Timeout New York Kids

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Winter 2014 Audubon eco-cruises set sail Sunday, January 12

The first of nine New York Water Taxi trips out to Hoffman and Swinburne Islands in search of wintry wildlife like harbor seals departs this weekend.

  • Courtesy NYC Audubon

  • Courtesy NYC Audubon

  • Courtesy NYC Audubon

  • Courtesy NYC Audubon

  • Courtesy NYC Audubon

  • Courtesy NYC Audubon

  • Courtesy NYC Audubon

  • Courtesy NYC Audubon

Courtesy NYC Audubon

If there's one thing we look forward to every winter, it's the cold-weather version of Water Taxi's Audubon EcoCruises, and the first of nine tours to be offered this season departs from Pier 16 on Sunday, January 12. Families will journey through Buttermilk Channel and around Governors Island, into the Erie Basin, under the Verrazano Bridge, and around the little-known, uninhabited Hoffman and Swinburne Islands in search of wildlife that has traveled south and chosen NYC as its winter haven—harbor seals included. These playful mammals, whose summer homes are in the subarctic to southern Maine, are new to the region in the last decade.

RECOMMENDED: Download our January 2014 calendar

You may also encounter loons, grebes, purple sandpipers, Brant geese and ducks—some from as far north as the Arctic—that can only be found here in the winter. Audubon naturalist Gabriel Willow, who leads many of these tours, will give you a running commentary of wildlife you spy along the way and brush you and the kids up on the natural history of your home city.

This year, for the first time, researchers studying seal behavior will be on board as well. We ended up spotting seals on 2012 and 2013 sailings, and while there are no guarantees you'll do the same, you will enjoy trying. Dress warm and bring binoculars, as it's pretty darn chilly on the top deck. No need to fear frostbite, though, as you and the kids can warm up (or stay warm) in the cabin and partake of snacks and free tea and cocoa during the trip.

Sun Jan 12, 19, 26, Feb 2, 9, 16, 23, Mar 2, 9 noon–2pm (boarding begins at 11:45pm). Pier 16 at the South Street Seaport.
$35, kids ages 3 to 13 $25. Click here for reservations.

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