I’ve mentioned before that one of the awesome things about Governors Ball is its location of New York City. First off, who doesn’t like going to New York City? Governors Ball being in NYC also allows you to have a huge range of hotel options, and you can really stay anywhere in the city and get to Governors Ball fairly easily. The only tricky part about getting to Governors Ball is the fact that it takes place on Randall’s Island. This means there’s no direct subway that will get you to Governors Ball. Despite this it's still really easy to get to Governors Ball and this article is going to explain how. Let's begin with where Governors Ball takes place exactly.
Governors Ball takes place on Randall's Island near Icahn Stadium. Technically Randall’s Island is part of the Manhattan borough but is separated from what we typically think of Manhattan as by the Harlem River. It is separated from Queens by the East River. Few people live on the island as it is mostly constituted of parks, fields, and picnic grounds. The advantageous part of hosting Governors Ball at Randall’s Island every year is it is fairly central to many areas of New York City. Governors Ball can be easily accessed from Manhattan, Queens or Brooklyn. This is great for attendees of Governors Ball as you can stay anywhere in New York City and have easy access to the festival.
Now that you know where you are going I will go into all of your options for getting to Governors Ball. Let’s start off with the packages that Governors Ball sells along with their tickets. If you don't want to use these packages and prefer public transportation then jump ahead past this section.
The figure above shows the transportation packages offered by Governors Ball last year. Prices are as follows:
Over the years the transportation packages offered by Governors Ball haven't changed much so I'd expect this to remain the same going forward. As you can see you have two options: a shuttle from Brooklyn (Williamsburg to be exact) and a ferry from Manhattan. Let's begin with the ferry.
The first option is a ferry from Manhattan that takes you across the Harlem River to Governors Ball. For all three days the ferry will cost you $59.02 after fees. You can also take the ferry to Governors Ball for one day for $22.09 after fees. This is how Governors Ball themselves describe the ferry:
“Festival Ferries will be traveling to and from Randall’s Island each day of the festival, throughout the day. Departures will take place from East 35th Street Ferry Landing located at the intersection of East 35th Street at the FDR Drive, with ferries running approximately every 15 minutes, starting at 11:00am. Ferries to the island will stop at 9pm and ferries from the island will not stop until all ferry ticket buyers are off the island. This is without a doubt the easiest way to get to/from the show. There are only a limited number of ferry tickets available.”
If you are unsure about the pickup location for the Governors Ball Ferry you can go to this Google Map where a pin is dropped at the ferry pickup. If you are staying in Manhattan this is the best way to get to Governors Ball everyday. The ferry runs fairly frequently, and it’s very easy to get to the ferry location. There are multiple trains that drop off within a 5-10 minute walk from the ferry location, or there are several bus options from nearby. Regardless of where you are in Manhattan this is going to be fairly easy to get to. You also have the added benefit that once you are on the ferry there is no traffic and you get right to Governors Ball. Plus, how cool is it that you can take a ferry to Governors Ball? No other music festival lets you access it by boat! The ferry pass usually goes fairly quickly for Governors Ball so if you want to use it be sure to buy your pass quickly. You can buy the ferry pass when you buy your Governors Ball tickets, which first goes on sale generally in late January or early February.
If you are too cool for Manhattan and want to stay in hipster Brooklyn then you can take the shuttle from Brooklyn to Governors Ball. The three day Brooklyn shuttle to Governors Ball will cost you $69.57 after fees and a single day pass will be $27.37 after fees. Here’s how Governors Ball describes the Brooklyn shuttle:
“Festival shuttle buses will be traveling to and from Randall’s Island each day of the festival, throughout the day. Shuttles will pick up at Brooklyn Bowl (N. 12th Street and Wythe) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, starting at 11:30am until 4:30pm before dropping off at the festival site. Shuttle bus tickets can and should be purchased in advance, ticketing info will be released in the coming months."
This is also an incredibly easy and comfortable way to get to/from the show, plus it will drop you off in Williamsburg at the end of each night – a great place to be if you want to keep the party going after Governors Ball ends at 11. There are only a limited number of shuttle tickets available, and tickets WILL sell out!
If you are staying near Brooklyn this is your best bet for getting to Governors Ball. The shuttle runs frequently and is a comfortable ride to Governors Ball, so it’s a great option if you aren’t off put by the price.
