5 Great New York City Boat Tours for Tourists

Manhattan water taxi

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Sail ho and test your sea legs by taking a boat or ferry trip around New York City. It's impossible to explore the whole city on foot, and using the subway means missing out on all of the impressive views while in transit.

Sightseeing from the water offers a totally different perspective of this colossal city, and visitors have countless cruise options available that are family-friendly, budget-friendly, or booze-friendly. Once you're up close to the Statue of Liberty or sailing directly underneath the Brooklyn Bridge, you'll see there's really no other way to experience these New York landmarks.

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The BEAST Speedboat

Beast Speedboat

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This high-speed boat whips travelers around the lower Hudson River and New York Harbor at 45 mph, right past top harbor sights like the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. This "roller coaster on the water" is not for the faint of heart, but offers an exhilarating way for thrill-seekers to see the city. You are likely to get wet on the Beast, so don't forget a change of clothes if you plan to continue sightseeing after the cruise.

The Beast runs from early May until the end of September and doesn't go out during rain.

Board the boat: Pier 83 near West 42nd Street and Hudson River Park

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Classic Harbor Line

Fancy sailing in the harbor with billowing white sails overhead? Then look no further than the exemplary Classic Harbor Line, which takes guests out on working schooners to enjoy views of Lady Liberty and the New York City skyline. Included in the rates are a few rounds of wine, beer, or soft drinks, for added value to this relaxing and memorable boat outing.

You can choose your cruise based on an activity or special event, such as fall foliage viewing, champagne sunset cruise, New Year's Eve fireworks, or Pride, among many others.

You can book these cruises year-round, seven days a week, except from January to mid-March, when they are only available on weekends.

Board the boat: Chelsea Piers at West 21st Street and Hudson River Park; North Cove Marina in Battery Park

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Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises

Circle Line

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There's a reason that the Circle Line remains so popular with tourists. The company offers several different sightseeing cruises around the city, including the popular 90-minute landmarks cruise, which provides views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Empire State Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, and other well-known sites. You can also schedule an enchanting sunset Circle Line cruise for a relaxing end to a busy day of city sightseeing.

Circle Line offers trips every day of the year except December 25.

Board the boat: Pier 83 near West 42nd Street and Hudson River Park; Pier 11 at the South Street Seaport

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Staten Island Ferry

Staten Island Ferry

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This free ferry ride to Staten Island takes only 25 minutes and offers stunning views of the Lower Manhattan skyline and New York Harbor, as well as the Statue of Liberty. You can ride the ferry directly back to Manhattan or disembark on the other side and explore what Staten Island has to offer.

The Staten Island ferry runs 24/7 with more frequent service during weekday rush hour. Be aware of scammers around the terminal trying to sell tickets for the ferry.

Board the boat: Whitehall Terminal, 4 Whitehall St.

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New York Water Taxi

New York Water Taxi

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New York Water Taxi is the maritime version of the hop-on, hop-off bus. Purchase a one-day or two-day pass, and you can board the boat as often as you wish at any one of the four docking locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The year-round New York Water Taxi is the only cruise that allows visitors to explore New York via land and water, and even offers neighborhood guides for all of the areas around its docks.

Board the boat: Hudson River at West 42nd Street; Battery Park; Pier 11 at the South Street Seaport; and Pier 1 at Brooklyn Bridge Park