The best kind of weekends are the kinds where plans just sort of fall together, usually with little effort at all.  And if you’re like us, free weekends—or close to it—are even better.

On Saturday, my friend invited us to join her family on Governor’s Island for a relaxing day and picnic.  With no plans set in stone, I agreed.  Why not?  We’re always up for something new.  If it involves exploring the City, I’m always game.  The laundry? Yeah, that stuff can totally wait; there’s still so much to see.

After living in this area for over eight years, Governor’s Island was one of the many NYC spots I’d yet to visit.

The problem with getting to Governor’s Island for us would have been logistics, but thank goodness for the Internets.  On Friday night, I Googled “Ferry from Hoboken to Governor’s Island.”  And just my luck, I came across this.  We packed our lunch, the stroller and headed to the ferry slip to make our way to Governor’s Island.

On the ferry

At just 800 yards away from lower Manhattan, Governor’s Island once served as an Army and Coast Guard Base.  In 1996, the island was mothbolled and went dark.  But like New Yorkers do, City Officials sought to maximize every square inch.

Aerial View of Governors Island

In 2003, the Government sold the 172 acre Island to New York for $1.00.    And they say you can’t buy anything for $1.00 anymore!

Ninety-two acres of the island, which is said to be about 22 city blocks tip to tip, is now devoted to public open spaces—picnics, car-free bike riding, historic tours and just like Saturday, festivals and cultural events.

Hanging at a hammock in the picnic areaadirondack chairs overlooking bridge
picnicviews of Lady Liberty
one of many bikesexploring

We picnicked and hung out with my friend and family for a few hours.  It was so nice to sit in the shade, let the breeze blow and listen to the kids play.  The picnic area was on the southern tip of the island, which overlooked the Statue of Liberty. But when it came time for the kid’s nap, we knew we had to intervene in order to preserve his happy state.  So, we strapped him in the stroller and set out to explore Governor’s Island.


Asleep within 2 minutes of our stroll, we walked the perimeter of the island and saw tons of people fishing, biking, laying out, picnicking and doing the exact same as us, relaxing with no real agenda.  We found our way back to the middle of the island, where we found the festival.

fish wishesIMG_2786kiddie art
Little Matissesculpting

The free ferry that was offered from Hoboken to Governor’s Island was a part of Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance second annual City of Water Day Festival.  As an eco-concious family, the City of Water Day Festival was just our speed.  The festival had various vendors and exhibits set up that celebrated the NY waterfront.  Whether it was sailing or composting, the festival likely had a stand set up discussing it.  There were tons of food vendors that were a mile long.  It turned out several of the food vendors were taking part in the annual Vendy awards.  No wonder people willingly waited in those lines!

IMG_2800compost, recycle, trash

When the kid finally woke up, we checked out the kid’s art tent, which was set up by the Children’s Museum of the Arts.  Jack “sculpted” and played kiddie Matisse, as evidenced by his t-shirt that left a bit more colorful than when we arrived.  We could’ve stayed at the art tent for hours, but alas, there was so much more to see!

IMG_2754old barracks and office buildings

We explored more of the festival and listened to music, but then found ourselves walking around the Island again and checking out all the placards explaining the former uses for the old buildings and even stopping for a moment to enjoy a much newer amenity the NY Water Taxi “beach.“  With such sweeping views of Manhattan, as well as the Hudson River, it was so hard to believe that the Island was left vacant for several years.  Jeff had a great time learning about the old history of the island, some of which dates back to the 1800s.  And I bet if you asked him about what he took in about the island, Jeff could rattle off random trivia, just like he would about anything else that interests him.

Such as this: Using rocks and dirt from the excavations for the Lexington Ave. Subway, the Army Corps of Engineers supervised the deposit of 4,787,000 cubic yards of fill on the south side of Governors Island, adding 103 acres of land by 1912, and bringing the total acreage of the Island to 172.

A picnic with friends, a break from the hustle and bustle, exploring in wide open spaces and a low-key day with the family, Governor’s Island was a perfect excursion for us.  We all got to do something that interested us, but the best part was enjoying another city day without any concept of time.

Lower Manhattan

Tags: , ,