Two things to consider with these options: first, I would say is each option is fairly expensive. You can still get to Governors Ball and Randall’s Island for much cheaper without these two packages, it just won’t be as convenient. If you have the money just do one of these packages and be done with it. If you are ballin’ on a budget keep reading for your other options with public transportation. Second, each of these packages is plagued with long lines if you leave after a headliner wraps up. Getting to Governors Ball will be no problem and the lines for either option isn't too bad. However, if you leave at 11 when the festival ends expect big lines to board either option home. My advice is to leave about 5-10 minutes before the headliner finishes unless you really love the headliner - it will save you a lot of time getting off of Randall's.
As I mentioned, if you are trying to save some money then I say skip Governors Ball's travel options. New York City offers excellent public transportation and thus an alternative method to get to Governors Ball. Obviously a lot of this will depend on where you are staying, but there is almost a 100% chance there is some form of public transportation you could take to Governors Ball. Note in general my advice is to take transportation to the RFK Bridge (on either side of Randall's) and then just walk to Governors Ball. If you are coming from Manhattan / Harlem it's a shorter walk across the bridge from Queens, but either is doable. It's a little bit of a walk but it saves you money, you don't need to wait for the line to die down for the bus/ferry, and it's a nice and scenic walk usually. Anyways, here are some examples of getting to Governors Ball from various areas in NYC.
Getting To Governors Ball from Lower Manhattan
If you are going to Governors Ball from Lower Manhattan it’s really easy to get to Governors Ball. Hop on the 6 train from one of many stops in Manhattan and take it until MLK Jr. Boulevard. There you can walk across the RFK Bridge to Governors Ball.
Getting to Governors Ball from Upper Manhattan
Depends a bit on where you stay but it will basically be the same directions to Governors Ball as from Lower Manhattan. Take the 6 train to MLK Jr. Boulevard and then walk across the RFK bridge.
Getting to Governors Ball from Queens
I actually stay in Astoria for Governors Ball, so not far from Queens. Public transportation is a bit trickier from these areas as there is no bus that drops off on Randall's coming from the east. My personal strategy is to take either public transportation or just an Uber to the RFK bridge near Astoria Park and then just walk across the RFK Bridge from there. Some days we just walked all the way from Astoria to Governors Ball, and while that is possible, it is indeed a hike. You can also ride a bike across the bridge, which is a nice option too if you are comofrtable riding a bike in NYC. We timed our walk across the RFK Bridge from the beginning of the bridge to Governors Ball this past year and it came in at just over a 35 minute walk - not bad as it was free, you get some nice views of NYC, and it made it easier to justify more delicious food at Governors Ball.
As you can see there are options for getting to Governors Ball regardless of where you stay in NYC. Obviously I didn’t cover each area but I hope I showed you that regardless of where you stay you have options for getting around NYC. Generally I really advise getting to the RFK bridge somehow and then walking across - the traffic into Governors Ball is a nightmare and you will pay a lot of money to sit idly that last mile or so. Let’s now look at some other options for getting to Governors Ball.
Just don’t do it unless you really have to. Traffic is going to be awful and it’s going to be overpriced. There are better ways to get to Governors Ball but if you insist just keep the following important points in mind. Governors Ball and Randall’s Island do not allow any tailgating or overnight parking. There is also no where to park for the festival so the only option for Governors Ball is to take a cab, be dropped off or Lyft/Uber. An important thing to keep in mind is there is no Uber/Lyft home at night:
You can take a ride share to Governors Ball but have a plan for getting home at night. There are a lot of people there offering to drive you, some were even Lyft / Uber drivers just not using the app, but we didn't feel comfortable enough to try this. We saw a lot of people walking across the RFK Bridge and then ordering a ride share once they crossed. and they became legal again
As I mentioned this is my preferred way to get to Governors Ball. Even at night there are always a lot of people doing the walk so you don't need to worry about walking alone at night, and the walk is fairly easy. You can also ride your bike to Governors Ball if you have access to one and are comfortable doing this. Governors Ball does have bike racks, you just need to bring a lock.
If you can afford the official transportation through Governors Ball that is going to be an easy way to get into Governors Ball. If not, New york City offers a plethora of ways to get to Randall’s Island to enjoy Governors Ball. My only recommendation is to not go by car, find another way unless you enjoy sitting in traffic and paying overpriced Ubers.