Summer of gov! Your guide to a cheap and free Governors Island

See you there. Flickr photo courtesy of http2007.

If you’re not fleeing with the masses on summer weekends, why not hop on a free ferry to a grassy, culture-filled haven where you don’t have to share your picnic grass? Ladies and gents, the best part of a NYC summer (in my non-humble opinion) is now open for gallivanting! Governors Island opened Friday for the season, and will be open every Saturday, Sunday, and holiday Monday from 10 – 7 until September 30.

Life was certainly lacking in unicycle experts, interactive sculpture, jazz-age parties, and punk rock festivals before this summer, but no more. The lineup for this season is one of the best we’ve seen, with something for everyone — especially kids — and lots of freebies and perks thrown in as per usual, like hour-long free bike rentals on Labor Day. Permanent and temporary art installations abound. Many, like Island fixture Mark Di Suvero’s projects, are outdoor structures, so you can be cultural by just walking yourself around. Without further ado, Brokelyn presents the highlights of Governors Island 2012:


Orientation to the History of Governors Island: May 27-August 28, 11:25 am, 1:25 pm, and 3:25 pm

If the boarded-up, sort of creepy barracks have ever made you wonder about the island’s history, join a National Park Ranger for this 45- to 60-minute walking tour to discover how Governors Island served New York City and the nation, and how it got to be what it is today.

Homemade is Best, by Forsman & Bodenfors, on display in Building 110.

Cooper-Hewitt Graphic Design — Now in Production exhibition, May 26-September 3
This exhibition from the famed museum boasts some of the most vibrant graphic design work produced since 2000, including posters, books, magazines, identity and branding, typography and typefaces, film and television title graphics, and more. The exhibition is in Building 110.

Civil War Weekend, Saturday and Sunday August 11-12:  10 – 4
Commemorate Civil War weekend, which you probably didn’t know existed, by joining rangers and historians for family-friendly activities, historic weapons demonstrations, music and more. We’re in the Sesquicentennial (say that three times fast) of the Civil War (2011-2015), and at this event re-enactors will be portraying Civil War soldiers and women of Governors Island from the summer of 1863. Re-enactors make everything 5 times better, scientists say. Information here.

Second Annual New York Poetry Festival: Saturday & Sunday, July 21 & 22, 11 – 5:30, Colonels Row
For only $5, enjoy this poetry festival with readings and performances by The Poetry Brothel, Cave Canem, Poets House, EARSHOT!, The Inspired Word and more. Information here.

Bicycle Tours of the Island – 2pm every Saturday and Sunday
This is a way to actually see the whole island, including the new developments that have begun. Join a National Park Ranger or Volunteer for a 90-minute tour of the entire island, including the Monument, Historic District, and the South Island.  Reservations aren’t required, but bring your own bike and meet at the National Park Service ticketing center located outside of Castle Williams.


A Mark Di Suvero sculpture. Flickr photo courtesy of NYC-Man.


Children’s Museum of the Arts Free Art Island Outpost Program: Saturday and Sunday, 11 – 3 pm, all season
Join the Children’s Museum of the Arts Teaching Artists for new themes and projects each weekend, including painting, drawing and large-scale sculpture, for ages 1 to 12. More info here.

Earth Matter Compost Learning Center: noon to 4 pm, all season
Want your kids to be just as earth-conscious as you are? Head to Picnic Point, where little ones can learn about converting food and yard waste into soil that helps all those heirloom veggies grow. Two kid goats and 38 chicks (and instructors, too) are there to guide you and your family.

Frolicking at FIGMENT. Flickr photo courtesy of CaptainKidder.


FIGMENT Festival: Saturday, June 9–Sunday, June 10, 10 – 6
From the same awesome people who brought you Minigolf and the Treehouse, FIGMENT is a free annual celebration of participatory art and culture, where everything is possible. Information here.

FIGMENT 2012 Summer-Long Installations: June 9-September 23
Minigolf is back! And this year the theme is arcade, so players can “whack-a-clown, rescue a princess, and save the world from inevitable asteroid destruction one putt at a time.” FIGMENT also presents the interactive Sculpture Garden and the now-expanded Treehouse; these artist-designed installations are here for you to play on, sit on, and think on.

Jazz Age Lawn Party: Saturday-Sunday, June 16-17 and August 18-19, 11 – 5
Without fail the most-anticipated event on this list (according to me), Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra are back to bring the hot jazz and light-hearted fun. The Jazz-Age Lawn party brings you back to the roaring 1920s for anafternoon of live music and dance, instruction in period dances, picnicking, and games. Tickets are $15 in advance, and kids under 12 are free. Information here.

Trisha Brown Dance Company: Astral Converted in Process: Saturday, June 23rd and 30th: at the LMCC Art Center in Building 110, 1 pm & 3 pm
The Trisha Brown Dance Company is here to fill the dance-shaped void in your life. The Company allows the public to observe their Saturday open rehearsals for a rare behind-the-scenes look into the process of this iconic artist’s company. Also check out their children’s workshops on June 24 and July 1 at 1pm.

Local, handmade gift shop “Better Than Jam” and Etsy workshops: Through September 3
New York City’s most talented artists and crafters supply this shop in the Governors Galleries. Better Than Jam’s gift shop offers locally made souvenirs that were designed and crafted with the Island in mind. The shop and Etsy’s New York Team partner to host demonstrations and workshops on Saturdays from noon to 4.

Make Music New York’s Punk Island: Sunday, June 24, 11 – 5
Make Music New York transforms Governors Island into Punk Island with dozens of free performances throughout the day. Information here.

The North Face Get Outside on Governors Island 10K: Sunday, June 24
The summer can’t all be about sitting on your ass getting a tan (wait… it can’t?). Get up and burn some calories at the North Face Get Outside 10K — that’s about 6.2 miles, for anyone pretending to understand kilometers—and includes free kids’ events of 1K and a 100 yard dash. Race information is here.

Cook Out NYC: Saturday and Sunday, July 7-8, noon
This country fair and barbecue features a burger cook off and kimchi eating contest (!), with custom beers by local craft breweries (including Sixpoint) to celebrate “NYC July Good Beer Month.” Kids 12 and under are free with parents. Tickets will be available shortly here.

Come Out & Play Field Day: Saturday, July 14, noon – 6 on the Parade Ground
Return to the schoolyard with Come Out & Play Field Day. Field Day will feature a range ofgames, from old-school dodgeball battles to games incorporating the use of smart phones.

Governors Island Swim: Saturday, July 28, 11:30am
Jump off a ferry and swim the challenging two miles around the Island, or if you’re not brave enough to submerge yourself in the murky waters to see the excellent view and get some exercise, you can cheer people on.

Outdoor Bocce: Saturday, August 25, noon

Play outdoor bocce and take free test rides of Linus Bikes while DJs spin for you. Like Floyd’s, but with sunlight. Information here.

Pig Island III: Saturday, September 1, 11:30 – 4

For all the pork lovers out there, the mother shipis calling you home: Pig Island is a celebration of local pork, seasonal foods, craft beer and win produced in New York State. Tickets here.

NYC Unicycle Festival: Saturday and Sunday, September 1 and 2, noon
Seen that dude in Williamsburg riding a unicycle? Wondering how he does it? Come find out with a day of unicycle races, games, presentations, and the largest group of one-wheeled fanatics to gather in the five boroughs. Learn more here.

For more on Governor’s Island, including events, travel and other news, visit the Trust for Governors Island