What to Do On Governors Island

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Governors Island is just off the southerntip of Manhattan, not far from Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. It feels like something of a different world—all green, open space. I would imagine you can even see the stars out there (final ferry is at 7:00). It’s the NYC version of floating above Earth from the space station. The view of the City from Governors Island is my favorite in the five boroughs. It’s only 800 yards across the water.

There are very few restaurants on the island, no shopping. Instead Governors Island has various exhibits, installations, and activities. There are bike trails, play areas, a massive 57-foot-long slide, and an urban farm. It’s a perfect picnic spot. I just found out there’s also some sort of wellness retreat camping experience you can book. So there’s a lot to do. Yesterday I went for the afternoon and very much enjoyed a few hours away from the noise and constant movement of the City.

I felt a little insecure having a *picnic for one* (I am honestly alone all the goddamn time lately, it’s awesome but also frequently depressing), so I went out to eat. There are only a handful of restaurants on the island and I went to two of them. I got off the ferry from South Street (you can also catch it in Red Hook, Brooklyn) around 12:00 and went immediately to Taco Vista, an airy, low-key taqueria with a small menu that doesn’t leave you wanting for anything. I’ve had almost everything there, and I can honestly say I would order all of it ten times over. As is the case with most locations on the island, the view is great. You can feel the wind off the water…like I said, seems very far from New York save for the fact that you’re standing in front of an NYC screensaver.

I spent most of my time on Governors Island just poking around and lying in the grass, but there’s a lot to see. There’s also a lot to do, especially for families. Other than Slide Hill, there are playgrounds, a small water play area, and the Hammock Grove, which is exactly what it sounds like—a bunch of hammocks (jungle gym hammocks, for lack of a better description). There’s also a little mountain made up of very climbable rocks, with greenery and walking trails on top.

Governors Island trails on hill

But what I enjoy most about Governors Island is just the weird energy—the combination of melancholy, uniform old buildings, food trucks surrounded by café tables, and people clustered together on the ground kind of makes it feel like some utopia set up on a abandoned military base in the aftermath of an apocalyptic event. In a good way though. The camping tents set up behind metal fencing complete the mildly eerie feeling.

old buildings Governors Island

On my way back to the ferry, I stopped for an early dinner. I’ve been wanting to go back to Island Oyster for months (it was on my short list of places to go when the City opened up again). As is the case with Taco Vista, the view of Manhattan is perfect, and the menu is small but satisfying. It tastes and feels a lot like a seaside oyster bar in Nantucket; everything is white or blue and yellow stripes. Surf and turf are equally tasty, as are the desserts.

Island Oyster view

The one low point of the day—the last ferry leaves before sunset. This actually kind of makes me want to try camping out there, because the sun sets right over the Statue of Liberty and has to be gorgeous.

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