Best free kayaking in NYC for families
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 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!). Added bonus? Paddles are kid and pet friendly. 51 Ash St, Brooklyn (northbrooklynboatclub.org).
Red Hook Boaters' 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 the organization'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. In order for those who are under 18, a legal guardian must be present in order for them to paddle. Louis J. Valentino Jr. Park and Pier, Coffey St at Ferris St, Brooklyn (917-676-6458, redhookboaters.org).
Line up between Piers 1 and 2 from May through August to kayak (for free) in the majestic shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge! Visitors can even try their hand at Kayak Polo on Sundays from 11am–3pm (the kids' session for those 11 and up takes place from 12:30–1:30pm). What better way to take in the scenes of the East River? 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 Bridge Park, 334 Furman St, Brooklyn (bbpboathouse.org).
Hudson River Park offers two great opportunities for visitors to get their feet wet—literally. Pier 96 provides free kayaking organized by Manhattan Community Boathouse (20-minute free rentals on a first-come, first-served basis) while Pier 26 has the same offerings thanks to Downtown Boathouse. Both spots are open spring through fall; be sure to check out their invidivual websites for more details. Pier 26 and 96, Hudson River Park, Battery Pl–W 59th St (212-757-0981, hudsonriverpark.org).
All you need is to borrow a life-jacket, paddle and snag 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 start to feel anxious. 850 Page Ave, Staten Island (kayakstatenisland.org).
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. Vernon Blvd at 31st Ave (licboathouse.org).