When summer reigns in New York City, it becomes challenging to find shelter from all that humidity and heat. One option is to stay indoors, in air-conditioned comfort. Yet why not venture out for a cool adventure? Head to the Downtown Boathouse and spend an enjoyable half hour kayaking free of charge.
Yes, absolutely free! The Downtown Boathouse is an all volunteer-run nonprofit organization dedicated to providing free public access to the harbor in New York City through public kayaking programs. The group encourages safe public use of the harbor waters. After all, Manhattan is surrounded by water. Why not enjoy this amazing city resource?
Ever since I went kayaking on Washington Pond in Maine, I have wanted to repeat the experience. Anyone who has enjoyed this water sport, whether on a river or lake, knows that kayaking is fun and great exercise.
There are three locations to enjoy kayaking in the city—Pier 40, Pier 96, and 72nd Street, all on the Hudson River. I opted for the facility at Pier 96. It had everything one might need for kayaking—lockers, changing rooms, showers, life jackets, and quite a number of double and single kayaks.
There was no line when I arrived and I was greeted warmly by the Downtown Boathouse volunteers. Participants must know how to swim, sign a waiver, and wear a life jacket. After changing into a bathing suit and leaving all my belongings in a locker, I joined a group standing on a floating platform. The instructors checked all of our life jackets and gave us some basic instructions, including how to sit in the kayak and paddle correctly.
If you have never tried a kayak ride, you might think it is not safe, yet it is one of the safest activities on water. The kayak or canoe is designed in such a way that no matter what happens, it will keep floating on waves. Kayakers must stay within the designated embayment outside of the river currents and away from the sea walls and piers. There are always two or three lifeguards on duty. After 20 minutes, you must return to the dock and ask if there are others waiting for a boat. If not, you can enjoy extended time on the water.
Once you are finished with your time kayaking, you can take a shower and change clothes. Before leaving, don’t forget to leave a gratuity and a donation.
The Downtown Boathouse is now on my list of fun activities. If you are not looking for fancy spas, but want to spend quality time with your friends, a sweetheart, or your family, make sure this place is your next stop.
• Pier 40 – off W. Houston Street and West Street (9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays)
• Pier 96 – 56th Street and Twelfth Avenue (9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays)
• 72nd Street Pier – 72nd Street and Twelfth Avenue (10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Note: There are lockers at 72nd Street, but no changing rooms or showers)