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Photograph: Courtesy Etienne Frossard

The best free kayaking NYC families love

Suit up for the best free kayaking NYC has to offer. Summer is incomplete without a few East River paddle sessions!

By Danielle Valente, Allie Early and Hannah Doolin

UPDATE: Changes have been made for the 2020 season. Always reach out before making a trip. 

Explore the best free kayaking NYC has on its roster. The season wouldn't be complete without a few rowing sessions across the East River. 

Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to enroll the kiddos in camp or pack up for family weekend getaways to enjoy a taste of nature. Even the greatest city in the world is home to some of the best outdoor activities for kids! All you need to do is grab a lifevest and hit the water. 

You can venture to your local park or volunteer-run organizations for a chance to kayak (or canoe) on a grand voyage with your little ones. Chances are they'll want to sign up for second and third rides—and we can't blame 'em! 

Free kayaking NYC families love

Kayaking brooklyn bridge park
Kayaking brooklyn bridge park
Photograph: Courtesy Etienne Frossard

1. Brooklyn Bridge Park

News City Life

The Brooklyn waterfront is coming back to life. On August 6, Brooklyn Bridge Park revealed that it will reinstate several summer outdoor activities including free kayaking, star gazing, virtual storytimes for the tots and socially-distanced sunrise yoga for adults. It's the end-of-summer news we've been waiting for! 

Anxious to start paddling? We can't blame you. There are a few things to note before venturing to the boathouse on Pier 4. For one, event registration is now open and kayaking will resume Wednesdays from 4–8pm and Saturdays from 10am–4pm from Aug 15–Oct 15, according to the park's website. Walk-ins will be accommodated if there is room. All participants must wear a face mask and attendees under 18 must have a guardian present. Park-goers must sign a waiver before hitting the water.

Photograph: Courtesy North Brooklyn Boat Club

2. North Brooklyn Boat Club

UPDATE: Learn about North Brooklyn Boat Club's new 2020 safety procedures

No need to escape the city to paddle in a 25-foot canoe. There are some right in the city that journey down Newtown Creek, often out toward the East River! Unlike kayaking, this experience encourages visitors to get to know their neighbors on a teamwork level (you are sharing a boat, after all). The North Brooklyn Boat Club's 2019 season boasts different opportunities in a variety of locations: The Barge at Milton St and the East River includes kayaking and canoeing, Manhattan Ave Street End Park and Dutch Kills offer canoeing and Annable Basin works in tandem with Long Island City Community Boathouse to offer both canoeing and kayaking. In order for children to participate in the fun, they must have an adult sign a waiver and share a boat with them. Minors must be over 4’8″ tall to enjoy the kayaks. 

Learn more at northbrooklynboatclub.org.

Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash + Zbysiu Rodak

3. Kayak Staten Island

UPDATE: See announcements and sign-ups for 2020 events on Facebook

So what's the best recipe for a fun summer afternoon? Borrow a life-jacket, paddle and snag one of KSI’s sit-on-top kayaks! Kids are free to oar around a delineated embankment area in the bay for 15 minutes at a time, and are welcome to get back in line if they fancy a second voyage (which they most likely will). Don’t worry about the waves—experienced rowers are in the water to help if paddlers start to feel anxious. All kayakers under 18 must have an adult present who must sign a waiver on their behalf.

Learn more at kayakstatenisland.org.

Go kayaking from the Downtown Boathouse
Go kayaking from the Downtown Boathouse
Photograph: Courtesy Downtown Boathouse

4. Hudson River Park

UPDATE: The 2020 season is currently suspended.

Hudson River Park offers two great opportunities for visitors who are anxious to start paddling. Pier 96 provides free kayaking organized by Manhattan Community Boathouse and Downtown Boathouse. Park-goers can take advantage of 20-minute free rentals on a first-come, first-served basis on Monday–Wednesday and weekends. 

Learn more at hudsonriverpark.org.

Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

5. Red Hook Boaters

UPDATE: The 2020 season is currently suspended

From Red Hook's dining scene to its family-friendly activities, the Brooklyn fishing town has a heavy focus on the water. Since 2006, adventurers have taken in the city from a new vantage point thanks to Red Hook Boaters' complimentary first-come, first-serve kayaking service. All that's required is putting your name on a list. From there, members of the organization will provide safety tips and equipment before paddlers make your way into the water of the Louis Valentino Jr. Pier Park, which is a protected area. Note that kids under 14 cannot use the kayak without an adult. There isn't storage space available, so leave the valuables at home. 

Learn more redhookboaters.org.

Photograph: Courtesy Pixabay + 931885

6. L.I.C Community Boathouse

UPDATE: No 2020 events are scheduled on the calendar at this time. 

If you're spending a summer day in Queens, head to the Long Island City Community Boathouse for a bit of kayaking and canoeing. The walk-in accommodations allow visitors to see Hallets Cove from a unique vantage point while trying their hand at a great outdoor activity. All attendees who participate must be able to swim, and those who are under 18 must have a legal adult present. Offerings vary, so take a gander at the calendar before making the trek. 

Learn more at licboathouse.org

LeFrak Lakside
LeFrak Lakside
Photograph: Courtesy Upsilon Ventures

7. Bonus: LeFrak Center at Lakeside (Fee)

News City Life

Exciting news, families: One of your go-to summer hubs is back up and running! It's time to ready the brood for a trip to Prospect Park's LeFrak Center at Lakeside. Here, you can rent a boat, kayak and bike with family and friends. If you'd like a full day out on the water, you can rent a double kayak for $45. Otherwise, you can paddle for $25/hour. Learn more online


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