Since its opening to the public in 2003, Governors Island has become a favorite summer getaway from the city for many families. The historic island hosts art installations, music and dance events, and even provides a field of hammocks for some downtime. The island now offers yet another reason to hop a ferry: The Hills, a brand new 10-acre park that features art, stunning harbor views and — most importantly — some seriously super slides.

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photo: Timothy Schenck


Hello to The Hills!

Designed by the Dutch landscape architecture firm West 8 and almost 10 years in the making, The Hills are built on a foundation of the demolished remains of old Governors Island buildings and parking spots. The heights of the slopes range from 25 feet to a towering 70, and each has its own charm.

Grassy Hill is a 25 foot high grassy slope where families can take a stroll or relax on the grass. This hill is perfect if you have younger kids, who can’t quite make the climb up any of the other hills.

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photo: Timothy Schenck

Discovery Hill rises up higher, at 40 feet tall. The wood shavings here make for soft padding underfoot, but they do tend to get into sandals. Wear sneakers for this one! The climb is fairly steep, and a small fence looks to be more to keep people out of the newly-planted brush than for safety, so hold extra adventurous tykes close. This hill is home to “Cabin”, a permanent art installation by Turner Prize-winning British artist Rachel Whiteread, and provides some great views at the summit.

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photo: Timothy Schenck

The tallest of the four hills, Outlook Hill, reaches 70 feet at its peak. There are two paths up the hill: the easy route consists of a wide, paved road that winds up the hill at a fairly gentle slope (perfect for strollers). If you don’t have a stroller in tow, you can ascend the fun way: climbing up the Scramble. Large granite blocks sourced from the old island seawall form irregular steps easily traversed by nimble adults and older kids. Once you reach the top, you’re rewarded with even more incredible views of the Harbor, the Statue of Liberty, and the Manhattan, Brooklyn and Jersey City skylines. A small grassy space makes a nice place to rest for a bit, and more granite rocks are arranged in a semicircle facing the water.

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photo: Yuliya Geikhman

A Slippery Slope
It’s Slide Hill, though, that will undoubtedly have the biggest impact on your little ones. The hill is 40 feet high, and has four incredibly long slides. The tallest of these reaches an intense 57 feet in length, making it the longest slide in New York City – that’s a height of three stories up! The other three slides are about half the length, with one being wide enough to fit two. All the slides are super fast, with the tallest definitely reserved for the more daring of the kids, including, it seems, their parents. Even though a nearby sign points out that the slides are intended for use by kids 5 – 14, adults have just as much fun sliding down as their kids.

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photo: Yuliya Geikhman

When your kid’s turn comes, be ready to catch any flying children, as these slides tend to launch you right off the end when you reach the bottom. Don’t worry, though: the soft ground at the base is ready to break any fall with minimal consequences. To reach the top of the slides, square wooden columns are arranged in a way that allows natural climbing. More of the island’s seawall blocks surround the slides. The slides are a load of fun, but keep a close eye on the kids as there are no safety measures in place. On sunny days, make sure everyone’s wearing long pants – the reflective surface of the slides burns when it gets hot.

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photo: Yuliya Geikhman

Hello, Governor!
To cool down after some fun on the slides, Governors Island has teamed up with ice cream makers Blue Marble and The Good Batch to create a signature ice cream for the island. Dubbed “The Governor,” the ice cream combines vanilla ice cream and vanilla cake crumble, a caramel sauce, and brown sugar Grape-Nut clusters meant to symbolize the debris used as the Hills’ foundation.

Governor’s Island is only open until September 25th, so pay it a visit this year before the last ferry departs!

The Hills
Through Sept. 25
Online: govisland.com

Will you be heading to The Hills? Tell us in the comments below! 

— Yuliya Geikhman