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New York's Governors Island: views, bicycle rides and surrey rentals

Ferry at New York's Governors Island
Ferry at New York's Governors Island
Trust for Governors Island

Some of the most gorgeous views of the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline, including One World Trade Center and the Brooklyn Bridge, await visitors who take a no-waiting10-minute ferry ride to Governors Island, just a half-mile from Battery Park in the harbor between Manhattan and Brooklyn

This island still is not as popular as it should be among city residents, let alone tourists. It is a former fort and military housing site that has been revamped as a park destination.

This year Blazing Saddles beckons riders to pedal around the five miles of bike paths on its cruiser bicycles and four-wheeled “surreys”. The rental bikes, located a short walk from the ferry dock, cost $15 for two hours. The surreys, which hold four persons, cost $25 for 30 minutes. Bikes can be borrowed free for one hour on weekday mornings. Travelers are also welcome to bring their own bikes on the ferry to the island.

The views are “jaw-dropping,” in the words of Elizabeth Rapuano, chief of staff of the Trust for Governors Island. “We hope every New Yorker comes to enjoy them.” Officials of Blazing Saddles pointed out that there are long lines and higher costs for the trip to the Statue of Liberty, while there is hardly any wait for a ferry.

The island has several grand new attractions besides the incredible views. There is the national monument Castle Williams, which once protected New York harbor, and there is a whole neighborhood of military homes and buildings used by officers and enlisted men from both the 19th and early 20th centuries.

In the newly created 30 acres of parkland, visitors can relax in a variety of hammocks, play on the lawns, ride a book under a tree, and even watch World Cup soccer matches on a big screen.

There is a “food court” with unique New York delicacies for very little money, including a taco truck, and there are art programs and special events. One event, The Typewriter Project, is open to all thanks to the Poetry Center. It is designed to encourage everyone to join in an analog typewritten conversation.

The ferries depart about every hour weekdays and every half-hour weekends. A round trip ride is $2 for adults on weekday ferries and weekend afternoon ferries. Children under 12 ride free and the Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. ferries from lower Manhattan are free too. There are also ferries from Brooklyn on weekends and holidays. The ferries run now through Sept. 28.