picnic_2Many New Yorkers have a recurring dream where they open a door in their apartment and find a previously undiscovered closet or room. I had this dream until we bought a brownstone; then I dreamt that the door led to a garage (but we don’t even have a car).

New York City itself opened a door a couple of years ago and found Governors Island, a former military and Coast Guard base off Manhattan and Brooklyn. The 172 acre island is only 800 yards from lower Manhattan, and even closer to Brooklyn, but it is only accessible by ferry.

Luckily for New Yorkers and tourists, the island can be reached by free ferries, May 27 – September 25. Manhattan ferries run Friday-Sunday and holiday Mondays, from the Battery Maritime Building, next to the Staten Island Ferry. The Brooklyn ferry leaves from Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays.

What to Do on Governors Island

One of the best things to do on the island is bike the car-free roads. There are five miles of road, and you can bring your bicycle. If you don’t have a bike, rent one from Bike and Roll, which also rents family-sized surreys. On Fridays, you can get a bike for free, for one hour.

Governors Island also offers up close views of the Statue of Liberty.

The Children’s Museum of the Arts offers free family arts projects, Saturdays & Sundays, 11am-3pm, and Trapeze School New York and Big Apple Circus teach circus workshops and juggling. You can also take (paid) trapeze classes on the island.

We like to bike over to Picnic Point, where we grab a hammock and buy produce from an organic fruit and vegetable farm (the farm stand opens in July). There is also a free mini golf course.

You can bring food with you, or buy from the café. Water Taxi Beach also has food, and a sandy beach area. Bring plenty of water; there are no drinking fountains, although there are bathrooms.