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Taking a boat ride in NYC is one of the best ways to see a different perspective of the Big Apple. While there are lots of different tours in New York City, a cruise can be a more relaxing way to go sightseeing.
Not only that but there are all kinds of New York City boat tours that you can do, from leisurely harbor rides and buffet cruises to exciting speedboat and sailing adventures. All of these tours go past some of the Big Apple’s most popular attractions, like the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Battery Park, and the Brooklyn Bridge. Of course, there are unique aspects to each boat ride, so I’ll tell you what to expect from each one.
In a nutshell, these are the 7 best boat tours in NYC:
- Statue of Liberty Boat Tour
- Champagne Sunset Yacht Cruise
- NYC Buffet Dinner Cruise
- The Beast Speedboat Ride
- Architecture Yacht Cruise
- 90-Minute Landmarks Cruise
- Harbor Lights Night Cruise
Also, before we begin, I’ll tell you that several of these tours are included in the New York Pass and the New York Sightseeing Pass, so consider reading our guide to the best NY city passes.
1. Statue of Liberty cruise, a fun New York City boat tour
First, this one-hour cruise is a quick and affordable NYC boat ride that I recommend if you’re short on time but want to enjoy some sightseeing.
During the tour, which is led by a knowledgeable guide, you’ll sail around New York Harbor, past some of the top attractions that make the Big Apple so iconic. The highlight of this NYC sightseeing cruise is the Statue of Liberty, which you’ll see up-close from the water. Your boat will get within 100 feet of Lady Liberty, so you’ll be able to see the full splendor of her 305-ft frame.
Not only is this one of the best Statue of Liberty tours for people on a budget, but it also takes you past other top landmarks along the way. For example, you’ll sail past Ellis Island, Governor’s Island, and the South Street Seaport.
As you make your way along the Hudson River, your guide will point out important skyscrapers in Lower Manhattan, like the Empire State Building and the Freedom Tower. Then, sail under the Brooklyn Bridge and make your way up the East River to see Manhattan from the other side.
You can take this tour year-round since there is indoor and outdoor seating, as well as a cash bar on board. Also, if you have the New York Pass, this NY boat tour is included.
- Price: $30+
- Duration: 1 hour
- Highlights: Sightseeing cruise around the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and past both sides of Lower Manhattan
2. Champagne sunset yacht cruise, a romantic boat tour in New York City
For a fun girl’s night or a romantic date with your partner, consider this champagne cruise. The two-hour sightseeing tour takes you through New York Harbor on the Schooner America 2.0, an 1800s-style sailboat. You’ll depart from Chelsea Piers just before sunset, so you can enjoy the warm breeze as you peacefully glide down the Hudson River.
The vessel is operated by a professional sailing captain and crew, who will expertly navigate the schooner through the harbor. If it’s a chilly evening, the crew will hand out blankets to keep you warm while you enjoy the views of the NY skyline at golden hour.
Capture photos of the setting sun behind the Statue of Liberty, sail past Ellis Island and circle around Battery Park to see the other side of Manhattan. If the weather is good, your captain may take you past Governor’s Island and Manhattan’s Financial District, too.
Moreover, your ticket includes one complimentary cocktail, and you can purchase additional drinks throughout the tour. With the flowing drinks and sunset views, this scenic cruise along the harbor is one of the best things to do in NYC as a couple. Plus, the tour is included in the New York Sightseeing Pass.
- Price: $86
- Duration: 2 hours
- Highlights: Sunset cruise on an 1800s-style sailboat, champagne service, views of Ellis Island, Liberty Island, The Battery, and other landmarks
3. NYC buffet dinner cruise, the best NYC boat tour for couples
Another fun NYC boat tour that you can do as a couple is this brunch, lunch, or dinner cruise through New York Harbor. Spend a couple of hours cruising on the water while enjoying a gourmet chef-prepared meal, live entertainment, and views of the city’s most famous attractions.
You’ll climb aboard the Bateaux New York, a luxurious European-inspired vessel with indoor seating and open-air decks. This glass-enclosed boat is perfect for an NYC sightseeing cruise, as you can stay inside without missing any of the beautiful views and landmarks.
Depart from Chelsea Piers and cruise down the Hudson River, past Midtown and Lower Manhattan’s west side. The tour includes live narration, so you can learn more about the city skyline and its most iconic buildings. You’ll see the Statue of Liberty, One World Trade Center, the Brooklyn Bridge, and more.
This romantic NYC cruise has a brunch, lunch, and dinner option, so it’s up to you when to take the tour. Brunch includes bottomless mimosas and items like cinnamon French toast and seasonal fruit, or you can enjoy spinach salad, roasted salmon Provençale, and butter cake on the lunch tour.
That said, I think this cruise is one of the best things to do in NYC at night, as the dinner menu includes things like lobster bisque, tuna tartare, hand-carved strip loin, and New York-style cheesecake. You’ll also get to listen to live entertainment by a jazz pianist while seeing the Manhattan skyline after dark.
