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NYC Ferry: New York’s most beautiful way to commute

Skip the pricey boat tours—for just $2.75, you can get a stunning architectural tour of NYC on the newly-launched ferries

The NYC Ferry dock at Pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Amy Plitt

I’m convinced that the NYC Ferry is the best way to see New York City.

This may not be that controversial of an opinion, but it’s not something I necessarily expected to think when plans for the ferry service—which launched just months ago—were announced back in 2015. I like the idea of the ferry, but the fact that there’s no fare-sharing with the MTA (you have to pay an additional fee beyond a MetroCard), means that I’ll never use it regularly for commuting, even though Curbed’s office and my home are both close to stops on two of its routes.

But when it comes to pleasant—and, for the purposes of this challenge against my fellow Curbed editors in San Francisco and Los Angeles, beautiful—ways to commute in New York, it can’t be beat. I decided to test the East River route on a recent Friday, when the weather was clear and sunny, to gauge exactly how lovely the ride is. I’ve gone between Wall Street and Brooklyn Bridge Park, but had never journeyed the whole route—which travels from Lower Manhattan to Dumbo, North Brooklyn, Queens, and Midtown. I’m here to tell you that it’s worth the $2.75 fare, especially if you’re a person who loves architecture.

Amy Plitt

The ride isn’t without its challenges; on a particularly windy day, the boats rock back and forth on the choppy East River, so unless you have a stomach of steel (thankfully, I do), you may need some Dramamine. And it’s become far more popular with tourists lately, so you may have to fight for coveted real estate on a boat’s top deck, where you’ll find the best views.

But: the views. The views. Thanks to the neighborhoods that the ferry passes, you see a lot of New York landmarks in a very short period of time. A brief list: Jane’s Carousel, all of the East River bridges (the Dumbo stop, where I started, is in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge), the rising Domino Sugar redevelopment, One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, Long Island City’s Pepsi-Cola sign, the Chrysler Building, the UN Building … I could go on. The point being: for under $3, you get a tour of the city’s architectural gems that can’t be beat. There’s no tour guide, sure, but bring a knowledgeable friend along and you’ll be set.

Amy Plitt

There’s something about a boat ride—particularly in New York, where so much commuting is done on cramped and dingy subway cars, or on buses that can be so slow—that feels refreshing. I spent my time on the ferry not staring at my phone or mentally ticking off how long until I got off, but admiring the scenery (and, okay, posting to Instagram a few times). It gave me a renewed sense of admiration for the city—a feeling that I rarely get after a subway commute.