This copy has not yet been updated for 2015, but please check back in the coming weeks.
We love going on boat rides in New York Harbor but when those trips are FREE we enjoy them even more. From Friday, June 20 to Sunday, June 22 you can do just that at the sixth annual North River Historic Ship Festival in Tribeca. Vintage ships will dock at Hudson River Park's Pier 25 and host hands-on activities that celebrate NYC's rich maritime history, including tours of the vessels, live shows and FREE 45-minute cruises on select ships.
Organized by the nonprofit North River Historic Ship Society, the fest features five meticulously restored crafts: the Fireboat John J. Harvey; the Lehigh Valley Barge No.79 (a.k.a. Red Hook, Brooklyn’s floating Waterfront Museum); the 1904 tugboat Pegasus; the schooner Pioneer; and the Coast Guard Lighthouse Tender Lilac, the last steam-powered boat made in the U.S. back in 1933. The North River Historic Ship Festival is a great way to get out on the Hudson River while enjoying an up close look at these amazing antique boats. Plus, except for the Showboat Circus performance, all activities are totally FREE. Of course the boat tours are extremely popular and book up fast. Read on to find out how to snag a spot and everything else you need to know about the fest.
The North River Historic Ship Festival kicks off this Friday, June 20 and runs through Sunday, June 22. Save for Sunday's Showboat Circus performance, all activities are FREE and first-come, first-served, so arriving early is a must. No-cost tickets for the boat rides can be reserved online in advance online starting Saturday, June 7. If you don't manage to snag a spot, walk-ups will be accommodated day-of if space is available. The good news: Pier 25 has a fabulous playground and a mini-golf course, so if possible, one adult can wait in line while the rest of the family plays.
Dockside Ship Tours
Friday, June 20 5-8pm and Saturday, June 21 noon-5pm
While these boats won't be heading into the harbor, you can enjoy a stationary tour of the historic Lehigh Valley Barge No.79, the 1904 tugboat Pegasus and the Coast Guard Lighthouse Tender Lilac.
Saturday, June 21 noon-5pm
FREE; reserve your tickets in advance online if possible; if you miss out, day-of tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 11:30am
Head out onto the Hudson on the historic John J. Harvey, a circa 1931 fireboat, the historic schooner Pioneer and the Pegasus tug. The trips are about 45-minutes long, perfect for short attention spans. The Fireboat is a great choice for families since it makes a big show out of shooting water that kids really enjoy. If you want to do a boat ride, try to reserve your tickets online in advance (there's a $5 refundable fee). If you miss out, arrive early to see if you can snag a spot from a no-show.
Sunday, June 22 at 1 and 4pm
In advance: $13 for adults, $10 for children under 13; at the door: $15 for adults, $13 for children
Enjoy a floating variety show aboard the Lehigh Valley Barge No. 79 starring a cowboy rope artist, a juggler and a comedic songstress. Buying advance tickets is recommended.
Educational Activities on the Lilac
Sunday, June 23 1-5pm
Learn how to tie sailors' knots with the ship's crew, pull traps out of the water with the River Project (one year they caught a couple of live sea horses!) and try other nautical activities.
Busy this weekend? There's another fabulous water-themed festival with FREE boat rides to put on your radar: City of Water Day on Saturday, July 12. The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance sponsors festivities on Governors Island, in New Jersey's Liberty State Park and on the water in between. Enjoy kayaking and canoeing, historic boat tours and rides, live entertainment and more. The boat rides require advance registration so be sure to check the website closer to the date to snag a spot.
Find out about other awesome seasonal activities in our Summer Fun Guide.
This post was originally published in May 2013.