Monday, July 29, 2013

Fly Away: NYC's Governors Island

Our last trip to NYC was during the middle of a cold, rainy winter and while we did get some outdoor time, we spent the vast majority of that long weekend exploring indoor spots of the city. It was awesome, but mom and dad were super excited to get us up there during warmer weather, which we were able to do a few weeks ago. And it was warm all right. Scorching, in fact. But instead of heading indoors for air conditioning, we packed up plenty of water, our bathing suits and set off in pursuit of cooler spots in the city.

So we hit the water and headed a short distance (800 yards) away from the concrete jungle to Governors Island. For almost two centuries, the island served as a military base. Then, in 2003, the government sold most of the island to the city and retained a small percentage for a national monument overseen by the park district. Much of the island is currently under construction for new park and public spaces, but the portion that is open includes several historic buildings, parade grounds, and parks. It was amazing.

The quick (and free) ferry ride gave a nice view of the city and was full of strollers and bicycles (there are no vehicles allowed on the island, but plenty of bikes to rent there), so we knew we were in good company. There were several different events going on the weekend we visited, including Fete Paradiso (a festival of vintage French carnival rides and games) and an interactive sculpture garden and mini-golf course. You can check out the full calendar of events here, although both Fete Paradiso and the sculpture garden will be there all summer. Note that the Children's Museum of the Arts offers hands-on activities each weekend -- we didn't go on this visit, but that museum was our most favorite winter destination.

We spent the most time at the carousels and games -- it was the weekend before Bastille Day afterall. I was REALLY into it, Kane was into being a punk and running away and hiding. It was hot and he kind of starts to break down in the heat. We all pulled it together and took a family ride on a carousel powered by people riding bicycles! The adults were the only ones allowed to actually pedal so Kane and I had a blast. Mom was a little worried once the thing really got moving. Then we rode backwards! It was crazy.

After that, mom promised Kane we could go visit the monument on the island -- Castle Williams (his current obsession is knights. and, well, everything having to do with weapons). There were tours available (including the opportunity to go up on the roof), but we weren't in the mood. And the building was neat, but not much to it. So his mood didn't improve much.

Everyone's spirits lightened, however, when we hit the King Avenue Food Court and picked up a delish (and very cleverly packaged) lunch from Perfect Picnic AND coconut water sipped right from a coconut! There are a ton of food and drink options on the island (see list here -- New Yorkers appear to always need choices, choices, choices for food), but plenty of people brought their own food with them as well.

Figuring we had a little time fueled by lunch, we checked out the sculpture garden and mini-golf course (although we didn't play). The sculpture was fantastic and interactive -- especially a giant cloud made from plastic water and milk bottles. Awesome. And then we headed back to the ferry, which leaves every 1/2 hour, to hit up a sprayground in the city by our apartment. Good thing we traveled with our bathing suits -- it was just what we needed -- some nice, cool time to play freely.

The island is open to the public from 10 am - 7 pm every Saturday, Sunday and Holiday Monday through September 29th.

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