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Free kayaking in NYC for families

Get the kids on the water this summer with free kayaking in NYC

Written by
Hannah Doolin
Allie Early
Danielle Valente

The kids are out of school and the weather is beautiful, so it’s time to get outside. Among the best summer activities for kids (and one of the best things to do outdoors with kids) is to get out on the water. That’s right, this bustling city we call home has plenty of adventures to be had on the water, and free kayaking in NYC is one not to be missed. For a family paddle that also has great views of the city, check out these options, from the Hudson to Brooklyn to Staten Island. Kayaks and lessons are provided. The kids will learn a new skill (if they’re not already kayaking fans) and have fun doing it. Best of all, it’s free.

Summer is fleeting, which means there’s limited time to pack in all these fun family activities. When your little paddlers are ready to get back on land, try more active options like nearby hiking trails and biking trails. You can also check out PYO farms in the region for strawberry picking and cherry picking. There are endless weekend family getaway destinations, but trust us, you’ll want to add free kayaking in NYC to your summer bucket list.

Family-friendly free kayaking in NYC

  • Things to do
  • City Life

Anxious to start paddling? We can't blame you. On Wednesdays from 5–7pm and Saturday afternoons all summer long you can glide along the Pier 2 Beach, according to the park's website. Advanced registration required. Attendees under 18 must have a guardian present and park-goers must sign a waiver before hitting the water.

Located at the tip of Greenpoint, Brooklyn boaters offer free canoeing and kayaking throughout the warmer months from 51 Ash Street by the Pulaski Bridge. Walk up paddle days are typically the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. You can also volunteer to become a deckhand or a trip assistant if you have a good amount of experience and training. Canoeing is also available!


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.

Head out to the Hudson River for a chance to enjoy some time on the water. Reservations are required. After you sign a waiver and strap on a life vest, climb into your kayak from the water-level floating dock and float away for 20 minutes. You will get wet, so wear the right clothing! You can also volunteer to help out at the boathouse as well as become a member by making a donation of $20 or more.


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.

  • Sports and fitness
  • Tribeca

The granddaddy of NYC’s free-kayaking scene, Downtown Boathouse offers gratis walk-up outings on Pier 26 and walk up kayaking on Governors Island. Once you’ve signed a waiver and donned a life jacket, you can take your kayak out in designated areas for 20 minutes at a time—or longer if others aren’t waiting. The schedule is by far the best at Pier 26: Free kayaking is offered on weekends and Holidays, plus Tuesday and Thursdays at 5:30, no reservation needed.

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