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See New York's Architecture From the High Seas—Win Tickets!

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The geographic constraints of the island of Manhattan is partly responsible for its vertical reach. Unable to sprawl, buildings reached skyward as the city grew. This density, however, can make it difficult to appreciate the buildings around us. Our perspectives are often limited to acute neck-craning angles that limit an appreciation of neighboring context. One solution to this problem is to take a big step backwards and view the city from the water. This is no doubt one reason why tourists enjoy taking the Staten Island ferry. The American Institute of Architects' New York chapter (AIANY), has been offering an enhanced version of that waterborne view this summer through a series of Manhattan circumnavigation tours, hosted by architects and AIANY members who point out buildings of interest throughout a three hour tour.

The cruise can be considered a step above the Circle Line—passengers are aboard a 1920s-style motor yacht named Manhattan operated by Classic Harbor Line. We found the tour informative, but not pedantic. It's relatively easy to tune out the guide and just enjoy the ride. And no one tells you to sit back down and pay attention if you want to wander to the front of the cabin to get a drink from the bar.

Some of the tours pay special attention to certain architectural themes, like iconic buildings, waterfront memorials, or downtown "starchitecture". Most tours are supposed to last just under three hours, but can take longer—hold your "Gilligan's Island" jokes—if the Manhattan has to linger around Spuyten Duyvil for the rail bridge to open and allow passage into the Hudson River. We didn't hear anyone complaining about the delay.

The Curbed NY Newsletter?our free daily dispatch of top Curbed stories?is also a chance to win free stuff! In this afternoon's newsletter, we'll be giving away tickets to an Around Manhattan Offical NYC Architecture Tour. For a chance to win, drop your e-mail address into the box below before 4 p.m. today.

Sign Up For the Curbed NY Email Newsletter:

· Around Manhattan Offical NYC Architecture Tour [Classic Harbor Line]
· American Institute of Architects - NY [aiany.org]