Timeout New York Kids

Make the most of your city

Best NYC boat rides

Find your family's sea legs by exploring the city's waterways on these cruises.

  • Lee Magill

  • Scott Barrow

    Statue Line Cruises' fleet in New York City

  • Photograph: Betsy Frawley Haggerty

    Hidden Harbor Tours

  • Photograph: Betsy Frawley Haggerty

    Hidden Harbor Tours

  • Photograph: Betsy Frawley Haggerty

    Hidden Harbor Tours

  • Photograph: Betsy Frawley Haggerty

    Hidden Harbor Tours

  • Photograph: Betsy Frawley Haggerty

    Hidden Harbor Tours

  • Photograph: Courtesy NYC Audubon

    NYC Audubon Cruise

  • Photograph: Courtesy NYC Audubon

    NYC Audubon Cruise

  • Photograph: Yigal Gelb

    NYC Audubon Cruise

  • Photograph: Courtesy NYC Audubon

    NYC Audubon Cruise

Lee Magill

There is nothing like a ride through the semisalty waves of New York Harbor and the city's three main rivers to make you appreciate the islands that make up New York City. Book some tickets, gather up the crew and explore the aqueous environment your family calls home before summer ends.

The Beast
The gentle breezes on the Circle Line aren't exciting enough for your dynamos? How about 45mph blasts of icy salt spray? Kids flip for this 30-minute speedboat joyride, complete with loud music and wanna-be-comedian guides. Just leave the little guys at the shore; tykes have to be 40 inches or taller to get on board. Pier 83, Hudson River at 42nd St (212-563-3200, circleline42.com). Travel: A, C, E to 42nd St--Port Authority, then take the M42 bus to the river. $26, children ages 3--12 $20.

Circle Line Downtown
Come aboard the cushy Zephyr for a one-hour tour of the downtown skyline. The yacht features climate-controlled indoor and outdoor decks, soft seating and two mahogany snack and beverage bars. Pier 16, South Street Seaport, South St at Fulton St (212-809-0808, circlelinedowntown.com). Subway: A, C, J, Z, 2, 3, 4, 5 to Fulton St. $28, seniors $24, children ages 3--12 $17.

Circle Line Kids' Cruise
Circle Line is offering a series of kids' cruises this summer, each one taking place on the first Saturday of the month through August. On board for each voyage will be a special musical guest (Princess Katie and Racer Steve are booked for August 4) plus members of the Berenstain Bears cast, a juggler, a magician and a balloon artist. There will also be a kid-friendly tour guide who'll teach kids a lot about the city on their trip to the Statue of Liberty and back. Food and drinks are available for purchase during the cruise, and children will leave with prizes. To purchase tickets, go to circleline42.com. Pier 83, W 42nd St at the Hudson River. Subway: A, C, E to 42nd St--Port Authority. $28, children ages 3--12 $20, children under 3 free. All ages.

Come Sail New York
For a special treat, book a two-hour sail around the harbor. It costs $79 per person (all ages), but with only six people per sailboat, you won't feel like a swindled tourist jammed onto some generic barge. Go with another family and take advantage of the "Fill the Boat" specials start at $399. Mention Time Out Kids and children's tickets are half-price. Liberty Landing Marina, Jersey City, NJ (201-887-8700, sailthehudson.com). Travel: A, C, 1 to Chambers St; 2, 3 to Park Pl; E to World Trade Center; then walk down Vesey St toward the Hudson River and take the Liberty Landing Ferry (round-trip $14, children ages 7--12 $10, children under 7 free).

Governors Island Ferry
Much like the Staten Island Ferry, this boat ride is fast and free. Awaiting families on the other shore, however, is an oasis of mini golf, bike rentals, art exhibits, and frequent festivals and concerts in the military base-cum-park. Ferries depart from both Manhattan and Brooklyn, on weekends and holiday Mondays through September 30. *Sat, Sun 10am--7pm. Battery Maritime Building, 10 South St between Broad and Whitehall Sts (govisland.com). Subway: R to Whitehall St; 1 to South Ferry; 4, 5 to Bowling Green. Free. *Sat, Sun 11am--7pm. Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 6, Atlantic Ave at Columbia St. Subway: R, 2, 3, 4, 5 to Borough Hall--Court St. Free.  

