Imagine what Central Park would be like if you had it practically to yourself. And, instead of being surrounded by tall buildings, imagine it's surrounded by the NYC harbor, so every time you catch a glimpse through the trees, you see sailboats and ferries gliding by. While we're dreaming, imagine that every weekend a free concert or event takes place, but unlike every other event in NYC, there aren't huge crowds. Wouldn't that be nice?
Well, pinch yourself, you're not dreaming. This is the perfect description of Governor's Island and we highly recommend it as a family outing destination, and possibly the best place to bike with kids in NYC.
Governor's Island used to be an army outpost and then more recently a Coast Guard station. But when the Federal Government closed it down, they returned the island to NYC. New York is still trying to figure out what to do with Governor's Island, but in the meantime they've opened it up to visitors, have free ferry service, tours of the historic sites, and free concerts every Saturday this summer.
It's a great place to go biking with the kids because you can walk the bikes right onto the free ferry (you won't encounter any stairs on either side.) Governor's Island has plenty of tree shaded roads through it's bucolic scenery, but no cars (except for some electric golf carts and service vehicles). Where even the bike paths can be so crowded on weekends that it can be hard to bike with little kids, having wide open and un-trafficked lanes is a great luxury, especially with kids that are just learning to bike.
Governor's Island has beauty, entertainment, history and wide open car-free lanes, so not only is it a perfect place to go biking with kids for the day, spending a day there really feels like a little get-away from urban New York.
Governor's Island is also a great place for picnicking (especially since there are no food vendors, except possibly a hot dog cart by the ferry terminal.) You can take a tour of the old military buildings like Castle Williams prison, the old fort, battlements and Colonel's Row. And then picnic on the parade ground while listening to the live music performed every Saturday. Weekends in July enjoy a folk festival with the music of Harry Chapin, Odetta (think Kumbaya and This Little Light of Mine) and more.
Transportation to and from the island is free on boats that depart just north of the Staten Island Ferry terminal at the Battery Maritime Building. The ferry takes about 15 minutes to reach Governor's Island and leaves every hour (2007 ferry schedule.) NY Water Taxi also runs ferry service from many stops around Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens for a fee.
Check out the full schedule of events and information about visiting Governor's Island, then pack your picnic and hop of the ferry for a trip back to a slower time.