When I’m at home in Ontario in the summer, I ride my bike everywhere. Most of the time, I’d rather ride my bike than drive; the freedom and mobility you have on a bike is something that a car just can’t offer. I weave in and out of alleys and between buildings, zoom by pedestrians with my bell dinging away, and skid to a stop once I reach my destination. In short, I’m a wild woman on my bike. And when I’m here in the city, I miss it terribly. Based purely on circumstance, I’ve had to leave my bike at home, and go bikeless while in New York. This past Saturday, however, I was reunited with one of my favorite summer activities while visiting Governors Island.
Governors Island is located only 800 yards from the southern tip of Manhattan, and is accessible from both South Ferry, and from Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn. First claimed by the Dutch in 1611, Governors Island became a United States Army post in 1783, and remained such until 1966, when it became an installation of the United States Coast Guard. In 2001, part of the island was named a National Monument, and much of the island is now owned and operated by the State of New York. Though only open during the summer months, the island packs those months with tons of activities, many of them free. The Beach @Governors Island presents a concert series during the summer; this year’s line up features popular acts She & Him (who performed on the 4th of July); MIA; and Corinne Bailey Rae, among others. On June 27th, the island hosted the Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic, which saw none other than Prince Harry hit the field. There are ongoing tours, a newly opened handmade gift shop, and coming up this weekend: the Meatopia BBQ NYC food fest! The island itself is beautiful, and offers fantastic views of the city, as well as an excess of parkland which easily allows for the fantasy that you’re not near New York at all. It’s quiet, serene, green; the perfect escape for someone looking to beat the city heat and summer crowds.
I wasn’t on Governors Island for any particular event; my friends and I packed blankets, picked up picnic supplies, and spent a couple hours just sitting on the grass, eating and chatting, quickly forgetting that we were only about a thousand yards from the financial district. After lunch, we each opted to rent a bike, even though the rentals are slightly pricey at $15 for two hours. The bikes themselves are adorable, simple cruisers by the Electra Bicycle Company, the men’s bikes a dark grey color, and the women’s a charming turquoise. The bikes take some getting used to if you’re accustomed to a normal mountain bike; the baskets on the front change the way the bikes are weighted, and the pedal brakes require some careful riding in the beginning. But once you get the hang of it, the bikes are comfortable and the ride is smooth.
The island is not big, and in two hours we were able to leisurely ride all the way around it three times, stopping occasionally for drinks, or pictures, or sunbathing. There are houses on the island from when Army personnel were stationed there, and riding amongst the large houses is like being back in the suburbs. Once you reach the water, the riding path stretches in front of you like a boardwalk, bathed in sun and practically daring you to see what the bikes can do. My wild streak reared its head, and as I flew past my friends, I relished the sun and breeze. The bikes don’t go as fast or move with the agility of a mountain bike, but there was something so lovely about riding a cruiser, my bag attached the basket, and the Statue of Liberty to my left. Reminded me of summers at home.
Governors Island is open Friday to Sunday, now through October 5th. Ferry rides to the island are free, and take less than five minutes. Click here to see a full ferry schedule.