10 Tips to Visit Governors Island

Arsenal CO House
The Arsenal Commanding Officer’s House was originally constructed as two freestanding buildings for the New York Arsenal. The southern section was built about 1835. The northern section was built in 1839 in the Greek Revival style as the quarters for the commanding officer of the Arsenal.

As Governors Island opens this weekend for its 13th annual public season—and is open 7 days a week—until September, here is a list of things to remember before getting in line for the ferry.

1. Before leaving home, charge your mobile phones to 100 percent. The island only got electricity in 1905, and getting a charge is like finding the ghost of U.S. Grant.

2. Bring cash. The bank closed in 1996. The pop-up shops and food vendors appreciate your cash.

3. Wear comfortable shoes. Unless you are going to walk off the ferry and sit down immediately, you’ll probably walk at least one to three miles (or more) in one day on the island.

4. Bring a water bottle. The island now has water fountains for free refills!

5. Don’t forget sunscreen, hat, sunglasses. Governors Island gets a lot of sun on the south end, where the new trees are still growing. Nolan Park has lots of shade.

6. Backpacks are good. I am always buying things at the pop-up shops. So unless you want to carry it around, bring a small backpack.

7. Picnic blanket or old sheet. Nothing beats having lunch or a snack on the grass on Governors Island.

8. Camera is needed. Unless you want to run your phone battery down, bring a camera. Remember those? Great memories are made on the island.

9. Reading material. The island does have a bookstore on the island, but bringing a book or newspaper is recommended. Head for the hammocks!

10. Extra clothes for kids. If you are bringing kids, bring a second set of clothes. There are water sprinklers on the island.

Finally, remember the don’t list on the island: no pets (except service dogs), no alcohol (it’s served on the island), and no cars.

Have fun!

Kevin C. Fitzpatrick has written and edited seven books with ties to New York history, including "The Governors Island Explorer's Guide" and "World War I New York: A Guide to the City’s Enduring Ties to the Great War." Kevin is a licensed sightseeing guide and has been leading walking tours since 1999. He resides in Manhattan.