9 of the Best Spots To Picnic on Governors Island
With streets filled with pedestrians, imposing skyscrapers that extend to the clouds, the blare of car horns, and the rumble of the subway, there’s no place quite like New York City. NYC has endless opportunities to satisfy your desire to explore as a local or visitor.
Across its five diverse boroughs, unearth something new every day within the multitude of communities, restaurants, parks, landmarks, and more. No one can keep up with a metropolis 24 hours a day. Governors Island is the perfect place to find some breathing room if you still adore the city views but aren’t too fond of the noise and chaos.
Take time during the afternoon to go on a picnic, soak in the warm rays of sunlight, and discover the beauty of Governors Island. While there are many places to check out, we compiled a list of the top locations to have a peaceful lunch with your loved ones.
Transport to Governors Island
As an island located in the middle of New York Harbor, Governors Island is only accessible by ferry. It may seem like a cumbersome journey, but the short ride and small fee are well worth your time.
Ferry services are accessible from lower Manhattan and Brooklyn daily. Board the ferry from Manhattan at the Battery Maritime Building on 10 South Street, where the 10-minute rides by the Trust for Governors Island depart every half hour starting early morning.
NYC Ferry operates the South Brooklyn route. There are multiple landings along the way, so choose whichever is closest to your current location. Purchase your tickets in advance and enjoy the trip.
1. Governors Island Picnic Point
As the name suggests, Picnic Point is the ideal spot for eating outdoors. The spacious open fields allow families to whip out their picnic blankets without interfering with other visitors. Picnic tables scattered throughout the area are available for those who would rather avoid sitting in the grass. Reserve a grill if you wish to cook up a hot meal.
Because the island is car-free, you access the fresh, slightly salty scent of water flowing in from the Hudson River without the stench of fuel exhaust. You’re at the island’s southern tip, free to enjoy the panoramic scene of the boats coasting along the New York City skyline.
2. Castle Williams
Stop by Castle Williams for a glimpse of history from the early 1800s when Governors Island was a military base. The red sandstone defensive fort contrasts beautifully with the harbor’s blue waters. Check out the outdoor exhibits and have your picnic on the surrounding grounds.
Although you can’t bring your lunch inside, take the opportunity to tour through all three floors as a post-meal workout after eating. You’ll be amazed at how this structure came to be and the influence the design had over similar fortifications.
3. Fort Jay
Fort Jay’s location is nearby Castle Williams, as they both were part of a larger naval defense system. This star-shaped bastion fort from the American Revolution has a long and rich history. The stretches of open grass, known as the Parade Grounds, can be used to set up your lunch.
This fortification also has a walking tour. See Fort Jay’s evolution, including its name changes and various uses, throughout the centuries for yourself.
4. Colonels Row
Next to Parade Grounds sits Colonels Row. Eight sturdy brick homes stand out in the open landscape. Although the houses have long since lost their use as living residencies for military members, creative and cultural shows fill the space instead. The green lawns are a nice, quiet place to picnic on days when events are absent.
You never know what exciting occasions are taking place. Including sports, food, and arts, there’s something for everyone. Check before your trip to see whether you’d like to stop by.
5. Liggett Terrace
This six-acre open-air plaza and park are lively. The bed of blooming flowers, charming fountains, and winding paths make this a delightful picnic spot. If you aren’t in the mood to pack your own basket, opt for purchasing from one of the vendors in the diverse Liggett Terrace Food Court.
Walk around Building 400, also known as the Liggett Hall, a historic barracks over 1,000 feet long. Consisting of three floors with a four-story central section, the Hall is a marvelous sight to take in.
6. Nolan Park
This lovely four-acre park has plenty of historic trees to sit under while eating. The 1800s-style homes in this area are all a brilliant yellow, adding an air of amiability to the space. Like Colonels Row, these houses are for exhibits and other recreational activities. In addition to Point Park, grills are available at Nolan Park for public use with a reservation.
After your meal, talk a walk along the brick pathways. Head over to The Yard, an adventure playground filled with junkyard materials for young kids to explore and release all the energy from their bodies.
7. Hammock Grove
Hammock Grove is a family-friendly choice spanning 10 acres. There is a play area for young children, and everyone of all ages can enjoy the 50 red hammocks set up in the field. Have your afternoon repast here, read a book, or nap if you wish.
There are multiple walking trails for you to find after you’ve satisfied your appetite. Set a challenge to see how long it’ll take for you to circle around the entire Island.
8. The Hills
The Hills offer visitors a unique perspective of the Island and New York City. The four human-made hills have different heights varying from 25 to 70 feet. Dine here for unforgettable views that merge nature, creativity, rest, and beauty.
Experience the thrill of speeding down the four slides at Slide Hill. If you’re brave and itching for an adrenaline rush, try going down the longest slide in New York City. This 57-foot slide is not for the fainthearted.
9. Soissons Landing
Soissons Landing is famously known as one of the best spots to observe the sunset. Right on the edge of the water, you get unparalleled visibility of fading sun rays bouncing off the waves and the building facades of the Manhattan skyline.
If you decide against bringing your own bike, Citi Bike rentals are accessible here. This area is also close to the ferry terminal back to Manhattan, so relax before heading home without worrying about missing a ride.
Stay a While
If you’re enjoying your visit to Governors Island to the point you’re hesitating to leave, don’t fret. Collective Retreats has the perfect accommodations to immerse yourself in this oasis for a few more days.
An option like our Journey+ Tent has a delightful rustic design, allowing you to see the Statue of Liberty from bed. Enjoy Governors Island after everyone else has long gone back home.
Completely temperature controlled, supplied with necessary amenities like fast Wi-Fi, electricity, and a full bathroom, you keep all the comforts you love. You’ll also find luxury comforts such as 1,500 thread sheets on a king bed, fluffy bath robes, and private decks that face the waters.
Curate Your Activities
With Collective Retreats, you have many options to discover new experiences that you won’t find elsewhere. Go beyond a picnic on the island.
Participate in our Collective Rituals. You can lounge on The Great Lawn and play various board games from morning till sunset. We have a complimentary happy hour for our retreat guests in the evening and end the night with artisanal s’mores around the campfires.
If you don’t know how or where to start traversing around Governors Island, our Island Explorations are just what you need. We can help arrange a guided tour to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the monuments, exhibits, or marvelous sights. Our concierge can also provide a self-guided tour if you prefer to go at your own pace.
Treat yourself to an enchanting spa treatment right next door at QC NY. You can find saunas, outdoor spa pools, steam rooms, and more. Take the time to restore your body and mind. As guests of our retreat, you’ll have preferred access and discounts.
Join us for dinner à la carte in the evenings at our outdoor dining area. After picnicking and enjoying the food trucks during the day, sit back, watch the sunset, and savor a delectable international menu made of local provisions. We have mouth watering options that will please everyone, including those with dietary restrictions.
Begin Your Journey
Head to Governors Island to relax in a more serene environment without leaving New York City behind. If you want beautiful picnic locations without the crowds of Central Park, you surely won’t regret visiting this little paradise.