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A Guide to NYC's Governors Island This Summer

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Everything you need to know about visiting Governors Island this summer

Max Touhey

As Memorial Day weekend approaches, one of New York City's best free attractions—Governors Island—prepares to reopen for its 2016 season. The island, a former military base, has been transformed in the past few years to a verdant oasis, with plenty of places for both chilling out and actually doing stuff.

There's also lots to see this year in particular, as the island gears up to open the Hills, one of the major element of its years-long revamp. It's bound to be crowded during opening weekend, but you have a whole season to check it out—it's open from May 28 through September 25. Here's everything you need to know about the island this year.

Getting there

Governors Island is open every day during the summer, and two ferries—one in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn—travel to the island. If you want to go during the week, you'll have to use the Manhattan ferry; the Brooklyn one only goes to the island on Saturdays and Sundays. The full schedule can be found right here.

What's new

The biggest attraction this year is sure to be The Hills, four man-made hills that rise as high as 70 feet over the island. Each one has a different purpose: Slide Hill (pictured below) is meant for, well, sliding; Outlook Hill, meanwhile, is the highest point on the island, and has panoramic views of Manhattan, the harbor, and beyond. The placement of the Hills was meant to maximize the island's unique location, and even if you're not on top of Outlook Hill, you'll likely have lovely views of the Statue of Liberty.

Alas, the Hills won't be quite ready for a bit—they officially open to the public in July, but there will be hardhat tours over Memorial Day weekend for those who are curious.

By Max Touhey

Also new: visitors can now grill on Governors Island, though a permit is required. That'll cost you $26, but it comes with the use of a little red wagon to cart your stuff around. Awww.

And hey, maybe everyone will be so excited about the Hills that the hammocks in Hammock Grove will finally be less crowded. We can only hope.

Biggest events

Many of the usual suspects will return to Governors Island for the 2016 season: the annual Figment art festival will bring quirky projects there June 3–5; City of Water day is back on July 16; vintage fans can do their thing during the Jazz Age Lawn Party, which is so popular that it now happens over two weekends (June 11–12 and August 13–14); and the NYC Unicycle Festival, which comes back over Labor Day Weekend.

The island is a national park, and as such will have plenty of activities related to the 100th anniversary of the U.S. National Parks Service. Expect tours of Fort Jay and Castle Williams in August, as well an art exhibit in Fort Jay throughout the summer.

The full schedule of events is on Governors Island's website.

Eating + drinking

A rotating selection of food trucks and other vendors can be found near Liggett Terrace during the summer, but your best bet may be to just BYOF—there are plenty of spots throughout the park where picnicking is permitted, and if you plan ahead you may be able to snag one of those coveted grills that'll open to the public this year.

Alas, no booze is permitted on the island. Womp womp.