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Governor’s Island

Governor's Island 1 - Babyccino NYC Guide Governor's Island 2 - Babyccino NYC Guide

One of New York’s best quick escapes doesn’t require leaving New York at all: Governor’s Island lies just off the southern tip of Manhattan in New York Harbor and a 5-minute ferry ride (even shorter if you’re coming from Brooklyn) delivers you to an island where you’ll feel a world away from bustling streets and sidewalks. Visiting is one of my favorite ways to spend a summer day, and the island offers a wealth of sights, attractions, and activities to keep everyone in the family busy.

Governor's Island 3 - Babyccino NYC Guide Governor's Island 5 - Babyccino NYC Guide Governor's Island 4 - Babyccino NYC GuideThe island has a long and storied history, with occupation and use first by Native Americans and then, in succession, the British during the British Colonial Period, the United States Army, and the United States Coast Guard. Handed over to the city in 1996, it opened to the public as a park in 2006. Since then, new sections of the island have been developed to complement the remaining historical structures, some of which form Governor’s Island National Monument. Our visit this past weekend focused mainly on the newest section of the park which opened just last month: The Hills.

Governor's Island 6 - Babyccino NYC Guide Governor's Island 7 - Babyccino NYC Guide Governor's Island 8 - Babyccino NYC GuideLocated at the southern end of the Island, the tallest of the hills, Outlook Hill, offers spectacular 360-degree views of New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty, New Jersey, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. Climb to the top by following a gently inclined paved path, or, if you’re a bit more adventurous, scramble straight up the side of the hill covered in giant granite blocks repurposed from an old sea wall on the island. Slide Hill provides an excellent opportunity for play, with four slides of varying heights built into the side. Granite blocks and large wooden beams provide pathways for climbing to the top, and the highest of the slides towers 57 feet above the ground – the tallest slide in New York City!

Governor's Island - Babyccino NYC Guide Governor's Island 10 - Babyccino NYC GuideAs we walked back to the center of the island after exploring The Hills, we stopped by Hammock Grove to relax a bit. Nearby is an open space filled with a number of climbing structures for children, and beyond that is The Teaching Garden, which runs a small farm stand and focuses on educating the public about urban farming. We stopped for lunch on Liggett Terrace, one of two areas on the island offering weekend dining options (you’re of course welcome to pack your own picnic as well) before heading back to to the ferry dock. On the way we walked by Play:ground, a fascinating adventure playground offering children over 6 years of age the opportunity to construct worlds of their own from discarded junk, loose objects, and building materials, coupled with hammers, nails, screws, saws, and paint. A smaller Family Play Adventure Area admits children as young as 3 alongside their parents. With only about three hours on the island before nap time beckoned and we boarded the ferry for home, there were large areas of the island we didn’t make it to at all on this visit. You could easily spend an entire day exploring Governor’s Island, and we’re aiming to make it back again before the close of the 2016 season to do just that.

Further details:

  • The island is open to the public seasonally, with the 2016 season running May 28-September 25.
  • The island is accessible by ferry only, with departure points in Lower Manhattan (daily) and Piers 1 and 6 in Brooklyn (weekends only). Be sure to check the ferry schedules and plan ahead for your trip home – later in the day lines for the return ferries can be quite long.
  • The events calendar for the island can be found here. When we visited the past Saturday the annual Jazz Age Lawn Party was in full swing. So fun! Also on tap was Civil War Weekend.
  • Biking is a great way to cover ground more quickly as you explore the island. Bring your own bikes, participate in New York’s bike share program by checking out a Citi Bike, or rent a bike or surrey.

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