Honey whole lotta Gov: Your 2013 Governors Island guide

You don't have to be elected to spend a day here. via Facebook
You don’t have to be elected to spend a day here. via Facebook

Time to get on Island Time! Governors Island is back for what appears to be its best season to date. As big changes get underway on the island, vendors, events, and displays aren’t slowing down. For the perfect day sojourn, choose from any of the events listed below (and many more that we couldn’t list because, you know… space) or just post up under a tree and read. Don’t have a book? Visit the Uni Project’s outdoor reading room and select a tome—they’ve partnered with the NYPL, Brooklyn and Queens Libraries to bring you a great selection.

You could also bike, or nap, or play mini-golf (this year’s theme: “State of the Art”).

The Vital Questions:

When is it open?

Saturday, Sunday, and holiday Mondays (Memorial Day and Labor Day) from 10am to 7pm, May 25-September 29 .

How do I get there?

Free ferries leave from Manhattan at South Ferry and Brooklyn at Pier 6. For $4, The NY Waterway/East River Ferry runs a route from Midtown Manhattan to Greenpoint, Williamsburg, DUMBO, and Governors Island. Their app is fairly useful, allowing you to purchase tickets, board with your on-screen ticket, and check schedules.

Can I just hide in one of these awesome houses and live here?

No. Not yet, anyway.

Where do I even start?

Good question. It depends where your predilections lie. Relaxing, engaging, interactive and thoughtful activities abound– the hard part is choosing!

TL;DR, what’s free?

Ferries, installation art, viewing vintage Volkswagen car show, bikes courtesy of RECESS, art sessions for kids, and Etsy-led workshops and demonstrations.


Old-timey baseball takes centerstage at the Opening Day festivities. via Facebook
Old-timey baseball takes centerstage at the Opening Day festivities. via Facebook

Opening Day Family Festival

This weekend marks the opening of Governors Island for the season, and to celebrate, they are hosting the Opening Day Family Festival from 12pm-4pm on Saturday. Hosted by the Governors Island Alliance in Nolan Park, there will be arts and crafts, musical and theatrical performances and harbor-education activities for kids of all ages. That same day will be the first appearance of the Vintage Baseball event on the Parade Ground, which recreates America’s pastime as it used to be played (so, no to ‘roids, yes to awesome uniforms). For more dates, see the calendar.


Figment Project, an island mainstay of art appreciation, has a slew of interactive exhibits lined up for 2013 in addition to their mini-golf course, including an already-funded Kickstarter campaign to get a giant music box installed on the island.

Jazz Age Lawn Parties

If, like many of us, you are a Jazz Age Lawn Party veteran, this needs no explanation. However, if you’re new to the idea of dressing up in ‘20’s garb and makeup to travel to an idyll seemingly stuck in a distant time, you’re in for a treat. Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra headline the festival, which features St. Germain-Champagne or vodka cocktails and Brooklyn Brewery beer, vintage cars for show, old-fashioned photo booths, tug-o-war, a Charleston dance contest and local vendors hawking 1920’s-related wares. Picnics and dancing abound! Last year there was even an impossibly small-waisted corset-wearing woman selling cigarettes and snacks out of a neck-strap serving tray. How’s that for authenticity? The atmosphere is at once high-energy and peaceful; long-forgotten manners and gestures make a reappearance, as if you have actually travelled back to the ‘20s. Tickets, which are $30, sell out quickly, so get on it. June 15-16, August 17-18, 11am-5pm.

The North Face’s Get Outside on Governors Island 10K

For the athletically inclined, The North Face’s Get Outside on Governors Island 10K returns again this summer, taking place Sunday, June 23. It’s presented by Paragon Sports, so you get $10 off registration when you sign up in-store at Union Square.


RECESS is once again providing their badminton (June 22) and bocce (Aug. 24) offerings, complete with tournaments, beer and wine tents, free bike rides, and DJs spinning tunes.

The NYC Volkswagen Traffic Jam
The Traffic Jam is a spectator-judged vintage Volkswagen car show and accompanying picnic. Travel back in time with a fantastic array of almost 100 Beetles, buses, dune buggies, Things, and other original Volkswagens from the 1950’s – 1970’s. Spectators can attend (and ogle) for free, but those who want to showcase their wheels must sign up in advance and pay a small fee. August 25, 10AM.

See the Park in Progress with a Behind-the-Scenes Hard Hat Tour
Is your curiosity piqued by what might lay in store for Governors Island with all this construction going on? Mine too. The Trust for Governors Island or members of the West 8 design team lead sneak peak tours of the construction on 30 acres of new park and public spaces at the center of the Island. This could be your chance to put in a bid for affordable housing on Governors Island. Can you imagine the view? (Fine Print: Space is limited and admittance given on a first-come, first served basis to those ages 7 and up. Tours begin and end at Liggett Arch. Hardhats and vests will be provided and closed-toe footwear is required.)


