Hooray! Governors Island is open for the Summer 2020 season! As you may have guessed, there are some changes to what’s open this year, activities on the island and even how to get there. (There are some changes in ferry service.) The really good news? You can still bike, slide, stroll, lounge in a hammock, enjoy public art, and eat and drink well like always. Here’s the latest news on what’s open on Governors Island this summer, what’s not and how to get there.
Governors Island Basics
Governors Island opens for the 2020 season on Wednesday, July 15 for "passive recreational activities." That means biking, walking, picnicking, etc. (Sorry, no zip-lining at this point.) On weekdays, the Island is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; on weekends and Labor Day, the Island is open from 10 AM to 7 PM.
COVID-19 response: The Trust for Governors Island is implementing COVID-19 safety measures that include increased cleaning procedures and schedules in all restrooms, aboard ferries, and in high-touch, high-traffic areas across the Island. Additionally, hand sanitizer and hand-washing stations have been installed throughout the Island, and enhanced health and safety protocols have are in place at all food and drink vending locations.
Visitors are asked to socially distance and wear masks when appropriate.
How to Get There: New Ferry Ticketing Policies & Changed Departure Spot
Governors Island Ferry
Capacity on Governors Island Ferries will be limited during the 2020 season to allow for social distancing. Visitors must reserve tickets in advance through a new ticket reservation system. Tickets will be available beginning Friday 7/10 at 10 a.m. Visitors must depart the Island at the assigned return ferry time they selected when purchasing tickets.
Beginning July 15, ferries will depart daily from the Battery Maritime Building at 10 South Street in Manhattan.
Beginning Saturday, July 18, weekend ferry service that previously operated from Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park will now leave from Red Hook's Atlantic Basin. There will be no ferry service from Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park this season. (This is part of an initiative to reach communities in most need of outdoor recreational space.)
Round-trip tickets for the Governors Island Ferry cost $3 for adults.
Ferries are free for visitors age 12 and under; seniors age 65 and over; IDNYC holders; current and former military service members; all New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents, and Governors Island Members.
Morning ferries before noon on Saturdays and Sundays are free for all. There is no surcharge for bicycles at any time.
NYC Ferry will offer additional connections to Governors Island’s Yankee Pier via a dedicated weekend shuttle from Wall Street/Pier 11, which will operate approximately every 30 minutes beginning July 18. We recommend downloading the app to make your life easier for buying tickets, accessing schedules and boarding.
Tickets are $2.75 or by free transfer from any NYC Ferry route. There is a $1 charge for bikes. (Note!: If you arrive to Governors Island via an NYC Ferry, you are strongly encouraged to depart using NYC Ferry, as the Governors Island ferry service, as walk-up tickets are not guaranteed at the Governors Island Ferry.)
NYC Ferry riders are required to wear a mask or face covering while onboard, even on the upper deck.
For ticketing information and a full schedule, go to ferry.nyc.
What's On Pause
In order to keep everyone safe many of the events and programming on Governors Island are on hold.
Outdoor events and sport practices and games have been cancelled at least through July 31.
All indoor public programming, including in Nolan Park and Colonels Row is postponed until at least August 31.
Adventures GI amusements are closed until further notice, and Fort Jay and Castle Williams remain closed.
TBD: The Yard (formerly play:ground)
Summer 2020 Update: As of mid-July, The Yard is prepping to open its day camp in August for previously registered campers. It is possible The Yard will open to the public at some point this season, but for now it remains closed.
One of our favorite spots on the island for kids, this is a free-wheeling, anything-goes junk playground kids can't get enough of. Formerly known as play:ground, The Yard gives kids raw materials like lumber, rope, discarded mannequins, wheels, playground balls ands so much more and lets them create whatever they like.
Parents sign a waiver before kids enter on their own; there are some staff on hand to make sure everything stays safe. Most parents retire to a nearby shady slope with chairs to watch from afar.
There's a water table with fountains and faucets for hydrating nearby, and even loaner shoes for kids who arrive in flip-flops. (Only closed-toe shoes are allowed inside.) The Yard does reach capacity, so head here first if you definitely want a chance to play.
(If your kid really can't get enough of it this place, consider signing up for the summer day camp here where it's all junk, all the time. The camp does have plans to operate in August this year, although there is a waiting list. Read more about The Yard here. )
The Yard is open Mon. Sat., & sun. Noon - 4 p.m.
What You CAN Do This Year
There's still enough on Governors Island to keep you and the kids busy for a day, or more! (And a lot of it is free!) Read on for the hot spots to hit with kids.
Ride a Bike
Whether you bring your own bikes or rent on site from vendor Blazing Saddles, Governors Island is a great place to explore via bicycle.
Blazing Saddles rents bikes for both kids and adults, as well as scooters, surreys, baby seats, trailers and more. You can rent by the hour or the day, with rates starting as low as $15.
The Hills is a 10-acre section of the island populated with several peaks of varying heights, including Grassy Hill; the 70-foot high Outlook Hill, which can be climbed via a large "granite scramble", and Discovery Hill, where you'll find Cabin, the permanent site-specific installation by acclaimed British artist Rachel Whiteread. There's a great explanation of how The Hills were built, and more fun facts about them on the Governors Island website, here.
The Hills is also home to Slide Hill, where you'll find some seriously super slides—including the longest one in NYC. You can read our full write-up here from when The Hills debuted.
Note: There is a bathroom nearby, so this is a good place for a pit stop.
What's not to love? Fifty red hammocks just asking you to take a load off and relax.
Hammock Grove Playground
You'll also find huge play structures for climbing, clambering, and swinging in Hammock Grove, and there's a big giant hanger sculpture nearby as well that's fun to swing from and climb.
Governors Island is known as a public art hot spot. While the indoor exhibits and festivals are on hold, its public art installations remain on view, including Shantell Martin’s The May Room, a commission for the 2019 season (shown here), Rachel Whiteread’s Cabin, a permanent installation on Discovery Hill, and more.
Governors Island Urban Farm
The Island’s 21,000 square-foot Urban Farm is closed for hands-on learning this season—it's the home to GrowNYC’s Teaching Garden and Earth Matter NY’s Compost Learning Center and Soil Start Farm—but you can still visit it on weekends from Noon to 4 p.m.
Glamping with Collective Retreats
Camping is experiencing a resurgence in the era of socially distancing, and yes, you can glamp in style at Collective Retreat's enhanced outpost on Governors Island this summer. The luxury camping experience company has instituted numerous COVID-19 safety protocols, including contactless check-in and check-out. Expect gourmet meals, electricity, Wifi, deluxe bedding, yoga and wellness sessions, and more. Rates start at $250/night. P.S. If your family is the glamping type, check out this and this.)
Eat & Drink on Governors Island
You won't go hungry on Governors Island; there are plenty of options for both you and the kids. (Although you are welcome to bring your own food and picnic; no alcohol is allowed, you must buy it on site. You can even grill if you want, but you must reserve a grill at least two days in advance.)
Food trucks are located at various spots on the island, including Colonels Row, Liggett Terrace, the Western Promenade and Soissons Landing. Choices include pizza, veggie tacos, artisanal ice cream sandwiches and popsicles, Jamaican, Ethiopian and Venezuelan food, crepes, waffles, and beer from Three's Brewing and The Meat Hook.
If you're feeling fancy, you can grab some oysters, lobster rolls, fries and more at primo spot Island Oyster (shown here). (Lovely, but you pay for that view.)
Before You Go
Do yourself a favor and download a map here.
Be sure to pack some sunscreen (there's lots of open space) as well as some cash, which is needed to pay for the ferries.