Free Kayaking NYC on the Hudson River


free kayaking new york city hudson river

It's free kayaking season again! So if you're not on a vacation getaway, or enjoying one of NYC's many destination parks and rooftop bars, then we suggest you grab your paddle and cruise the open water! In the last decade or so, NYC's terrific Downtown Boathouse, a non-profit, all-volunteer organization, has accomplished what not so long ago would have been unthinkable: to convince hundreds of New Yorkers, of all ages and paddling skills, to come out and play in the Hudson River. 

May 17th marked this season's opening of New York City Downtown Boathouse locations, Pier 40 and Pier 96, helped in part by the lovely weather, the once-grim, now-much-cleaner river played host to a veritable flotilla of brightly colored kayaks. If you've never paddled the Hudson, it's become sort of a must-do for all New Yorkers… especially if you have kids. Here's the details… 

New York City Downtown Boathouse free kayak hudson river

Free Kayaking at NYC's Downtown Boathouse

The New York City Downtown Boathouse has three locations: at Pier 40, which is west of Houston Street (the launching area is on the southern side of the building); at Pier 96, which is west of 56th Street; and at 72nd Street, in Riverside Park. All three boathouses are open every weekend, both days, between now and mid-October, as well as on holidays and on some weekday evenings for free kayaking in NYC. Each site has plenty of unsinkable kayaks (single or double), paddles, and life vests available for free up-to-20-minute paddles, first come, first served, in the protected embayment; Hudson River currents can be nasty, so stay in the designated areas. You will get wet–or, at least, we sure did when we went out there–but the Pier 40 and Pier 96 locations have changing rooms and lockers (bring your bathing suit!) and a rinse-off station. 

 Kayaking NYC hudson river

Kayaking on the Hudson River

How clean is the water in the Hudson River these days? The short answer: definitely clean enough. Of all the people we saw paddling this past weekend, no one seemed to mind getting splashed a bit… or even splashed a lot. Don't drink the water, obviously, but it's totally safe, and even pleasant, to play around in. And there were all kinds of people out there, young and not-so young, fit and less so. If you've never paddled before, the New York City Downtown Boathouse all-volunteer crew offers both formal lessons and less-formal instruction, so if you have any inclination to try out free kayaking, we encourage you to do so.

There's many other ways to get out on the Hudson River too, such as the Manhattan Kayak Company and Inwood Canoe Club. Either way, you can be sure its a good time, and you can top off the experience by stopping by Dominique Ansel Bakery for some Cookie Shots or Danny Bowien's Mission Cantina for take-out burritos — both in the downtown region!

Kayaking Hudson River kids weekend adventure

More Information: Downtown Boathouse Free Kayaking

You can get your free kayak, paddle, and life vest at any of the three New York City Downtown Boathouse locations, weekends and holidays, from now through October. Visit NYC Downtown Boathouse for more information about hours, lessons, special three-hour trips, volunteering opportunities, and more!

Free kayaking along the hudson river downtown boathouse

Kayaking NYC couple ready to take on the Hudson River

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