The bright yellow New York Water Taxi boats are hard to miss in the city’s waterways, and they’re also one of the best ways to tour the Big Apple and see its most famous attractions. To experience most of what the New York Water Taxi has to offer, you need to buy a hop on and hop off ticket, which grants you access to the lower half of the city. There is also a seasonal, free shuttle that goes from Wall Street’s Pier 11 to Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood on weekends. No matter which you choose, it’s a unique and often breathtaking way to explore some of New York’s best neighborhoods. Each of the Water Taxi’s docks is near wonderful attractions, celebrated food and drink stops and plenty of shopping. To help you make the most of your time, we identified the best things to do at five primo stops. The ambitious could hit all five in a day, but if you’re going to be doing a lot of walking around, it’s advised you pick your favorite two or three and give your feet a break.
West 44th Street
Jump off the boat at the unnervingly named Hell’s Kitchen. What was once the gang-riddled home of poor and working class Irish-Americans (The New York Times referred to it as one of the “lowliest and filthiest” areas of the city in 1881) is now a gentrified extension of Chelsea. Walk north on the waterfront two blocks and head for the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum (12th Avenue & 46th Street, 212-245-0072) for a likely once-in-a-lifetime treat: the Enterprise space shuttle. The shuttle opens July 10 after undergoing repairs post Hurricane Sandy. The hulking 1943 aircraft carrier is a thrill in itself, and you can tour the ship, see a British Airways Concorde, try a flight simulator and much more while at the museum. When your curiosity is sated, head to Domus Unaffected Living (413 W. 44th St., 212-581-8099; domusnewyork.com), a home decor and gift store featuring hand-crafted goods from around the world. Its owners source unique objects from local artisans in Morocco, Guatemala, South Africa and more, so you can feel good knowing your purchase impacts the standard of living of the creators. Don’t miss the Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market (W 39th Street and 9th Avenue, 212-243-5343, hellskitchenfleamarket.com/home/) to haggle for treasures amongst the antiques, vintage clothing and handmade jewelry. When you’re ready for refreshments, try Pony Bar (637 10th Ave., 212-586-2707, theponybar.com) a craft beer lovers’ dream with a list of drafts that update daily. It has a heavy selection of New York beers, currently including brews from Brooklyn (Sixpoint), upstate New York (Adirondack’s Black Rye Saison is a treat) and many more. There’s also a pub menu, with items such as Naked Thai calamari and soft pretzels, which go perfect with a pint. Want something a little fancier? Walk over to Anejo Tequileria (668 10th Ave., 212-920-4770, Anejonyc.com), Top Chefveteran Angelo Sosa’s bustling tequila and taco bar. The Mezcal margarita and chipotle pineapple guacamole are winners.
Step off of Pier 45 and into the West Village; it’s one of the city’s most bucolic neighborhoods. Although it’s mostly quiet now, the area has had a rich place in the city’s history as the birthplace of bohemian culture and as the starting point for gay rights, with the famous Stonewall Inn riots taking place in 1969. Dive in by walking to the White Horse Tavern (567 Hudson St., 212-989-3956). Opened in 1880s the bar was home to longshoreman until Dylan Thomas, Jack Kerouac, Jim Morrison, Norman Mailer and other 50s and 60s creative types made it their own. Stop by for a beer (or three), and if weather allows, sit outside on the benches and watch the world go by. Now’s the time to take a charming neighborhood tour, walking south on Hudson Street, go east on Barrow Street and connect with Bedford Street (the West Village is one of the few NYC neighborhoods that’s not on a grid). At 75.5 Bedford — among many other unique townhouses — you’ll see New York’s skinniest house at just 8 feet wide; it was on the market last year for around $3 million. Your next stop should be Bleecker Street for one of the better little shopping streets in town, with everything from big-name designers (Ralph Lauren, Mulberry, Marc Jacobs) to names with indie cred (Sucre, Satya Jewelry and Pinky Otto). When you’ve had your fill, wrap your day up with farm-fresh dim sum at Red Farm(529 Hudson St., 212-792-9700, redfarmnyc.com). Master chef Joe Ng’s restaurant is more bistro than American-style Chinese, meaning you can sip a Blackberry Fizz while nibbling on pan-fried lamb dumplings.
