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After what felt like a long winter hiatus, Governors Island is back up and running, ready to usher in the hundreds of thousands of visitors who are eager to hit the beach, shoot hoops and mount their bikes.
An estimated 12,600 people headed to Governors Island by ferry on Sat., May 26, marking the first day of the island’s 2012 season. It was the largest attendance of the island’s annual opening day since it opened to the public in the mid-2000s.
The island, which will be open through September, is just a free ferry ride away from Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. A ferry departs every half hour from the Battery Maritime Building, at the southern tip of Manhattan, and from Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Alternatively, travelers can access the island via the East River Ferry, which departs from Wall Street every 45 minutes.
We’re excited that workers have already broken ground on the 30 acres of new park and public space, which is slated to open in fall 2013. The Trust for Governors Island is keeping the island open all weekends, including holiday weekends, between now and the fall, but it will not be open on Fridays this year due to construction tied to the preparation of the new acreage. In order to meet next year’s deadline, something had to give.
The island offers a host of fun activities for people of all ages and affinities. For visual art enthusiasts, there are several ongoing exhibitions, including one featuring 21st century graphic design work, another showcasing live glassmaking performances and yet another displaying the artwork of abstract expressionist sculptor Mark di Suvero.
Families wishing to participate in art-making are encouraged to attend the Children’s Museum of the Arts’ outpost program, which offers guests the opportunity to paint, draw and sculpt under the guidance of teaching artists. The island even has something to offer to visitors who are academically inclined, boasting a series of mathematically themed installations dubbed “Mü-Math.”
We applaud the opportunity afforded to Lower Manhattan Cultural Council artists once again this year to work in the island’s Building 110 studio space. The building also serves as a venue for exhibits, concerts and River To River Festival programs.
For those wishing to explore the island, the National Park Service is offering hour-and-a-half-long walking tours of the island’s historic district on Wednesdays and Thursdays as well as tours exclusively of Fort Jay and Castle Williams. N.P.S. is also providing walk-throughs of the 1812-era forts on those days and a park ranger program for kids on Fridays upon special reservation.
Perhaps the best way to get to know the island is by bike: Throughout the summer, park rangers will be shepherding cyclists around the entire island, including past the Monument and the South Island fields that are under construction. Visitors may bring their own bikes or rent one upon arrival (free rental bikes were up for grabs on Memorial Day and will again be available on Labor Day).
Families can also enjoy games of mini-golf on the island’s famed mini-golf course, whose theme this year is “arcade.” According to the Trust for Governors Island’s description of the activity, “Visitors can whack a clown, rescue a princess and save the world from inevitable asteroid destruction, one putt at a time.”
And for visitors seeking to brush up on their history, the Trust for Governors Island is hosting an interactive exhibit that sheds light on the island’s storied past as well as the creation of its new parks.
Last but not least, there is Water Taxi Beach, the perfect place to share a sangria or beer with a friend or loved one at sunset. The beach is also a hotspot for picnics, volleyball and straight-up sun bathing — not to mention basketball and outdoor concerts.
So on those hot summer days when you don’t feel like sitting in traffic en route to the Hamptons, the Jersey Shore or some other Tri-state summer destination, we encourage you to head out to New York’s closest playground situated just across New York Harbor!