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What Are the Best Boat Rides in New York City?

New York City looks picture-perfect from the water. In fact, the city thrives due to its major waterways, as the East River, the Hudson River, and the Atlantic Ocean meet just south of Manhattan. Every day, boats, ferries, yachts, and at least one tricked-out green speedboat take visitors around these waterways to enjoy the greatest skyline views in the world. NYC icons like the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, and One World Trade Center appear on these exciting, informative boat tours, most of which run year-round. See major symbols of American history and ingenuity on a dinner cruise date or during a day of sightseeing with one of these 10 fantastic NYC boat tours.

Circle Line Cruises

bronx circle line boat one world

For 75 years, Circle Line has been showing off the city from its fleet of ships. This popular service also offers the only cruise that goes all the way around Manhattan: Circle Line’s Best of NYC Cruise. One trip will show off five boroughs, three rivers, and more than 20 bridges on the way to 101 New York City sights. State-of-the-art Empire Class ships have recently launched, providing quieter rides, better sound for the personable onboard guides, bigger windows, improved climate control, and more outdoor deck space. (For dining and entertainment, take a ride on Hudson’s, a three-story “floating rooftop” that’s a Circle Line sibling.) Circle Line also offers on-board concessions and drinks, as well as tour narration translated into several languages. Cruises depart from either Pier 83 in Midtown or Pier 16 in The Seaport District. 

Staten Island Ferry

Staten Island Ferry

flickr/Mike Steele

The Staten Island Ferry is 100% free, and it offers amazing views of New York Harbor. Even if you don't have a reason to go to Staten Island (although Empire Outlets is quite a draw), you can just pop the next ferry back. It also runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, between Manhattan and Staten Island. For the best skyline and Statue of Liberty views, sit on the right side (east) going out and the left side (west) to return. Hop aboard at the Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan’s Financial District. 


hornblower statue of liberty cruise

Spend your special occasions aboard one of Hornblower’s breathtaking cruises. Hornblower yachts host weekend jazz brunches, dinner cruises, and parties on holidays like New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July. The See NYC Sightseeing Cruise, departing from Pier 15 at the Seaport District, is a great way to view the Statue of Liberty and icons like the Brooklyn Bridge and One World Trade Center—all in one hour. There are also Hop-On, Hop-Off Cruises from midtown to Lower Manhattan, featuring 90 minutes of must-see sights.

New York Water Taxi

statue of liberty new york water taxi

Inspired by iconic New York cabs, New York Water Taxi is just as convenient, but with a much better view. Climb aboard one of these environmentally friendly twin-hulled catamarans and enjoy hop-on, hop-off access in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The most popular option is the All-Day Access Pass, which lets you create your own itinerary, hopping on and off four Water Taxi piers around New York Harbor. Along the way you’ll catch the amazing skyline and Statue of Liberty views, plus take in some fun facts from your tour guide. Don’t worry about the weather: there’s an open top deck and climate-controlled cabin to choose from. Hop on (or off) at 42nd Street in Midtown, Battery Park, South Street Seaport, or in Dumbo, Brooklyn. 

CitySightseeing Ferry Tour

city sightseeing cruises skyline

The CitySightseeing Ferry Tour extends the company’s red double-decker bus experience to the waters of New York City. Access Midtown via Pier 78 near Times Square and downtown at the World Financial Center at its hop-on, hop-off locations. You can also combine tickets for bus and ferry rides if you’re looking to sightsee all day. On the ferry you’ll be treated to the skyline, Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and a fully narrated tour. Their Freestyle package also throws in admission to one or more major sightseeing destinations such as the 9/11 Memorial & Museum and Top of the Rock Observation Deck.

Statue Cruises 

A small group of Statue Cruises surrounding the Statue of Liberty.

New York Harbor is home to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. If you want to see them first-hand, Statue Cruises is the only way to get there. Boats depart from Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan and Liberty State Park in New Jersey, providing memorable routes past the skyscrapers of the Financial District. You won’t truly appreciate Lady Liberty until you see her up close. Ellis Island was the historic gateway for 12 million immigrants to the U.S.; 40% of Americans can trace an ancestor here. On a visit today you can immerse yourself in the immigrant story inside a fully restored French Renaissance Revival station.

Bateaux New York

Bateaux New York

Bateaux New York is Manhattan’s premier all-glass, European-inspired dining cruise vessel. Creative meals, fine wines, impeccable service, and breathtaking views are all standard; you’ll likely find live music and a dance floor as well. Plan your next date or special occasion with the always-elegant Bateaux, departing from Chelsea Piers.  

Spirit Cruises

Bountiful buffets, stunning Statue of Liberty views, and non-stop DJ music provide a one-of-a-kind New York experience aboard Spirit Cruises. Cruising the Hudson, Spirit offers lunch, dinner, moonlight, and holiday cruises, with convenient departures from Chelsea Piers in New York and Lincoln Harbor in Weehawken, New Jersey.

The Beast

beast statue of liberty

Feel the need for speed? Warmer weather is a great time to take a ride on the wild side on NYC’s custom-built offshore racing powerboat, The Beast. You’ll zoom away at a heart-pounding 45mph before coming to a screeching halt within 100 feet of Lady Liberty for the best #StatueofLibertySelfie, among other panoramic views.

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

Sightseeing New York Fall Must-Sees

Image: milfodd/Flickr

Right next to Circle Line, you’ll have one additional opportunity to get out on the water. Although the aircraft carrier Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum doesn’t leave its moorings, it’s still a thrill to take your family on the Hudson and explore the historic vessel used in World War II, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War. The museum houses Enterprise, the world’s first space shuttle, and 27 authentically restored aircraft. There are also virtual reality experiences and rotating historical exhibits regarding engineering, space exploration, the military, and more.

Read Next | Gray Line CitySightseeing New York

About the Author

Merrill Lee Girardeau lives and writes in Brooklyn.

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