Governors Island with Manhattan skyline on background.
Located in the middle of New York harbor, less than half a mile from Manhattan (and even closer to Brooklyn), 172-acre Governors Island feels like a world unto itself, far from the bustling city. It has played a key role in the defense of New York at various points and two fortifications here, Fort Jay and Castle Williams, reflect that history. From 1966 to 1996, the island was a Coast Guard station; since it closed, the city, state, and federal governments have discussed various plans for the island’s development. In the meantime, it is open to the public for six months each year, from May 1 to October 31, when it is possible to wander among the Coast Guard barracks, visit the commander’s house, and bike around the mostly car-free island. Ferries depart from both Manhattan and Brooklyn starting at 10 a.m. and running until 6:15 p.m. on weekdays and 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. During many weekends in the summer, art fairs, food festivals, and other events help draw visitors to the island, but even if you go on a day without anything special scheduled, a journey here provides a refreshingly different perspective on New York.
An Oasis in NYC
In New York City, the perfect getaway when you can’t get away is Governors Island. This former Army and Coast Guard post is a cool combination of manicured parkland with art installations and a Stepford-ish ghost town. Its appeal isn’t just its beauty, which is vast (the views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and lower Manhattan are amazing). Much of the fun of Governors Island comes from random exploration. Not only are there vast green lawns, but there are also historic forts, an empty Victorian village, even an abandoned movie theatre. I hear there’s also a (non-operating) bowling alley, but I’ve yet to find it. In the past few summers, it’s hosted a sandy Water Taxi Beach with food and drink and, oddly, a polo match. It’s only open in the summer. There are ferries from lower Manhattan and Brooklyn (which I think are free, too). You can rent a bike or easily walk the island in a few hours. Also, it’s the only place to plan your next trip while gazing at the Statue of Liberty...and lay in a hammock.
New Yorkers Revel in the Jazz Age Splendor
My vintage lace and silk dress lay on my bed with lace gloves, my thrift-shop handbag treasure and shoes to match, as I patiently anticipate the 8th annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island. Debating whether I need matte-finish, red lips, I throw my outfit on and dash out to meet my friend at the Governor’s Island Ferry. As I approach the dock, flappers, 1920’s gangsters, paperboys and suspenders confirmed that this was going to be one stylish event. I spent the rest of the afternoon ogling over the chic hats, parasols, the Dreamland Follies dancers to the sounds of the orchestra, as I sipped the smartly concocted St. Germain elderflower drinks splashed with champagne. It was a dream brought to life. The next event is August 17 & 18 and not to be missed!