from Outlook Hill as of April 2016. Photo: The Trust For Governors Island

The view from Outlook Hill as of April 2016. Photo: The Trust For Governors Island

Unlike San Francisco, New York City is delightfully flat, which is why you’re able to see for miles on a clear day. But one of the great and let’s be honest, extremely Instagrammable features coming to Governors Island this summer will be the Hills, a series of man-made ridges and slopes that have been under construction since 2013. Each of the new, little mounds are designed around a theme and include Slide Hill, where kids and adults alike are invited to ride from top to bottom on a three story tall, 48.5 feet long slide–NYC’s longest; Outlook Hill, which at 70 feet will boast a gorgeous view of the city and the Statue of Liberty; Grassy Hill, a picnic perfect spot overlooking a baseball diamond; and Discovery Hill, a wooded hill that will feature Cabin, a sculpture by famed English artist Rachel Whiteread at the top. While there’s no opening date as of yet, locals are invited to explore the new area during free hardhat tours until the Hills officially open later this summer. (Curbed got a sneak peek.)

#2 You can now bring your hotdogs and hamburgers—veggie or otherwise

For the first time in its 15-year history, visitors are finally allowed to grill some burgers and dogs while spending a sunny day at the Island. There will be six grills that can, luckily, be reserved in advance while last year’s system for reserving picnic tables remains in place. All you have to do is pay the $26 permit fee ahead of time, which includes a PF Flyer wagon to transport all your supplies. They’ve yet to update their Gatherings section to state the policy change, but go ahead and get the process started to reserve a grill.

#3 Four words: Jazz Age Lawn Party

See Jazz Age Lawn Party founder Michael Arenella (far right) and his Dreamland Orchestra perform this summer Photo: Filipe Fortes

See Jazz Age Lawn Party founder Michael Arenella (far right) and his Dreamland Orchestra perform this summer Photo: Filipe Fortes

The Jazz Age Lawn Party is by far the most popular (and well-dressed) event of the summer at Governors Island. Now in its 11th year, the party welcomes hundreds of debonaire ladies and gentleman to don their 1920s-style finery (think flapper dresses and boater hats) and spend a day on the Island drinking and cavorting. In 2016, the party returns for two weekends—June 11-12 and August 13-14—and will include everything from founder Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra playing real Prohibition Era hits to St-Germain cocktails, dance lessons, vintage portraits, a pie contest, and a 1920s motorcar exhibition. It’s one of those have-to-do-it-before-you-die-type events, so don’t miss out.

#4 There are even more places to let your imagination run wild

Play like a kid again at FIGMENT, a participatory art fest. Photo: FIGMENT

Play like a kid again at FIGMENT, a participatory art fest. Photo: FIGMENT

Forget Frieze. The most imaginative, island-bound, free art festivals happen on Governors Island. This year FIGMENT, an outsized, participatory art event that invites any and all artists to share their most exciting projects will return from June 3 through June 5. Even if you don’t make it to the actual festival, you get to play with the installations they leave behind, like a mini-golf course, an architectural pavilion, made this year from hangers upcycled from NYC dry cleaners, a new treehouse and dozens of interactive art projects that encourage attendees, and especially kids, to dance, play, and make their own art.

Another place for the kiddos to let their imaginations run wild is the new Adventure Playground, which is hosting a summer camp (now two-thirds full, so register soon) and plans to be open to the public on weekends, from 10am-3:30pm, perhaps even weekdays after camp if their budget allows.

There are many more art installations and events scheduled throughout the summer, including the Race and Revolution group art show, Exquisite Corpse Company’s Inside Magritte, site-specific performance art installations Welcome Home and A Body In Places, and the Governors Island Art Fair.

#5 You’ll hear the sounds of summer

Cicadas won’t be the only ones creating sweet, sweet music this summer. (Was that gross?) All season long, Governor’s Island will host a variety of concerts and music festivals featuring every genre of music imaginable. Rite of Summer will bring classical performers, including the Grammy Award-winning Parker Quartet and percussionist outfit Inuksuit to drop some classical knowledge while Make Music New York has chosen June 18 and June 19 to deliver folk and punk music festivals, respectively. And then there’s always that one dude in the park who will inevitably be playing “Wonderwall” to look forward. Whichever show you choose to attend, be sure to bring a nice blanket to sit on.

#6 See nature on display


Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of Governors Island is that for most of the year, it goes completely untouched, which means much of the island’s environment remains unsullied by New Yorkers. See it at its wildest during the Audubon Society’s It’s Your Tern Festival, a day dedicated to the seabird of the same name as well as the recovering oyster beds of NYC, or visit the Earth Matter compost learning center and the GrowNYC teaching garden, where everyone’s invited to learn about the power of urban agriculture all summer long.

#7 Get your athleticism on

The Gotham Base Ball Club will host its annual Vintage Baseball Game once a month starting in July Photo: Governors Island

The Gotham Base Ball Club will host its annual Vintage Baseball Game once a month starting in July Photo: Governors Island

And finally, the best reason to visit Governors Island this summer? The complete lack of cars. All summer long, New Yorkers are invited to bring their bikes on the ferry or rent one to enjoy the Island’s many, many bike trails. Meanwhile, those looking for some sporting fun should sign up for RECESS’s Badminton and Bocce tournaments, which will take place on June 18 and August 20, respectively. Or if you’re way more into observing sports, don’t miss Gotham Base Ball Club’s monthly Vintage Baseball games, where the players go by 1864 rules. And, of course, feel free to bring your own Wiffle bats, soccer balls, and paddles for on-the-go entertainment.

Getting There
Starting May 28, ferries will run from Bridge Park’s Pier 6 on Saturdays, Sundays, Memorial Day and Labor Day and from the Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan 7 seven days a week. Weekend morning ferries (10 AM, 11 AM and 11:30 AM from Manhattan and 11 AM and 11:30 AM from Brooklyn) are free. At all other times they are $2 round trip for adults, free for children under 12, half price for senior citizens and free for IDNYC holders. The full ferry schedule is at www.govisland.com. The East River Ferry services Governors Island for $6.

You can bring your own bike, too (there’s no surcharge on the ferries), or rent one from Blazing Saddles. (Every weekday between 10am and noon they offer a free bike for up to one hour.) You can also find Citibike docking stations next to the Battery Maritime Building in Manhattan, in Brooklyn near Pier 6 and on Governors Island at Soissons Landing and Yankee Pier.

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