Circle Line Cruises
The Circle Line’s famed three-hour guided circumnavigation of Manhattan Island ($24–$37) is a fantastic way to get your bearings and see many of the city’s sights as you pass under its iconic bridges. Themed tours include a New Year’s Eve cruise, a Fourth of July celebration, an evening "Harbor Lights" sailing tour (Mar–mid Apr) and an autumn foliage ride to Bear Mountain in the Hudson Valley (mid Sept–Oct). If you don’t have time for the full trip, there’s a two-hour "Liberty" tour that goes around downtown to the Brooklyn Bridge and back. From May through September, the Beast ($19–$25) offers a fun, adrenalin-inducing and splashy 30-minute ride. Pier 83, 42nd St at the Hudson River (212-563-3200, circleline42.com). Subway: A, C, E to 42nd St–Port Authority.
Circle Line Downtown
The separately run Circle Line Downtown has a more intimate vessel, the Zephyr, for tours of lower Manhattan (Apr–Dec, $28), including summertime Happy Hour cruises on Thursday and Friday nights ($26, May-Oct) for over-21s (May–Oct, $30). The Shark (Apr–Oct; $17–$24) is the downtown offshoot's answer to Circle Line Cruise's Beast. Pier 16, South Street Seaport (866-977-6998, 212-809-0808; circlelinedowntown.com) Manhattan by Sail Set sail on the Shearwater, an 82-foot luxury yacht built in 1929. The Sunday champagne brunch ($79) or full-moon ($45) sail options are lovely ways to take in the skyline. The eight-sail tall ship, Clipper City, embarks from Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport. North Cove, Hudson River, between Liberty and Vesey Sts (800-544-1224, 212-619-0885; manhattanbysail.com). Subway: A, C to Chambers St; E to World Trade Center; 2, 3 to Park Pl. Mid Apr–Oct, times vary
New York Water Taxi
Like their earth-bound counterparts, New York water taxis are bright yellow, speedy and a great way to get around town. Unlike street taxis, they run on a set schedule, and at weekends you can hop on and off with a day pass ($16–26), enjoying neighborhood attractions along the way. Offerings include daily Statue of Liberty Express tours ($16–$26) year-round, daily "Statue by Night" cruises with a free champagne toast for over-21s ($26), and an "Audubon Eco-Cruise" ($36) on summer weekends that takes you to uninhabited South Brother Island, a breeding ground for migratory birds such as the great egret (Jun–Aug, see website for specific days). Pier 17, South Street Seaport (212-742-1969, nywatertaxi.com)
Staten Island Ferry
During this commuter barge’s free 25-minute crossing, you get superb panoramas of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. Boats leave South Ferry at Battery Park and run 24 hours a day. Battery Park, South St at Whitehall St (718-727-2508, siferry.com). Subway: R to Whitehall St–South Ferry; 1 to South Ferry; 4, 5 to Bowling Green