Governor’s Island

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New Yorkers: you only have until the end of the month to head out to Governor’s Island and find out what the hype is all about.

Governor’s Island, located 8 minutes by ferry from the southern tip of Manhattan, has been going through major transformation. The island, which in the past has been everything from a wartime fortress (successful in warding off British attack in 1812), a coast guard headquarter station, and a prison, is now a destination for fun and relaxation.

With some 30 acres of parks, bike paths and even a hammock grove (seriously the best things ever!), the island is a popular weekend destination. When I went for the first time last weekend I was blown away by the amount of activities available. When first walking off the ferry, many people flocked to the beach inspired bar area where there is apparently an outdoor concert area. Events and concerts are scheduled here throughout the summer and last weekend was no exception as I overheard a Sublime cover band while in line for my ferry back to Manhattan.

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Bikes seem to be the preferred mode of transportation on the island. Many visitors rented tandems and surrey cycles directly off the island while others brought their bikes on the ferry with them from Manhattan and Brooklyn (no extra charge from the $2 round trip fare). The island is larger than I expected so a bike will definitely be included on my future excursions.

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A short walk from the ferry will put you directly in front of a castle. Castle Williams to be exact. This fortress was where I spent my time…I know, I know. I’m such a nerd. I signed up for a free tour (available every hour) which takes you through the four levels and up onto the roof for an awesome view (the first picture in this post is from the roof).

Castle Williams was built in the 1800s to protect Manhattan from invasions by the British. The invasion never happened, and maybe it was due to the threat posed by this sandstone structure which had 13 casements that could each hold 26 cannons. That’s pretty intense and not something I would want to sail past as the British (not to mention this was only one fort out of the defense system in place around Manhattan.)

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After this cultural enlightenment, I wandered toward the hammocks and plopped myself down for over an hour of reading and snoozing. Seriously, I need to speak to the person involved in deciding to put hammocks on Governor’s Island. It is pure genius.

If you’re in the New York area between May and September, I suggest packing a picnic (or some cash for the food trucks) and buy a ferry ticket for an afternoon on Governor’s Island.

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