A ride on the NYC Ferry is a great way to see New York City from a new point of view—and cruising on the water is so much more exciting for jaded city kids than taking the boring old subway—especially during the summer. The NYC Ferry system makes it easy and fun to hop on a boat for a day trip to a not-so-distant shore.
While we’re big fans of all the family activities you can enjoy on Governors Island, and riding the FREE Staten Island Ferry is on our list of the top 100 things to do with kids before they grow up, the NYC Ferry has opened up tons more waterfront neighborhoods to easy exploration. Here are our favorite things to do near NYC Ferry stops, plus a couple of longer ferry rides that will whisk you away to nearby shores for a daycation.
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Top NYC Ferry Destinations for Families
The NYC Ferry has been steadily expanding since its 2017 debut. It now operates seven different routes with stops along the Hudson and East Rivers, plus an express weekend Rockaway Rocket, which whisks beachgoers from Wall Street to the sandy shores in less than an hour. A long-promised Coney Island route is set to debut later this year.
Currently, NYC Ferry fare for most routes is $2.75 for adults; three children under 44 inches travel for FREE with each paying adult. In September 2022, the base rate rises to $4. The Rockaway Rocket costs a bit more at $8 per adult. For ease of travel, be sure to download the NYC Ferry app before heading out.
With 25 separate NYC Ferry landings to choose from, here are our favorites NYC Ferry destinations, which are all filled with family-friendly things to do.
1. Long Island City NYC Ferry Terminal
In Long Island City you can explore Gantry Plaza State Park with its cool water playground and stunning views of Midtown East, plus plenty of kid-friendly eats. Further inland you’ll find cutting-edge art at MoMA PS1, plus many small, local galleries along the way.
2. Astoria NYC Ferry Terminal
Make a stop at the fabulous Pier 6 playgrounds in Brooklyn Bridge Park and check out the Water Lab. Photo by Jody Mercier
3. Dumbo Fulton Ferry and Atlantic Avenue NYC Ferry Terminals
This pair of NYC Ferry stops bookends all the fun in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The Dumbo Fulton Ferry stop drops you near the northern edge of the park where you can take a spin on Jane’s Carousel or explore the Main Street and Pier 1 Playgrounds. Check out the Ample Hills Creamery Fireboat House Scoop Shop and work your way south, strolling or cycling as you enjoy the rest of the green space’s many attractions, including a roller-skating rink at Pier 2, and some of the best playgrounds in NYC on Pier 6. From there, you can hop back on the ferry at the Atlantic Avenue landing.
4. Red Hook NYC Ferry Terminal
The Red Hook landing puts you within walking distance of Luis Valentino Jr. Park and Pier for FREE kayaking. You’re also close to culture hub Pioneer Works, which always has something new to explore, plus Coffey Park, the Waterfront Museum, and plenty of family-friendly eats.
Jump off the ferry in Williamsburg for a stroll along the waterfront. Photo by Mommy Poppins
5. North and South Williamsburg NYC Ferry Terminals
Located along the East River Route, this pair of NYC Ferry stops perfectly frame the action-packed Domino Park. The allure of the sprinklers is infectious, and the promise of a margarita from Tacocina to accompany a trip to the ultra-cool playground is hard to pass up. Other fun nearby includes dinner and a movie at Nighthawk Cinema, frolicking in the underrated Marsha P. Johnson East River State Park, noshing on the eats at Smorgasburg, exploring the newly opened park at 50 Kent, or enjoying one of these other family-friendly picks in Williamsburg.
6. Battery Park City NYC Ferry Terminal
Located along one of the newest NYC Ferry routes, the St. George Route, this NYC Ferry stop in Lower Manhattan drops ferry riders right in the heart of Battery Park City. During the summer, hop off and explore the sprawling Nelson A. Rockefeller Park, which is home to a destination playground. Brookfield Place offers tons of fun things to do near this NYC Ferry stop, too, with tons of shopping, a family-friendly food hall, a seasonal ice skating rink, plus plenty of family-friendly programming and pop-ups.
Hop the ferry to the Rockaways. Photo by Sara Marentette
7. Rockaway NYC Ferry Terminal
The seasonal Rockaway Rocket runs weekends and holidays, taking beach goers from Wall Street to Far Rockaway much faster than the subway! The NYC Ferry landing is located near Beach 108th Street and a short walk from the boardwalk. Disembark for some family-friendly fun on the shore or explore one of these other things to do in Rockaway beyond the beach. A new attraction worth checking out? The Rockaway Hotel + Spa, which offers day passes for its pool in case you prefer your water fun to be sand-free.
More Family-Friendly Ferry Rides Near NYC
Terminals: West 39th Street, Pier 11, and Brookfield Place in Manhattan to Hoboken, New Jersey
Fare: $7-$9 for adults, $4-$6 for children ages 6-11 depending on where you board. Two children under age 6 ride FREE with each paying adult.
This commuter ferry makes for a fun day trip across state lines. Lovingly called the “sixth borough,” Hoboken offers lots of attractions and activities. Stroll or cycle along the waterfront and take in awesome views of downtown Manhattan. It’s worth traveling to Pier C for its exceptional sand and water play areas. Pick up a sweet treat at Carlo’s Bakery of Cake Boss fame, and then walk down quaint Washington Street while enjoying the small-town charm of the area.
Head to Liberty State Park for a historical outing. Photo by Jody Mercier
Terminals: Brookfield Place to Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey
Fares: $7 for adults, $5 for children ages 7-12, and ages 6 and under ride for FREE.
Explore a Hudson River park on the opposite shore. Liberty State Park offers incredible views of the Statue of Liberty (plus yet another ferry to the Statue and Ellis Island in case you want to see them up close.) Other attractions include the Historic CRRNJ Train Terminal, a small nature center, and the huge, hands-on Liberty Science Center.
Kick back and enjoy the warm breeze on the Seastreak Ferry to Sandy Hook. Photo courtesy of the Seastreak
Terminals: East 35th Street and Wall Street in Manhattan to Sandy Hook, New Jersey
Fares: $30-47 for adults, $19 for children ages 5-12, $5 for bikes.
These luxe cruisers take you to a popular New Jersey beach in style. Enjoy amenities you don’t find on other ferries like free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, TV, and a snack bar. In just 45 minutes, families arrive at Sandy Hook where a free beach-side shuttle deposits visitors at 7-miles worth of beachy shores. If swimming’s not your thing, Sandy Hook also offers biking, hiking, boating, fishing, birding, and a historic lighthouse to explore.
Originally published in 2015. Jody Mercier contributed additional reporting.