Summer vacation doesn't have to mean actually leaving town. Hop on a ferry to Governors Island, which is transforming into a grown-up playground with new design projects and play-focused festivals. In between relaxing in the cozy island's Hammock Grove, make time to check out all of the summer festivities meant for both kids, and adults who want to feel like a kid again.
Figment NYC mini golf course: For the past eight summers, the artist collective Figment NYC has designed a new mini golf course for the island. This year, the Mini is the New Big course will make you feel like you're in "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" — watermelon slices and an electrical outlet have been enlarged to outsize proportions to complicate your putts. It's free to tee off seven days a week all summer long.
Come Out & Play Field Day: This isn’t the dodgeball hell you remember from elementary school. On July 9, Governors Island will host a play day featuring games created by some of today’s most innovative designers from around the world. Some games feature technology (if you can't make people put down their smartphones, right?) while others rely on classic toys used in new ways. And then there's Tough Bubbler, in which players must navigate an obstacle course while inside a giant inflatable ball.
City of Water Day: On July 16, explore the best that New York City’s waters have to offer with free kayaking, fishing demonstrations, boat tours and paddleboarding. For those who would rather stay on land, there will also be live music, food vendors and all-ages activities. Stick around for the cardboard kayak race: Teams will have two hours to construct a cardboard boat that will compete in open water for the fastest time — though the biggest challenge may just be not sinking!
The Hills: Watch the Likes roll in once you can climb this long-anticipated feature of Governors Island, which officially opens to the public on July 19. Rising up to 70 feet high, the new grassy, sprawling hills have panoramic views of the Financial District and the Statue of Liberty. Besides being the perfect spot for a picnic with a view, you're meant to descend from The Hills via one of four slides — and yes, they're for kids and adults.
NYC Unicycle Festival: All the fun you can have on one wheel comes to Governors Island for Labor Day weekend, Sept. 3-4. The two-day Unicycle Festival will feature races, competitions and sports including unicycle hockey and unicycle basketball. This event isn’t just for pros, either — anyone can test their balance in the learn-to-ride area. A DJ will keep the energy high throughout the day.
Governors Island is open until Sept. 25. Get there via ferry from the Battery Maritime Building and Brooklyn Bridge Park, which are free on weekends before 11:30 a.m. (or normally a less-than-the-subway $2 for adults; kids under 13 free.)