Concierge.com's insider take:
This 172-acre former military facility situated off the southern tip of Manhattan has become something of a warm-weather playground for open space–deprived downtowners and Brooklynites. Around 92 acres of the island's northern section are a National Historic Landmark District and open to the public during summer and early fall. Expansive lawns and shaded walkways are beyond bucolic, while the stately brick mansions and clapboard houses (formerly Army and Coast Guard housing) give the island the slightly spooky air of a quaint neighborhood abandoned when its inhabitants fled an unknown disaster. Ranger-led historic tours will give you perspective on the history of the island and a look inside the supposedly haunted Castle Williams, built in the early 1800s and used as a Civil War military prison. The best way to see the island is by bike, and a company called Bike and Roll rents everything from retro cruisers to family-friendly quadcycles for riding the road that encircles the island, giving you views of the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn. Once you've worked up an appetite, hit Water Taxi Beach for burgers, hot dogs, and beer to enjoy at picnic tables set on imported sand. Or pick up one of their Picnic Pouches (sandwiches, bottled water, and fruit plus a beach ball) and snag a prime spot under the trees.
To reach the island, take one of the free ferries from lower Manhattan's Battery Maritime Building near the Staten Island Ferry terminal. Boats leave Manhattan every hour until 3 pm, and the last ferry departs Governors Island at 5 pm.—Emma Sloley
Open Fridays through Sundays late May through mid October, plus Memorial Day and Labor Day.