Looking for a great way to cool off beyond your usual splash parks and swimming pools for kids? Believe it or not, there's free kayaking and canoeing all around NYC if you know where to look. Luckily, dear New Yorkers, we've created a helpful guide to aid you in your journey to nature-filled bliss, and it won't cost you a dime. Happy paddling!
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to free activities for kids in NYC
P.S.: If you're on the hunt for other exciting outdoor fun, you might browse our guide to the best outdoor activities for kids, the best free activities for kids and our top 101 things to do with kids in NYC.
For even more NYC Parks boating options, visit the organization's calendar here.
Free kayaking and canoeing in New York City
Kayaking at Hudson River Park
Looking to kayak along the Hudson River? There are two great opportunities to get your feet wet at Hudson River Park! Pier 96 offers free kayaking organized by Manhattan Community Boathouse (20-minute free rentals, first come, first served) and at Pier 26 organized by Downtown Boathouse (cross at N. Moore) (free kayaking Sat, Sun and holidays 9am–5pm; Additional hours mid June–Sept Tue–Thu 5–7:30pm, weather permitting). Both kayaking spots mentioned above are open spring through fall; see their invidivual websites for details. Pier 96, Pier 26.
Kayaking at Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse
Line up between Piers 1 and 2 from June through August to take a kayak out in the majestic shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge! Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse offers free walk-up kayaking in 2017 on Thursdays (5:30–6:45pm) and Saturdays (10am–3pm). Sundays additionally offer a 12:30–1:30pm kids and adult session (children ages 11 and up). Children under 14 must be accompanied by a guardian in the same kayak, and children ages 14–17 can kayak alone as long as a guardian is present. Embayment between Pier 1 and 2, Brooklyn (bbpboathouse.org)
Kayaking at Red Hook Boaters
RHB’s upstanding coordinators have a double purpose: Get urbanites out on the water and help breathe life back into Brooklyn’s aquatic ecosystem! RHB has a free walk-up kayaking program for 15–20 minutes at a time complete with instruction from volunteers. After your turn at Louis J. Valentino Jr. Park and Pier, visitors are asked to grab some gloves and trash bags and pitch in with RHB’s ongoing mission to pick up refuse on the beach. Knowing that you’re helping keep the area thriving will make your paddle in the protected cove all the sweeter. A legal guardian must be present for minors to paddle (kids under 14 under must share a boat with their guardian), and both single and double kayaks are available. Louis J. Valentino Jr. Park and Pier, Coffey St at Ferris St, Red Hook, Brooklyn (917-676-6458, redhookboaters.org). Various dates and times (see site calendar).
Canoeing at North Brooklyn Boat Club
No need to head out of town to take out a 25-foot canoe. There are some right here that leave on journeys down Newtown Creek, often out towards the East River! Unlike kayaking, this experience encourages getting to know your neighbors on a teamwork level (you are sharing a boat, after all!). Sit-on-top kayaks and tandem canoes are also available, depending on the weather. Paddles are kid and pet friendly! 51 Ash St., Brooklyn (northbrooklynboatclub.org). Through Sept at various times. (See website calendar for full details here).
Kayaking at Kayak Staten Island
All you need is to borrow a life-jacket, paddle and one of KSI’s sit-on-top kayaks for your best afternoon ever! 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 you fancy a second voyage. Don’t worry about the waves—experienced rowers are in the water to help if you get tripped up. 850 Page Ave, Staten Island (kayakstatenisland.org). Sundays June–Aug at various times: see calendar for details).