Resident Tourist: Governors Island

Living in New York City on a very set and scheduled four year stint has been 99% wonderful. Though living in the middle of the city is truly magical and fabulous, there are a lot of things about life with three children in a little apartment that can be very challenging. Having the ability to see past those challenges in the moment and think about tomorrow with a tourists point of view has saved my sanity on more than one occasion, and in turn has also made some fantastic memories.

Part of my goal for our final year (10 months, really) living in Manhattan is to explore as much as possible. Some of the experiences on my list of things that we’ve never done include: A visit to the Statue of Liberty, a day at the 9/11 memorial, a Greek meal in Astoria, watch the Oakland A’s beat the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium, a full day visit to MoMA and the Guggenheim, watch the ball drop in Times Square on New Years Eve, peek at the city from the top of the Rock, and a boat ride and buggy through Central Park. Having three children in tow tends to broaden our horizons when out and about, despite feeling quite the opposite when we moved here. The trick is being able to see the city through their eyes… That, is magic.

A few weeks ago, we took the kids with some dear friends across the East River towards Governors Island. We always marvel at how quickly things change the second you step foot off of the island of Manhattan, but the ease that came with taking a ferry to the “abandoned” and vehicle-free Governors Island was awesome.

We took a taxi to the Governors Island Ferry and literally just walked right on the twenty minute long ride without paying a cent or having to fold our strollers, etc.


We got off the boat and were struck by the immediate silence. There were very few people on the island except for the people on the boat with us as we began our adventure, armed with a picnic and our scooters.


The views are breathtaking and the peace and quiet is the perfect reprieve from the madness of being in the city. We strolled around until we found a nice grassy area to set up our tent and picnic.


I had packed the kids a lunch, but as usual either forgot or ran out of time to think about food for the adults, so I was especially happy to see they had a couple of food stands, or quite literally shacks set up with BBQ selling food and beverages.


I ordered a mango and prawn salad with sangria, while Justin had a BBQ’d pork sandwich and a beer, and it was really good, especially considering they weren’t even working out of a real kitchen.

The island got considerably more crowded towards the afternoon as we packed up and began to explore a little. Governors Island has some pretty great history dating back to the 1600’s when it was actually used to house British Governors. For more than two hundred years the island was used for both British and American militaries until the 1960’s, when it was turned into one of the largest American Coast Guard installations, with it’s own self-contained community. The island has been basically abandoned since 1995, when the Coast Guard closed it’s operations and it’s since been sort of passed around for public use.


There’s a lot of what looks like active construction happening on the certain parts of the island, and there is a good portion that has large buildings with broken windows that look as though they only serve as pigeon shelters.

We couldn’t get past what an incredible waste of shelter it was, especially given the amount of homeless and needy folks we see on the streets of Manhattan. This is an area equipped to house around 3,500 people and none of it is being used… Quite honestly it was downright creepy in some areas, and very reminiscent of something out of a LOST episode.

Looking at the numbers-nearly 450,000 people visited the island last year alone-Bloomberg decided to invest $250,000 to create a new park and public space, slotted to open in 2013. All the details for the new park can be found on their website,Governors Island Park and Public Space Master Plan. It looks spectacular… I just hope that it opens some time before we move next summer!


We had such a lovely day there, and I’m still in awe of how seamless it was to get there. A wonderful day trip for everyone, though the kids probably had the best time of all, running and playing in the open space (complete with an random, impromptu goat visit- no word yet on where, exactly, they came from). The ferry and admittance on the island is completely free. Our only expense was the taxi to get to the ferry and our food on the island.


Many of my photos are taken with my SLR, but I’ve been having a blast over at Instagram as well. Click here to find me @mommasgonecity to follow my adventures.

I was not compensated in any way for this post.

Join the Conversation


  • How fun! I love going there for the Jazz Age Lawn party. I had no idea they had a renovation plan in the works. So excited to check it out next year!

  • Thank you for sharing this lovely outing with us! NYC is such an awesome place. One of our favorites!

  • I’ve never been but it looks quite lovely! A fun (and cheap) day trip for sure!

  • I hadn’t been to Governor’s Island in a very long time, I remember it being very boring back in the day…so nice to see that there are a ton of things to do. Will have to go and venture out next summer, or if we get an Indian Summer!

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