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.

Ikea Ferry

If you don’t have a problem hopping on a boat that is wrapped in an ad that reads “Save on Schlepping,” then all aboard the Ikea Ferry! (To be honest, only a select few of these ferries are adorned with come-and-get-it slogans. Most of these New York Water Taxis are painted as the iconic Checker Cabs with just a small Ikea logo on the side.)

Why Ride: Intended for Ikea shoppers, the daily shuttle, which runs between Wall Street’s Pier 11 and Brooklyn’s Ikea superstore, is a nice 15-minute tour for parents and children to break up the day. Oh, and did we mention it’s free for kids and free on the weekends?

Insider Tip: Although it’s smaller than the other ferries, this vessel never seems too crowded. Grab a seat on the rooftop and take in the sights. As the vessel gets closer to the Ikea dock, the kiddos will get super excited when they see the motorcycle junkyard on the right and the shipping container loading dock on the left.

After you reach your port of call, check out all that Ikea and its environs have to offer. As well, take a stroll around the esplanade and give your children a lesson in all things nautical. Sprinkled along the dock are plaques that describe the use and history of cleats, bollards and cranes with the real thing right there on display.

Cost: On weekends, free. On weekdays, Ikea customers who spend $10 or more will receive an immediate $5 credit on their purchase when they show their NY Water Taxi ticket. Kids under age 12 always ride free.
Terminals: Wall Street/Pier 11; Brooklyn Ikea, One Beard Street. On weekends, the ferry will also stop at Red Hook Fairway, 480-500 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn, Ny.
Times: Weekdays, 2:00 pm to 8:00 pm; weekends, 10:00 am to 9 :00 pm.
Schedule: Ferries leave approximately every 40 minutes. Please check website for a full schedule.

– Alice Perry

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