Top Five Best NYC Waterfront Bars
As a setting for recreation and relaxation (and eating and drinking), the long and varied waterfront of New York City has been embraced in recent years as never before. Hudson River Park on the west side, running all the way from Battery Park City to Inwood; the East River Esplanade bringing new life to the recently residential South Street Seaport area; the enormous, extremely popular Brooklyn Bridge Park, which may have surpassed the big inland parks (Central, Prospect) this season in terms of community activities and events; Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City, home of the landmarked Pepsi sign and nifty private nooks… all of this is new to the city in the last decade or so. And all of which is to say: excellent, there's been an enormous amount of development on the water; now where can get a drink? Here's a good start…
Watermark Bar and Lounge, South Street Seaport
The new Industry Kitchen across the Esplanade might be getting all the hype these days, but really, the best spot to grab a drink (and a burger, if you're so inclined), is at the Watermark Bar at the end of Pier 15. Free with your pitcher of Spiked Lemonade (or whatever you'd like to enjoy) are terrific views of the Brooklyn (and Manhattan) Bridge, shade if desired, thanks to the overhang from the lawn and deck above, and that unbeatable feeling of getting away from it all, even though you're actually only about thirty yards from everything.
Boat Basin Cafe, Upper West Side
The most venerable of NYC's best waterfront drinking spots–though still only about a dozen years old–the Boat Basin Cafe at 79th Street in Riverside Park has become something of an institution for Upper West Siders and the after-work crowd (most tables sport at least one pitcher of beer). The sunsets over the Hudson are lovely, the people-watching generally pretty great, and the nostalgia factor is high, especially if you remember what it was like here in the late 1970s. Hint: it was really different. Also note that it can get super loud at peak hours, so judge your mood accordingly.
La Marina, Washington Heights
Speaking of places that have changed, Washington Heights feels more and more like an extension of the Upper West Side/Morningside Heights/Columbia Sprawl these days, especially from Broadway west to the Hudson River (east of Broadway, thankfully, still has the old neighborhood atmosphere). Case in point: La Marina, a massive (75,000 square feet!) outdoor bar, restaurant, and "event" space right on the water. The river views are expansive, the George Washington Bridge is always a pretty sight, and the space (and menus) are well-appointed. Heck, there's even an actual sandy beach on the premises, which is open to the public (not just customers), but because no outside food or beverages are allowed, it's mostly just an extension of the bar. Well worth a bike ride or A train trip to check this place out.
Pier A Harbor House, Battery Park
Back downtown and new this season, the enormous (28,000 square feet!) indoor-outdoor, multi-level Pier A Harbor House has proven to be a big hit with the after-work banker crowd (it's much more relaxed in the afternoon), and little wonder: the space is beautiful, a New York City landmark built in 1886, and surrounded by a free-flowing deck with both dining tables and stand-up mini-bars; the options are many, from the beer-centric Long Hall and Oyster Bar on the first floor to the "finer-dining" options above (which, to be honest, seem like tourist bait); and the views of the river, the harbor, and the Statue of Liberty are unparallelled.
Pier i Cafe, Upper West Side
For a more low-key approach to waterfront drinking, try the exceedingly pleasant Pier i Cafe at around 70th Street in the newly-anointed Riverside Park South. Lots of cocktails, pitchers of beer, pitchers of frozen adult beverages such as Mango Madness, and a crowd-pleasing food menu make this a neighborhood favorite for both families as well as hosting tables of summertime revelers and sunset lovers of all types. Umbrellas provide shade, so it's comfortable even during peak sun hours, the burgers are first-rate, and the passing parade of park walkers/runners/bikers makes for diverting people-watching.
Where Else To Go
If you prefer sky over sea, check out eight of our favorite rooftop bars in NYC.