In our daily rush of concrete and highrises, it can be easy to forget that Manhattan is an island. A stunning island, in fact — one that offers epic panoramas of the world’s most iconic skyline. And there’s no better way to appreciate this postcard life than being out on the water. Here are the best “We’re on a boat!” dates in New York:
There are various free kayaking options around Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. All are first-come-first-served and all get very busy, especially on weekends. But navigating a boat together with the city as your backdrop is a Hollywood rom-com date worth the wait.
Head to one of the three launch points on the Hudson–Pier 40 (W Houston St.), Pier 96 (W 56th St.) and West 72nd Street. Stronger kayakers can join a four-to-five-mile guided group tour of the river, departing from Pier 96 on weekends at 8am.
The waterfront on the Brooklyn side of the East River has been rapidly developing, including many new public use boat launch points, so there will be multiple locations to paddle out this summer. Check the Brooklyn Bridge Park Interactive Map for updated info, or just stroll along the waterfront and join the queue up at one of the kayak hubs for a paddle with an Instagrammable view of the Brooklyn Bridge.
The neighborhood is still struggling to recover after a very hard hit from Superstorm Sandy. Make a day of it: set out early on a sunny weekend for brunch at Fort Defiance or Hope & Anchor, then head over to Valentino Jr. Pier Park and hop into a double kayak for a leisurely paddle around the cove. The gawk-fodder includes cruise ships and sailboats moored along the channel, plus unparalleled views of Lady Liberty. Afterwards, stock up on provisions at Fairway or stop in to Sixpoint Brewery or the Ice House for a few beers.
The schedule is not as consistent as other kayaking locations, but the perspective, looking west across Manhattan and Roosevelt Island, makes for spectacular sunsets. Check the schedule for free kayaking dates departing from Hallets Cove, at the northern end of Socrates Sculpture Park (beach at Vernon Blvd. at 31st Ave.).
See also, rowboats in NYC Parks.
Our friends over at Brooklyn Flea have combined the beloved pastime of enjoying a sunny weekend afternoon with stuffing yourself full of locavore grub, with two locations of Smorgasburg. Don’t bother with the L train; hop on the East River Ferry, departing hourly and circumnavigating seven stops from Wall Street to Long Island City and across to East 34th Street. You’ll enjoy layered vistas of the bridges as the wind whips through your hair and sun sparkles on the river. On Saturdays, get off at the N. 6th landing in Williamsburg for the sprawling Smorg at East River State Park (at N. 7th St.). On Sundays get off in Dumbo for the true Brooklyn experience at the new location in the old Tobacco Warehouse underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. Also, Smorgasboat…
Spend a warm summer afternoon learning to boom the gallows, man the jib, and hoist the mainsail. Hudson River Community Sailing offers lessons for all levels of salty dogs. Or go on an interactive excursion up the Hudson where you two can handle the sails or just relax and enjoy the peaceful feeling of gliding through the water. For something a bit more intensive, make a holiday of it and try one of Offshore Sailing School’s sailing vacations.
For a date that will leave a lasting impression, or just provide a change of pace from the regular Friday night happy hour, Classic Harbor Line offers a wide range of cruises around the city’s waterways. They offer a wide variety of themed sails, like champagne sunset cruises or Prohibition Era night, or the more educational outing where you’ll learn about New York City architecture. All the cruises include open bar with the ticket price.
There is much to do on the lovely little green island between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Take the ferry from either side of the East river for a day at Governors Beach Club, or rent bikes and explore the island, or dress up in your 1920s finest for the Jazz Age Lawn Party. Free ferries run from the Battery Maritime Building (located at 10 South Street, adjacent to the Staten Island Ferry in lower Manhattan) and from Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park (located at the foot of Atlantic Avenue (corner of Columbia Street)) on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
Tragically, Sandy wreaked havoc on Jamaica Bay, which was home to the artist collective/boat campground, Boatel, and they will unfortunately be closed for summer 2013, but there are plans to reopen for summer 2014, so keep an eye on them for a unique overnight stay on a floating art installation.
For those with weak sea legs (and stomachs), here are some of our favorite bars that invoke the salty revelry of a day on the open seas. (Note: there are many more, but because of Sandy, some are still struggling to reopen. These are confirmed ready for summer 2013.)
Frying Pan, Pier 66 at W. 26th St., New York, NY
Boat Basin Cafe, W. 79th St. at Henry Hudson Pkwy., New York, NY 10023
Brooklyn Crab, 24 Reed St., Brooklyn, New York 11231 (take the Ikea Ferry from Southstreet Seaport)
Anabel Basin, 4-40 44 Drive, Long Island City, NY 11101
Beekman Beer Garden, Pier 17, 89 South St., New York, NY 10038
Pier i Cafe, 500 W. 70th St. and Riverside Park South, New York, NY 10023