- Price: $105+
- Duration: 2-3 hours
- Highlights: Sightseeing cruise through New York Harbor with live entertainment and a gourmet 3-course meal
4. The Beast speedboat ride, an exciting boat tour in New York City
For a change of pace, check out this speedboat tour, an epic boat ride that’s both thrilling and educational.
Take a seat on the deck and hold onto the handrails, because you’re in for an incredible adventure. The Beast is a 70-foot sightseeing speedboat that will take you past the highlights of the NYC skyline at speeds up to 45 mph. Your tour is accompanied by a heart-pumping soundtrack and a professional and charismatic guide who will point out all the beautiful sights.
Feel the wind in your hair and the spray of water on your face as you speed past Lower Manhattan, catching views of the Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, and Battery Park. Then, jet over to the Statue of Liberty, where your captain will cut the engine so you can take a breath and marvel at Lady Liberty. Afterward, it’s time to get back to the action and continue zipping through the harbor.
You won’t find a New York harbor boat tour quite like this, and it’s one of the best things to do in Manhattan with family or friends.
- Price: $30+
- Duration: 30 minutes
- Highlights: Speedboat tour through New York Harbor, photo ops of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty
5. Architecture yacht cruise around Manhattan, an interesting NYC boat cruise
This yacht cruise is the perfect mix of sightseeing and education, so if you’re looking for an enlightening activity to do for a few hours, I recommend it.
You’ll hop aboard a beautiful 1920s-style yacht with a guide from the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter. They’ll share interesting facts, history, info, and tidbits of trivia about the Manhattan skyline, including how it has changed over the decades and the different architectural styles you can see.
As you sail along the waterfront, you’ll learn about the city’s development and how it grew into one of the most famous urban centers in the world. Your guide will shed new light on the Woolworth Building, monuments like the 9/11 Memorial, Wall Street’s Art Deco buildings, and the “starchitecture” of downtown NYC.
Witness Frank Gehry’s contribution to the New York skyline by viewing the Beekman Tower and the IAC Building from the boat, and check out the Tower Verre in Midtown, which was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel.
As this NYC yacht cruise circumnavigates Manhattan Island, you’ll sail under all 18 bridges, comparing and contrasting the architectural structure and style of each. While you enjoy some spectacular sightseeing, you’ll learn more about some of Manhattan’s most iconic condos, the public housing renewal project along the East River, and postwar revitalization efforts to improve the city’s buildings.
- Price: $106+
- Duration: 2 hours, 45 minutes
- Highlights: Sightseeing cruise led by a knowledgeable guide who will share insights about the city’s most famous architectural marvels
6. 90-minute landmarks cruise, the best sightseeing boat ride in New York City
This 90-minute New York City river cruise is another affordable option if you want to see several popular landmarks in one tour. During this boat ride, you’ll travel down the Hudson River and get stunning views of Midtown and Lower Manhattan’s west side. While you sail along, your tour guide will tell you interesting stories and trivia about the Big Apple and some of its top attractions.
Enjoy a sightseeing tour from the water, and get awesome views of the Empire State Building, the Freedom Tower, Manhattan’s waterfront parks, and Ellis Island. Your boat will also approach Liberty Island, allowing you to get up-close views of the Statue of Liberty. As you make your way back to the pier, you’ll go under the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges, two historical landmarks in Brooklyn.
So, if you’re looking for a boat tour that gives you a good overview of Manhattan’s top sights, this Hudson River sightseeing cruise is a great choice, and it’s included in the New York Pass.
- Price: $37+
- Duration: 1.5 hours
- Highlights: Boat tour past Midtown and Lower Manhattan attractions, including Liberty and Ellis Islands
7. Harbor Lights night cruise, the best evening boat ride in New York City
Finally, this evening cruise is a beautiful night tour through New York Harbor, and a great way to see the Manhattan skyline lit up after dark. Take a serene boat ride with climate-controlled indoor seating and an outdoor deck. The tour includes live commentary from an expert guide and some of the most unique perspectives of NYC’s most famous attractions.
You’ll set sail on this New York City night cruise right before sunset, so you’ll get the advantage of seeing the lovely views at golden hour and after dark. Cruise under the Manhattan Bridge and sail past the Freedom Tower, the Empire State Building, Titanic Pier, and Battery Park. Then, head over to Liberty and Ellis Islands, where you’ll get a closer look at the Ellis Island Immigration Station and the Statue of Liberty.
As you make your way back to Manhattan, you’ll pass Governor’s Island, the South Street Seaport, and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. As you pass under the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges, keep an eye out for the Chrysler Building and the United Nations Building.
There is a fully stocked bar on the boat, so enjoy sipping on a cocktail while witnessing the magnificent views. As you can imagine, this tour would be a fun thing to do in New York City with your friends or partner, and it’s also included in the New York Pass.
- Price: $41+
- Duration: 2 hours
- Highlights: Twilight cruise around Lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island
There you have it for the 7 best boat tours in New York City! If you have any questions about these NYC boat rides, or you’d like to share your experience, please leave me a comment below. I’d be happy to answer you. Until then, have a great time cruising through New York Harbor!