Free kayaking on the Hudson – fantastic family outing

Another New York bucket list item ticked off today – kayaking on the Hudson River. One of our favourite weekend activities is a long walk up the west edge of Manhattan along the Hudson River Park, as the views are fantastic, you don’t have to constantly cross roads, and there are so many family friendly activities (warranting another blog post later this summer). We’ve often stopped to watch the colourful kayaks paddling about on the river. Today we decided to give it a go.

On Pier 26, near the corner of West and North Moore Streets in Tribeca, lives the Downtown Boathouse. Completely free and run by suntanned, friendly volunteers, you can introduce your kids to kayaking with a stunning urban backdrop. The Downtown Boathouse rules are simple – ‘Everything is free. The only thing that we ask for is that you kayak safely.’ Everything is provided, from child size life jackets, sunscreen and ice popsicles afterwards. All you need is to bring a change of clothes and sunglasses, as it can get v dazzling on the water.

Downtown Boathouse rules
Downtown Boathouse rules

There are no stated age restrictions, other than that under-16s must be accompanied by an adult. Apparently toddlers tend to be the youngest, but B decided she was deeply unwilling to go anywhere near the water. T, however, was dancing on her toes with excitement. It turned into a little specially day with her dad while B and I watched and waved from the pier.


On the water for about 20 minutes, they had a wonderful time gentling paddling about. Volunteers helped them to disembark, and T shot up that gangplank like a rocket, bursting with excitement and pride. It was the most fantastic introduction to water sports I can think of – and completely free. Nice.

Tips if you’re planning to take your own kids kayaking here: 

  • It is open weekends May 16th – October 11th, 9am-5pm, and during the weekdays July 6th – August 28th, betweem 5pm – 7pm. As with all New York activities, it gets busy as the day goes on, so always best to arrive early to avoid queues in the hot sun
  • Kids under 16 must be accompanied by an adult, and it’s one child per adult
  • There are plenty of child size life jackets, and a little kayak on the pier to try out first
  • The facilities are basic but fine – there are two little changing rooms and plenty of colourful lockers
  • The nearest bathrooms are on Pier 25, a two minute walk away, and also home to one of our favourite playgrounds
  • For refuelling afterwards, head inland to Square Diner for the best French Toast in Tribeca. 33 Leonard Street, between Hudson and Varick Streets

This week’s Highs & Lows:


  • Our first 4th of July. Had fun teasing some local friends by saying ‘bah humbug’, but it was a fun day. Living high up in Battery Park City, we had great views of the ships sailing up the Hudson, and then of the fireworks later on
  • Turning up at our favourite English food shop, Myers of Keswick, to find they were celebrating their 30th birthday with free sausage sarnies, scones, and prosecco. Fantastic. This was C’s first visit, and he got a bit carried away with all the sausages, pork pies, cottage pies, scotch eggs, Hula Hoops, Angel Delight, Robinson’ Squash and Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. We don’t eat American chocolate at all as it tastes so strange to us.



Author: Alex

Hello. Toddling Round New York is my own little blog of our family's experience of moving young kids from London to New York... And of having a baby out here. They are my own baby steps of exploring this incredible city. I lived in five countries in four continents growing up, so you'd think I'd be good at this by now. Here you'll find stories and photographs of our adventures, the highs and the lows of expat parenthood, and some ideas I hope you'll find useful if you're in New York with young kids.

7 thoughts on “Free kayaking on the Hudson – fantastic family outing”

  1. That is so amazing that you can go and do that for free, such a great opportunity to open kids up to water sports with no financial restrictions!! I can’t imagine there are many places in the world where you can do that!!
    I always enjoy your high and low parts to your posts too!! It always used to surprise me how often Americans couldn’t understand me when we moved there…..I very quickly adapted my southern English accent to queens English which I found helped but it really is crazy how different the languages are considering they are supposedly the same!!!
    Thanks for linking with #myexpatfamily

  2. I love New York. Hubby and I have always wanted to live there, but its not going to happen for us. I really want to visit next summer for a holiday so do post your top tips! Kayaking sounds fab!

    1. Hi, welcome to the blog! So glad you’re enjoying the tips; one of the purposes is to give families ideas for what to do when they come visit. Hope you guys make it out soon. Where are you based? Take care, Alex

  3. Brave T! I shall look forward to seeing her sculling down the Thames before long!
    Have you tried the free pop up swimming pool in dumbo yet?

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