I usually build my trip to New York around places to see, the odd exhibition, new restaurants to try out–and eating at some of my favourite ones, too. This year I’m thinking of planning it around this fun outdoor party for some dancing!
For two weekends over the summer months, Governors Island – a short (free) ferry ride off southern Manhattan – becomes the setting for this Prohibition-era gathering. People get dressed up in fabulous 1920s costumes – think pearls, suspenders, straw hats – gather on the grass, sip cocktails and dance the Charleston to old-fashioned tunes from a 1920s jazz band.
There are dance lessons, a pie-eating contest and tug-of-war, a bathing suit fashion show, vintage portrait sessions and even a croquet tournament. “I can’t think of a more delightful way to spend a weekend in the city”, says legendary New York Times fashion photographer, Bill Cunningham, who took some photos of the event a few years ago.
The event was created by jazz musician, Michael Arenella, who sings every Wednesday at the elegant Clover Club cocktail bar in Brooklyn (insider tip: the Harvest Punch is delicious). It started as a small lawn party for family, friends and jazz fans, after a casual chat with the island’s groundskeeper. Twelve years later, the Jazz Age Lawn Party is a big swinging event attracting more than 10,000 people!
Governors Island itself is fun to explore, too. It used to be the location for an army base which guarded Manhattan, with colonial revival homes, a theatre, church and fort. After it closed it lay deserted for years but is now open to the public. You can explore the old buildings, rent bikes, eat ice cream, laze around on the grass and go kayaking (for free). The view back across to Manhattan is also amazing.