Hidden Harbor Tours
New York Water Taxi and members of the Working Harbor Committee invite families aboard the luxurious excursion vessel Zephyr to discover the secrets behind one of the busiest harbors in the world. Kids are shown ship repair yards, giant container-ship ports and historic ports, depending on which tour they choose. The Newark Bay tour (Tue July 24, Tue Aug 21, Tue Sept 18) visits the Erie Basin, Kill Van Kull (the busy waterway between Staten Island and Bayonne), Newark Bay, Port Newark and Port Elizabeth. The less-industrial North River tour (Tue Aug 7) heads up the Hudson alongside Manhattan until reaching the Manhattan passenger ship terminal (between 46th and 54th Sts), then heads over to the New Jersey side to check out the Hoboken waterfront and Morris Canal. The last tour in the series (Tue Sept 4) explores the Brooklyn side of the harbor, visiting the former Brooklyn Navy Yard, Red Hook, Atlantic and Erie basins, and finally the Sunset Park waterfront. All three tours include a sure-to-be stunning sunset view of Lady Liberty. Call 212-742-1969 to use code TIME OUT KIDS for the special price of $53 for a family of four. Tue July 24, Aug 7, 21 6:15--8:15pm; Tue Sept 4, 18 5:15--7:15pm. South Street Seaport, Pier 16. A, C, J, Z, 2, 3, 4, 5 to Fulton St. $28, seniors $24, children ages 3--12 $17. All ages.

Liberty Landing Ferry
For an out-of-doors adventure, hop on this Jersey-bound boat, which docks at Liberty State Park. Your mateys can explore the Liberty Science Center, stroll along the Liberty Walk promenade or learn about local wildlife as they wander the nature trails. Before heading back, enjoy a picnic with a stellar view of the Manhattan skyline. World Financial Center Terminal, Battery Park City, North End Ave at Vesey St (201-604-5799, libertylandingferry.com). Subway:  A, C, 1, 2, 3 to Chambers St; E to World Trade Center. $14, children ages 7--12 $5, children under 7 free.

New York Water Taxi
As much as this canary-yellow fleet resembles the cabs back on dry land, its voyages offer a more tranquil way to see the city. You and your little ones can set sail on the Ikea Express (destination: Red Hook) or choose the hop-on, hop-off service, which makes stops at the West 10th Street Pier; Battery Park, Slip 6; South Street Seaport, Pier 16; and the Fulton Ferry Landing at Brooklyn Bridge Park. *Ikea Express: Pier 11, East River Dr at Wall St (212-742-1969, nywatertaxi.com). Subway: 1 to South Ferry; 2 to Wall St; 4, 5 to Bowling Green; R to Whitehall St. Weekdays: $5, children under 12 and Ikea customers free. Weekends: free. *Hop-on/Hop-off: Various locations. $25, children $15.

NYC Audubon Summer EcoCruise
Hands-down the best thing to do as a family on a summer Sunday night, Water Taxi's Audubon naturalist--led, 90-minute eco-cruise takes seafarers to one of three locales this summer: the Brother Islands, at the mouth of Long Island Sound (June 24, July 1, 15, 29 and Aug 12); Hoffman and Swinburne islands, off the coast of Staten Island (July 8, Aug 5); and Jamaica Bay (July 22; see website for pricing). You'll learn amazing things about the NYC ecosystem and see with your own eyes the kind of wildlife sanctuary a city can be. Through Aug 12: Sun 7pm. South Street Seaport, Pier 17. A, C, J, Z, 2, 3, 4, 5 to Fulton St. $60, children ages 3--12 $50. To purchase tickets call 212-742-1969 or click here. Ages 5 and up.

