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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

This summer, 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 sleepaway camps 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! 

Check out our go-to picks for the coolest free kayaking NYC offers and make the most out of your summer vacation!

Free kayaking NYC families love

Photograph: Courtesy Etienne Frossard

1. Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse

Spectacular views of lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge make the East River one of our favorite places to paddle. Until August, park-goers are welcome to take advantage of the sport (at no cost!) on Thursdays from 5:30–6:45pm as well as weekends from 10am–2pm. 
Venture to Pier 2 and get ready to float across the water. A guardian must be present at all times for kayakers who are under 18. Single kayaks are for adults or any participant with a guardian present who is at least 14 years old. Doubles are for one adult and no more than one child under 14. Regardless of experience levels, everyone from experts to first-timers are welcome to participate

Learn more at bbpboathouse.org. 

Photograph: Courtesy Shutterstock

2. Red Hook Boaters

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. Time slots include Thursdays from 6–8pm until Aug 15 and Sundays from 1–4pm until Sept 22. 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 North Brooklyn Boat Club

3. North Brooklyn Boat Club

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.

Go kayaking from the Downtown Boathouse
Photograph: Courtesy Downtown Boathouse

4. Hudson River Park

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. Park-goers can take advantage of 20-minute free rentals on a first-come, first-served basis on Monday–Wednesday from 5:30–7:30pm through Aug 28 and weekends from 10am–6pm through Oct 13. Venture over to Pier 26 for its programming with Downtown Boathouse, which offers the same times.

Learn more at hudsonriverpark.org.


Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash + Zbysiu Rodak

5. Kayak Staten Island

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. Take a glance at the calendar for the 2019 schedule. 

Learn more at kayakstatenisland.org.

Photograph: Courtesy Pixabay + 931885

6. L.I.C Community Boathouse

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

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