Governors Island; a trip back through history

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Governors Island, where do I start?

I thought I knew all of New York City. I’m amazed that I am often finding myself in areas that I had never been before and this past weekend was no exception. A few of us went on an adventure, to another land, which was only 800 yards from downtown Manhattan. It’s so close, yet is its own world.

Governors Island was settled briefly by the Dutch in 1624 but its main claim to fame is being a military base from 1794 to 1996, when it closed. It was home to the US Army and then the US Coast Guard. In 2001, President Clinton established the 22-acre as a national park and in 2003, President Bush transferred the remaining 150 acres to the people of New York.

From being used as a base in the American Revolutionary War to a National Park today, is some transformation, yet so much of it is like going back in time. It remains like it has for 200 years or so.

The island is open from May 1 to October 1 each year and it’s a pity because Governors Island would be a perfect place for a pumpkin patch and Christmas village. It’s a bit Williamsburg, VA and a bit of old Boston. There’s a meadow you come upon and you swear you are in “Little House on the Prairie,” as you see no surrounding buildings. All at once, you come upon an old movie theater where you think you are on the back lot of “The Waltons,” and the houses – the colonial houses which surround a sort of green square takes you back to a simpler time – all this mere feet from Brooklyn.

And the fantasy of the whole thing is that you have to arrive by ferry! There are ferries from different areas of the city, so hop on one and head over. The ferry ride itself is a beautiful experience as you glide by New York’s skyscrapers and cruise under its many bridges.

Once you get to the island, there is more than enough to do. Take in the greenery and quaintness and history. This is real history all surrounded by nature.

There is free kayaking and picnic lunches and biking and food trucks and hammocks and mini golf and so much more; and the best part has to be what they call “The Hills.” There is one hill, which seems like a mini-mountain, it is 70 feet above sea level. It is sort of like climbing a pyramid. There are large pyramid-style rocks piled up and you climb to the top – the only way to get there. Once at the top the first thing you see is the Statue of Liberty right in front of you in the harbor, you feel as if you can reach out and touch her.

Turn around and there, sparkling in the distance is downtown Manhattan and Jersey City. The view is spectacular. I sat there on a large rock and just watched people’s reactions as they turned and saw the view for the first time. Amazing.

There are events throughout the summer like the Poetry Festival and the Scavenger Hunt, there are art exhibits and so much more.

You can spend each weekend there during the season and find something new to do each weekend. For more info, check out their website at: https://govisland.com

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