Governors Island, located in New York Harbor and only 800 yards from Lower Manhattan, is a former military base that was redeveloped and opened to the public in 2005. Since it’s opening, the island has undergone a number of additional developments to reinvent the space, the most recent finishing up prior to the start of the 2014 season. Exploring Governors Island with kids is the perfect NYC summertime activity, with acres of open green lawns, mini-golf, food stands, and historic buildings stemming from the late 1700’s.
Explore The History of Governors Island
Governors Island has served many uses over the years, but primarily as a US military base for roughly 200 years before it was turned over to the Coast Guard in 1966. If you visit the island today, you will still find Castle Williams, Fort Jay, and Colonels Row, all part of the former military base.
When I visited the island recently with my parents, husband and daughter, we particularly enjoyed walking around Fort Jay and the former military barracks; they have a very cool air of desertion and spookiness. If your kids are old enough, Governors Island serves as the perfect destination for an impromptu summer history lesson, a win for everyone. 🙂
Governors Island with (young) Kids
At 16-months, my daughter was a bit young to appreciate the historic structures, but she certainly enjoyed running on the green lawns, the make-shift library (a mother’s dream) and the stellar views of the Manhattan and Jersey skylines. Ok, maybe it was me who enjoyed the views…
The picture above was taken from the island’s waterfront promenade and ‘WOW’ was all I could say, it was beautiful. The promenade is a great spot to sit and city gaze or ride a bike. In fact, the entire island is very bike-friendly and you can even rent a wide selection of bikes, including multiple-seaters.
For entertainment purposes, the mini-golf, playhouse, green lawn (there are many) and installation structures are all located on the island’s Parade Grounds and a small library can be found adjacent to Castle Williams
The island is also home to a number of food trucks and stands, and a cool new area called Hammock Grove that features swingings hammocks for visitors of all ages to enjoy. We treated ourselves to a delicious Blue Marble ice cream cone, perfect on a hot summer day!
All in, I think Governors Island is a great place to visit with kids for the following reasons:
- Location, location, location – it’s SO close to Manhattan, Brooklyn, and New Jersey
- The ferries run every 30 minutes, check the schedule for week vs. weekend times
- The island is small enough to walk, run, bike, skip or hop your way around
- The delicious food choices are aplenty
- The island has a mini library for kids (yay)
- Explore the historic buildings and churches scattered throughout the island
- Governors Island hosts special events, check the calendar ahead of your trip
- The open fields, mini-golf, clubhouse, and swingings hammocks are perfect for kids of all ages
Hi Manhattan, see you in a few minutes.