NYC’s East River Ferry: Free to June 24

This week the East River Ferry has brought back regular ferry service to the 18-mile East River, which is a nice reminder that New York — down deep, away from skyscraper canyons — is a river city.

New York was founded not because of the chunky rocks that glaciers pushed to present-day Central Park, but the Hudson and the East Rivers. The first ferry to cross from Brooklyn to Manhattan began in 1642, back when the colony was Dutch. In 1776, George Washington fled with 9500 troops after the disastrous Battle of Brooklyn — escaping from wig-wearing Brits at night through Manhattan; the war was saved, and all because of the ferry. By 1870, 50 million annual passengers took steamboats across the river. That service ended in the mid 1920s.

Run by NY Waterways, East River Ferry’s rides are free through June 24. Afterwards, visitors can buy a day pass for $12, nice considering MTA recently suspended the one-day ‘fun pass’ for New York subways and buses.

To help plan a day, I put together this planner for some of the main ferry stops for Lonely Planet. Just a $4 ride from Wall Street to Midtown sounds better than the subway too.

I also got to speak on all the new ferry fun at a New York Waterways/East River Ferry event at Fulton Ferry Landing in Brooklyn last night… right after Brooklyn mayor Marty Markowitz.

Hope he’s not mad that I said I live/work in Queens.

About Robert Reid

Lonely Planet's US Travel Editor. Written 24 LP guidebooks and articles for NY Times, WSJ, ESPN & CNN. Into cereal, Dylan, travel.
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