Sometimes we forget that New York is really an island city. Tourists know this: you see them jam-packed on boats with the word “Screamer” or “Cruise” on the side. But why should they have all the fun? New York kids love boat rides too. But you don’t have to be squashed in with the masses to enjoy our harbor and rivers. Instead, take advantage of our commuter and specialized ferries, which are less crowded and a lot cheaper. Here are four ferry rides that offer a great way to explore the city and give you a break to sit back and enjoy the breeze.

Governors Island Ferry

If you’re not sure if your children like boat rides (but, c’mon, who are we kidding? Of course, they do), the Governors Island ferry offers a short and sweet passage to this family-friendly destination on summer weekends.

Why Ride: The under-10-minute jaunt is absolutely free, and if your kids love the ride and don’t want to get off, no problem. You don’t need to disembark like you do on the Staten Island Ferry. Stay on as long as you want and journey back and forth until you get your sea legs or get seasick.

Insider Tip: Although the ferries are new, they have some Old World touches, like long wooden benches that kids like to kneel on and look out the windows just like they do in the subway cars. The center part of the bottom deck is wide open to store plenty of bikes and strollers. The upper deck offers spectacular views of New York Harbor full of ships and sailboats, Lady Liberty, and Governors Island.

Important to Note: Before boarding, passengers need to go through a security checkpoint at the terminal. Guards will look in your bag with about the same scrutiny as those at a museum. In other words, it’s quick and painless.

Cost: Free
Terminals: In Manhattan: Battery Maritime Building, on the corner of South and Whitehall Streets; in Brooklyn: Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 at the foot of Atlantic Avenue.
Times: Saturdays and Sundays only, through September 29. Manhattan ferries leave at 10:00 am, 11:00 am and then every half hour. Brooklyn ferries leave at 11:00 am and then every half hour.
Schedule: Please check website for a full schedule.

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– Alice Perry

(Photos courtesy of Alice Perry and New York Waterway.)