NY Waterway
A long-time standby for local commuters, this fleet's new East River Ferry serves as a more family-friendly shuttle. Embarking from 34th Street, the boats transport passengers to Long Island City, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Dumbo and Wall Street; on weekends, the service makes additional stops at Governors Island and Brooklyn Bridge Park. Or, if the kiddos want to see the skyline by night, they can glide past the harbor's most spectacular sights on the 90-minute Twilight Cruise. *East River Ferry: 34th St at East River Dr (800-533-3779, sightseeingcruises.com). Subway: 6 to 33rd St. One-way ticket $4, all-day hop-on, hop-off pass $12. *Twilight Cruise: Pier 78, 455 Twelfth Ave at 34th St. Subway: A, C, E, 1, 2, 3 to 34th St--Penn Station. $28, children ages 3--11 $17, children under 3 free.

SeaStreak
Travel to the farthest reaches of New York Harbor aboard this boat, which ferries city dwellers from Manhattan to New Jersey's Sandy Hook and nearby towns. After the 50-minute sail, a free bus service will give your flock access to historic Fort Hancock and, of course, several local beaches. Note that kids ride free on weekday Sandy Hook--bound trips. *35th St at East River Dr (800-262-8743, seastreak.com). Subway: 6 to 33rd St. Weekend round-trip $45, children ages 5--12 $17, children under 5 free. Weekday round-trip $45, children under 13 free. *Pier 11, East River Dr at Wall St. Subway: 2 to Wall St; 1 to South Ferry; R to Whitehall St; 4, 5 to Bowling Green. Weekend round-trip $45, children ages 5--12 $17, children under 5 free; weekday round-trip $45, children under 13 free. A free shuttle bus from the World Financial Center (Murray St at WFC Goldman Sachs Building) takes ticket-holding passengers to Pier 11 on weekdays.

The Shark
Yes, there's a longstanding rivalry between the Shark and the Beast as to which is more thrilling. If you find yourself downtown and in need of some cooling off, hop on the green and blue boat painted to resemble its deep-ocean namesake. The 30-minute, scream-inducing frolic is an addictive thrill, and sometimes passengers get a bucket of water thrown on them, so be prepared. The same height restriction applies to the Shark as to the Beast. South Street Seaport, Pier 16. A, C, J, Z, 2, 3, 4, 5 to Fulton St. $24, children ages 3 to 12 $17. Ages 3 and up (must be 40 inches tall).

Staten Island Ferry
The breezy 25-minute ride from Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan to St. George in Staten Island is surprisingly refreshing. Grab a beer for you and ice cream for the kids at the onboard snack bar, and enjoy views of the lower Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty that are as good as you'll see on any of the expensive tour cruises. Whitehall Terminal, South St at Whitehall St (siferry.com). Subway: R to Whitehall St; 1 to South Ferry; 4, 5 to Bowling Green. Free.

Statue Cruises
Booking passage on one of these vessels will grant your crew access to both Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Touristy? You betcha—but every New Yorker should do it once! For a less trodden path, you and your kids can catch a ferry to Jersey City and embark from Liberty State Park. Though the statue itself is closed through at least October 2012—including the museum, pedestal and crown—it's still worth the trip to behold Lady Liberty from land and sea. *Castle Clinton National Monument, Battery Park, West St at Battery Pl (877-523-9849, statuecruises.com). Subway: R to Whitehall St; 1 to South Ferry; 4, 5 to Bowling Green. $17, seniors $14, children ages 4--12 $9, children under 4 free. *Liberty Landing Marina, Liberty State Park, Jersey City, NJ. Travel: A, C, 1, 2, 3 to Chambers St; E to World Trade Center; then walk down Vesey St towards the Hudson River and take the Liberty Landing Ferry (round trip $14, children ages 7--12 $10, children under 7 free).

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