5 Ways to Get a Million-Dollar Manhattan View for Under $50

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Photo by iStock. Design by Erik Mace for Yahoo Travel.

by Cathy Bennett Kopf

Paris has the Eiffel Tower. London? Big Ben. When you think of Manhattan, what comes to mind? The New York skyline, of course. It’s familiar to everyone because it’s starred in more ads, movies, and television shows than George Clooney. And it’s always amazing. I’ve lived within 30 miles of the city my whole life and I still crane my neck to catch a glimpse of the city from airplane windows, taking off and landing.

But the ultimate place to appreciate the skyline isn’t from above. It’s best seen from the water. Manhattan is an island, surrounded by the Harlem, East, and Hudson rivers, and the Atlantic Ocean. If you’re visiting New York, you can’t leave until you get your postcard view. Here are five ways to get up close and personal with the Manhattan skyline, for less than $50 dollars each, including a few for free.

Ride the Staten Island Ferry

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Sailing by the Statue of Liberty gives you a chance to time travel and imagine how your immigrant grandparents might have felt arriving in New York. (Photo: The Open Suitcase LLC)

Let’s start with the best part…it’s free. That’s right. Free. And it runs 365 days a year, round the clock, rain or shine. The 25-minute trip connects Staten Island’s St. George Terminal (right by the stadium of the Staten Island Yankees, the Bronx Bombers’ minor-league team) with Whitehall Terminal in Manhattan, located across the street from Battery Park. It’s a great way to see the bridges of Lower Manhattan and Lady Liberty.

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Buy a drink. Get a boat ride.

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Elton John has his Rocketman. I was welcomed aboard the Destiny by Lobsterman. (Photo: The Open Suitcase LLC)

The North River Lobster Co. operates the Destiny, a 450-passenger boat docked on the west side of Manhattan. There is no fee to board this floating restaurant, you’ll only pay for your drinks tab, which might include cocktail specials or seafood items like lobster rolls. If you go expecting a frat party, you won’t be disappointed. There are six scheduled daily cruises (seven on Fridays and Saturdays). The trip lasts 45 minutes and heads north on the Hudson towards the George Washington Bridge.

Paddle in the Hudson River

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Talk about the “wow” factor. That’s one very big boat. (Photo: The Open Suitcase LLC)

Take an hourlong kayak or SUP lesson with the Manhattan Kayak Company. It’s intimidating but also awe-inspiring to paddle around in the shadow of the grand aircraft carrier, the USS Intrepid. Classes start at $35. You can also pick up a paddle and kayak for free with the Downtown Boathouse, which has piers downtown and on the Upper West Side. Show up on any weekend from mid-May to mid-October (and some weekdays during the height of summer) and you’ll get to take a kayak out into the boathouse’s protected cove. Longer trips into the Hudson River are offered occasionally, as well as free classes.

Related: Where’s the Boat? Check Out the Transparent Kayak

Take a mini cruise

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If you haven’t taken a cruise on the Circle Line since your second grade field trip, maybe it’s time to do it again. (Photo: The Open Suitcase LLC)

Sixty million people can’t be wrong. That’s the number of passengers who’ve cruised on the Circle Line since 1945. The Best of NYC excursion lasts 2.5 hours, features narration, and takes you all around the island, passing famous landmarks, including the Brooklyn Bridge, Yankee Stadium, and Gracie Mansion. Adult fares are $41. Circle Line also runs a high-speed hour-long thrill ride aboard the Beast, which motors out to the Statue of Liberty and back for $29.

Sail in style

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Remember the “Friends” episode when Joey and Rachel go sailing? (Photo: The Open Suitcase LLC)

Manhattan by Sail offers excursions aboard two classic schooners, the 130-passenger Clipper City and the smaller Shearwater. A variety of cruise events are available, including Sunday brunch, craft beer and wine tastings, and sunset sails. Ticket prices vary depending on the type of sailing, but they start at $39 on Clipper City and $45 on Shearwater. Any bachelor or bachelorette would be thrilled to see either on their date card.

Related: Ahoy Matey! Best Places to Rent a Boat in Every State

Before you hit the high seas, keep these tips in mind:

Make sure you’ve fully charged your camera or phone so you can snap tons of pictures.

Don’t forget sunscreen.

Pack a light, waterproof jacket. It may get breezy and rain squalls can blow in at any time.

Leave the fancy shoes at home. Rubber soles will provide traction on rolling, slippery decks.

We can’t all be Donald Trump. That’s probably a good thing. But you can have what he’s having. When you hop onboard one of these water tours, you’ll capture your own million-dollar view of the Manhattan skyline.

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