09/03/2013 12:47 pm ET Updated Nov 03, 2013

Exploring NYC's Governors Island

Whether New Yorkers are stuck in traffic on the 495 or sitting on a stuffy, motionless train five minutes past "departure time," the bottom line is: unless you're renting a private helicopter, New York isn't the easiest city to escape.

Luckily there's an island 800 yards off the tip of Manhattan that can solve all these big city blues. Governors Island is a mystery to most Gothamites, but here's the truth: it's cheap, it's secluded and it's an easy day trip that gets you feeling like you're out of the city.

Once the summer residence of Colonial New York's royal governor -- hence the name -- then a military base, Governors Island is now open to the public for weekend summer frolicking. Get there via any of the free ferries that depart from Manhattan or Brooklyn between 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. The ride is a maximum eight-minute tussle across New York Harbor.

Once you're there, seize the day! Stroll down Colonels' Row, a runway of green grass surrounded by colonial houses previously occupied by 19th-century high-ranking officers. There are stately cannons, of course, but no cheesy people dressed in colonial duds. No one actually lives on the island, so hop on a bike to cruise down five miles of car-free bike paths. Bike rentals are also available on the island for less than $20. Art exhibits, some interactive, speckle the island for us cultured New Yorkers (and visitors) to appreciate. What's a summer escape without miniature golf? Okay, don't answer that. This mini golf course is different because each of the 18 holes was designed by a different artist. Also, it's free to play.

There's even a beach. Although it's just for sun bathing and that toes-in-the-sand feeling, you can grab a cold brew at the Governors Beach Club on the north end of the island then sit on your beach blanket while you take in the best part of Governors Island: the view. Gazing out from the north end of the island, the Freedom Tower glistens and the Statue of Liberty stands stoically without obstruction. Cheers your adventure buddy to a job well done on a great summer day trip.

Here are my tips for visiting Governors Island:
• Get to the ferry sometime between 10-11 a.m. to avoid a line to board
• Bring a blanket for grass and beach sitting
• Bring some cash for snacks and whatever activities catch your eye
• Wear good walking shoes

-- Kelsie Ozamiz is a producer at Travelzoo and based in New York. Travelzoo has 450 deal experts from around the world who rigorously research, evaluate and test thousands of deals to find those with true value.