by Carol Cain at NYCity Mama
Many New Yorkers often like to argue that there never really is a need to leave New York City, that we can find every kind of activity, food, event, and entertainment right here on our “little Island of Manhattan”. This is often true, but every once in awhile some of the best adventures are happening on the smaller islands surrounding it, making for a wonderful island hopping excursion, no plane ticket required.
Governor’s Island recently opened its shores for the season. With events well on their way till the Fall, this destination is only a 10 minute, free ferry ride away. Aside from many scheduled concerts and other family activities, you can also rent bikes, for individuals and families, big and small, allowing you to ride and fully enjoy the 2.2 miles around the island. Enjoy a peaceful picnic on Picnic Point, take in some jazz on Colonel’s Row, or enjoy a dance performance at Fort Jay, all free of charge, while surrounded by the breath taking views. The facilities for food are minimal, if at all, and consist of grilled hot dogs, burgers, gyros, chips and soda, so pack a lunch, and bring some cash, as there are no banking services available.
City Island, in the Long Island Sound and just past the Bronx, requires a ride on the 6 train and a bus transfer (BX29) to get there, but the charm of this small nautical town makes it worth the trip. It’s proximity to Orchard Beach makes it a popular summer destination, offering visitors a varied selection of seafood eateries. It is also the home to iconic Salsa musician’s Tito Puente’s restaurant.
Liberty Island and Ellis Island are accessible only by ferry, through either New York’s Battery Park or New Jersey’s Liberty State Park. Liberty Island is home to The Statue of Liberty monument, while Ellis Island is home to The Immigration Center. There is a fee for riding the ferry, but not for entering the park, or the monument. It is highly recommended that visitors make a reservation (you must indicate if you are planning on going into the monument), and if you are reserving your ticket with access to the monument it is recommended to do so early, as lines tend to get long especially during the summer and holidays.
Roosevelt Island is accessible by subway and The Roosevelt Island Tram which charges the same as a one-way subway pass. The tram, which is the most recommended form of travel to the island, is a 4 minute ride both ways, and the views are the best in the city. The island is not very big and is easily explored by foot. Take in the architecture and walk along the seawall while admiring its neighbors, Manhattan and Queens, from a distance.
Staten Island is considered more of a borough than an “island”, however, it still remains as one of my favorite NYC Island day trips for all it has to offer. The free Staten Island Ferry alone is so peaceful and wonderful, that most New Yorkers and tourists alike take the ride one way only to immediately turn around and come right back. However, venturing into Staten Island can be just as fun with visits to Snug Harbor Cultural Center, which in addition to the Staten Island Children’s Museum, happens to also be the home to the Staten Island Museum, The Noble Maritime Collection, and The Art Lab, a school of fine and applied art founded in 1975 by professional artists. It is also where you’ll find the popular South Beach, with its fabulous boardwalk, picnic areas, and playgrounds.