Learn all the ways you could have endangered America during World War 2. via Facebook
Learn all the ways you could have endangered America during World War 2. via Facebook

Rising Tide presented by the Sculptors Guild
Artists from the New York area have found inspiration and healing in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation, nearly six months after it affected the area. This show acknowledges “rising tides of all stripes (political, social, psychological) in the hope of drawing attention to the new forms that result – to the bright and shiny treasures that have now washed ashore.” Support our city’s communal healing through art every weekend from 11am – 5pm.

WWII & NYC: Photography and Propaganda, Presented by the New York Historical Society
This exhibition paints a vivid picture of life in war-mobilized New York City, when basically every industry, institution and home was transformed into an asset to bring about an Allied victory. Through touching black-and-white photos, iconic propaganda posters and even an authentic Victory Garden, you’ll be able to experience what living during WWII meant for New Yorkers. Interactive activities for all ages will start July 13th. June 15 – September 2, 10AM – 6:30PM.

Shipwrecked! A History of Maritime Disasters in NYC Harbor
Shipwrecked! will provide an inside look at New York City’s historical maritime mayhem. Using artifacts pulled up from the depths along with relevant materials, Empire Historic Arts seeks to educate about the local area and maritime history. The exhibit includes artifacts from public and private collections up and down the Hudson, many of which have never been seen by the public. Certainly by this they don’t mean bodies, but you can find out for yourself all season long.

Better Than Jam: Handmade Gifts Shop
Fancy a whirl through Etsy’s latest and greatest while you’re visiting the Island? Conveniently, now in its 3rd year, Better Than Jam is a summer-long outpost of all-local, handmade-in-New-York products. Not that you don’t like jam as a souvenir, but one overzealous PB&J can decimate your stash (I might know from experience). Visit BTJ for long-lasting products and crafts from local artisans, now without the shipping fee! Free family-friendly demonstrations and workshops hosted by the Etsy New York team take place on Saturdays from 1pm – 4pm. BTJ is open from 11am – 6pm, and all events take place in Nolan Park’s yellow Victorian-style house.


Finally, a Civil War re-enactment where the North wins. via Facebook
Finally, a Civil War re-enactment where the North wins. via Facebook

Mü-Math: The Mobile Unit to Promote Mathematical Thinking
For anyone that doesn’t abhor math, or in fact kind of likes it and wonders why no one else is on their level, the mobile Mü-Math unit returns! For its second summer on Governors Island, Mü-Math: The Mobile Unit to Promote Mathematical Thinking will be employing a slew of “hands on, minds on” brain challenges for you to solve. The tasks are designed to engage everyone ages 8 and up, so bring all your math buddies. 11am – 5pm.

Civil War Heritage Weekend
As we mark the 150th anniversaries of the Battle of Gettysburg and the New York Draft Riots, historians offer a glimpse into the life of a Civil War solider with a tour of camp and musket and cannon firing demonstrations.  Pairs well with tours of Castle Williams or the National Park Service’s walking tour of the entire Historic District on the Island. August 10–11.

Programs for Youth: Bring Them Back Alive!
Let your children discover what life was like way back when, on Governors Island and in New York City. They’ll learn to do drills like a Civil War soldier and hear stories of the women and girls of the time. (Fine Print: Call 646-241-2670 or email [email protected] to make a reservation. The program begins with the arrival of the 10am Manhattan ferry.) Fridays at 10am.

New York City Poetry Festival
The Poetry Society of New York hosts the annual two-day fete to celebrate the city’s vibrant poetry community. The weekend event will include over 50 poetry organizations and 200 poets on three stages, as well as a Vendor’s Village where local booksellers, artists and craftmakers will sell their goods, a beer garden sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery, many healthy food options, and installation art throughout to entertain and inspire the poet in you. The beloved Children’s Festival at NYCPF returns this year as well, so bring the kids and an open mind! July 27–28, 11am – 5pm.

“Writing On It All” event
Writing on It All is a series of activities where artists, writers and anyone else who is interested can come together to write all over the inside surfaces of an out-of-use house in Nolan Park. Participants will explore the nature of writing as collaborative, material, site-specific and ephemeral. Through prompts that support writing specifically related to being on Governors Island, invited guest artists and the public will have the chance to explore the amalgamation of writing, history and the environment around them.  June 16, 22, 23 and 30 from 12pm – 3pm.

Children’s Museum of the Arts Free Art Island Outpost Program

CMA’s Teaching Artists are offering free art sessions each weekend so that you and your mini-me (or charge, or favorite 5 year old) can express your artistic creativity. Join up with other visitors and collaborate on manifold themed art workshops, including painting, sound design, sculpture, animation, podcasting and more. May 25–September 29, 11am – 3pm.

In closing, ladies and gentlemen: the brigadoon of Governors Island awaits! Get thee to the ferry.

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