The Staten Island Ferry is hands down one of my family’s favorite local trips. And not just because it’s amazingly free, but there’s nothing else like it. There are expensive boat rides all over Manhattan, but this ride is one of a kind. It’s also hassle free as you will soon see.
First of all ,it’s fun just getting there, you can go via subway but we always prefer the bus and enjoy the “bus tour” all the way down to the end of Manhattan. The subway trains are 1, 4, 5, N, R, and buses are M1, M6 and M15. M1 is my favorite since it rides down Fifth Ave(comes back on Madison). M6 is on Broadway/ 7th Ave. M15 is First/Second Ave. The M1 and M6 are reasonably close to either Penn Station or Port Authority.
Once you get to the Terminal, go up the long escalators. Upstairs is the marble/stone waiting room, There are really nice rest rooms and a kiosk for snacks. The ferries run every half hour or every 15 minutes if it’s rush hour or there are loads of people. So pretty much any time you get there is fine. About 5-10 minutes before the next Ferry arrives, people start lining up next to the doors. If there are a lot of people, it’s a good idea to get up there and wait, but hold your kids’ hands. Usually when the ferry arrives, the doors will open and there is a rush to the boat but it’s contained by the police who remind everyone to walk and no running. Go to your left side walkway to the boat and find a seat inside or outside, on that side. This is the side that will have an amazing view on the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Conversely, your right side entrance on the way back will give you the same view. I stand outside even in cold weather because the view of NYC harbor is gorgeous, and we all like to look down at the waves rushing back the sides of the ferry. You can usually stand at either end of the ferry which is fun, but a little nauseating if your sensitive.
Midway on the ride, you will see the Statue and all the tourists will be snapping pictures, take a few yourself with your kids in the foreground. The trip usually lasts about a half hour but less during rush hour when the boats cruise faster-which by the way is a lot of fun too.
A side attraction that I never heard anyone else mention, is the rest rooms. There are nice regular rest rooms but more interesting since they are on a boat and the kids find that fascinating, but down on the bottom level towards the ends of the ferry there are a few rest rooms which seem antique and are “ship” looking, very narrow, with long wooden doors. Even the sinks are cool.
Once you get to Staten Island you must go off the boat even if you are going right back. You follow the herd to the return trip waiting room and usually in a short time there is another ferry ready to go back to Manhattan.
The Ferry can be enjoyed day, dusk, or night, any season. The time of day make each trip unique. During the day you see everything “live”. At dusk the trip takes on a new feel, with the sun setting, the lights of NYC starting to shine, the water getting dark. At night, it’s a mysterious ride, with the water looking almost black, NYC bright as a candle, the Statue of Liberty all lit up, The sky dark, stars sometimes visible. On a cold night it feels cozy to sit inside looking out the windows. Of course, kids like to walk all over the ferry, up and down the stairs, to all levels. If your kids are into retro they will love the retro “decor” of the seating are in the boats. Apparently there hasn’t been much change there for quite awhile. I love that part of the Ferry and I hope they never update it.
There are so many ways to experience the Staten Island Ferry, it’ll be a trip you an your kids will enjoy in any weather, and it’s a great standby when you’re low on cash but you still want to get out of the house and go somewhere fun.