South Street Seaport/Battery Park
South Street Seaport and Pier 17 is a favorite visitor stop for its open-air shopping, classic tall ships (many offer harbor cruises) and historic spaces to explore. Although many shops are still closed due to Hurricane Sandy damage, there’s still plenty to see and do. Skip the chains for lunch and head a few blocks north to Cowgirl Sea-Horse (259 Front St., 212-608-7873, cowgirlseahorse.com), a cozy off-beat spot that makes its name on cold beers and a menu that includes hearty “beach baskets” — fried fish, sandwiches, burgers and more, all with coleslaw and a pickle. After lunch, walk south and east to Wall Street in the Financial District and walk by the New York Stock Exchange (11 Wall St., 212-608-7873, nyse.com) and check out Federal Hall (26 Wall St., 212-825-6990, nps.gov/feha/index.htm). If your interested in finance is still not sated, head down the block to tour the Museum of American Finance (48 Wall St., 212-908-4110, moaf.org/index) located in a historic bank building. Exhibits include an 18-karat solid gold and jewel-encrusted Monopoly set on loan from the Smithsonian and original ticker tape from the Crash of 1929. Finish your adventure with a traditional all-natural treat from Gelato Ti Amo (68 2nd Ave., 212-432-2800, gelatotiamo.it/index.asp), and head to Battery Park at the tip of the island to gaze at the Statue of Liberty and hop back on the Water Taxi if you’d like.
The Water Taxi drops you off right next to the Brooklyn Bridge, one of the most beautiful river crossings in the city. Take in the views at the bucolic 85-acre Brooklyn Bridge Park, and then head onto the neighborhood’s cobblestone streets for some unique site-seeing. Stop at POWERHOUSE Arena (37 Main St., 718-666-3049, powerhousearena.com), a gallery, bookstore, boutique and performance space and browse the shelves for a book you didn’t know you needed. Readings happen often — don’t be shy if you happen upon one. For fun and fabulous stationery and electronics accessories, try Dabney Lee Stationery (55 Washington St., 718-596-4169, dabneylee.com), and spend some time at Rough Hewn (145 Front St., 917-232-3654, roughhewnhome.com) to brows its sustainable, distinctive home goods and furnishings. Cap your trip off with a delicious, fortifying margarita at the bar of Gran/Electrica(5 Front St., 718-852-2789, granelectrica.com).
Although it’s not part of the Water Taxi’s hop on/off service, the Red Hook stop is free (nywatertaxi.com/tours/redhook) and takes a separate route that leaves from Wall Street’s Pier 11 and travels in a continuous loop through Sept. 2 on weekends from 10am to 9pm. Watch the city disappear and embrace the life of the modern-day Brooklyn longshoreman on the other side. Start by getting your seafood fix at the casual, open-air Brooklyn Crab (24 Reed St., 718-643-2722, brooklyncrab.com); it’s heavy on crab and beer, and the Manhattan skyline is its roof deck’s most distinctive feature. The other bet for seafood is the low-key Red Hook Lobster Pound (284 Van Brunt St., 718-858-7650, redhooklobster.com), beloved for its amazing lobster rolls, both Maine- and Connecticut-style. The area is small geographically, so it’s easy to walk to the neighborhood highlights (there are no subways regardless). Walk off some of your lunch by heading to Metal & Thread (398 Van Brunt St., 718-414-9651, Metalandthread.com) to browse urban-chic recycled jewelry, and then head to the Red Hook Winery (175-204 Van Dyke St., 325A, 347-689-2432, redhookwinery.com) to sample local wines. Top your afternoon off with a sweet namesake treat at Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies (185 Van Dyke St., stevesauthentic.com) or visit the shop at Cacao Prieto (218 Conover St., 347 225-0130), a combination chocolate and liquor factory. Yes, we said chocolate and liquor, namely rum, cacao liqueur and whiskey. Both Steve’s and Cacao Prieto are primarily commercial spaces, but they will sell you sweets, and you’ll have a genuine (and delicious) local experience.
Discover more of top places to see and things to do while in New York City with our Best of New York series.