Pier 96: Downtown Boathouse
GOOD FOR: Ages 9-12

Source:Outdoors with Kids New York City (AMC Books)
Address:West 55th Street and the Hudson River, Manhattan, NY
Hours:5 P.M. to 7 P.M. weekdays, 9 A.M. to 6 P.M. weekends; open May through October, weather permitting.
Fee: Free
Bathrooms: Portable toilet just north of pier
Water/Snacks: Food vendors along Manhattan Waterfront Greenway

Experienced and first-time kayakers will agree: There is no better place to enjoy a cool river breeze than on the Hudson itself.

Kayakers can launch at Pier 96 to paddle near cruise ships and ocean-bound barges on the Hudson River.
Photo by: Cheryl and William de Jong-Lambert

The shoreline has changed dramatically since the Lenni Lenapes, the American Indians who once populated much of the New York and New Jersey area, plied the waterway we now call the Hudson River. But settling into a kayak to bob and paddle around brings some perspective on how things were four centuries ago.

In 1995, the volunteer-run Downtown Boathouse effectively opened the river to individual use. That year, 100 people did what had become unthinkable to the modern mind: They stepped into a tiny craft to maneuver on the mighty Hudson—albeit, a designated nook of it—as cruise ships, large yachts, and ocean-bound barges chugged by mid-river. Since then, it is estimated that Downtown Boathouse has enabled several hundred thousand launches. Free walk-up boating is now available at Pier 96; at Pier 40, near West and West Houston streets; and at West 72nd Street. The 72nd Street location is open seasonally on weekends and holidays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Downtown Boathouse uses sit-atop kayaks for one or two people. Younger children can nestle in an adult’s lap on a one-person kayak, but it is recommended that older children sit in the front of a two-person vessel. There is no age minimum or limit, but it is advisable that participants know how to swim. All participants must wear life preservers (available to borrow at the dock). Trained volunteers are on hand to give dockside paddling lessons, to help adults slide from a sitting position on the dock into the boat, and to help children in afterward. Boating is limited to 20 minutes when other visitors are waiting.

Clinton Cove Park, at the entrance to Pier 96, is a nice place to dry off on a bench or on the lawn afterward.

Remember: You will get wet, so dress appropriately or bring a change of clothes.

Plan B:

To run and splash around in water, visit Pier 84 (Trip 20), and to see more of the Hudson’s shoreline, hike or bike along the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway (Trip 7).


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