10 sights to see on a New York Circle Line Cruise

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A Circle Line cruise is the perfect perch for soaking in New York City’s famous sights and magnificent skyline.

The modern fleet is designed to offer passengers an unbeatable water-level sightseeing experience from its large windows and outdoor decks.

You won’t waste time waiting on lengthy entrance lines and you won’t pay costly admission fees. The Big Apple’s iconic landmarks will float by as you breeze along the East and Hudson Rivers, with plenty of opportunities to snap photos that will be the envy of Instagram. Expert tour guides narrate throughout, sharing information, entertaining tidbits and insider tips.

Indoor seats are temperature-controlled for a comfortable nautical journey in any weather. Should your appetite stir, a range of sweet and salty noshes and beverages, including beer, wine and cocktails, are available for purchase at the onboard café.

Whether you’re a tourist visiting for the first time or a local looking to savor the city from a different perspective, get ready for a hassle-free way to score up-close views of New York City’s best attractions when you ride the Circle Line to the following 10 sights.

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The Statue of Liberty

Statue of LibertyStatue of Liberty — Photo courtesy of Allison Tibaldi

Dominating New York Harbor from its platform on Liberty Island, this majestic statue was a gift to the American people from France. Designed by sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi with a metal framework built by Gustave Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame, Lady Liberty was dedicated in 1886 and continues to evoke ideals of freedom. You’ll linger long enough to notice details such as the seven points in her crown, one for each continent, and the torch she’s holding overhead in her right hand. There’s ample time to snap as many photos as you’d like.

Empire State Building

Empire State Building and Midtown skylineEmpire State Building and Midtown skyline — Photo courtesy of Julienne Schaer/NYC & Company

Once the tallest building in the world, the Empire State Building’s Art Deco architecture and towering height is a favorite with residents and visitors alike. Soaring above other noteworthy Midtown skyscrapers, Circle Line passengers get a clear view of this pop culture icon that has been featured in dozens of films, starting with “King Kong” back in 1933. Each evening, the spire is lit in dazzling color to match holidays or commemorate events.

One World Trade Center

One World Trade Center and Downtown skylineOne World Trade Center and Downtown skyline — Photo courtesy of Allison Tibaldi

One World Trade Center, also known as The Freedom Tower, is the tallest structure in New York City. Built on the site of the World Trade Center, the boat’s decks and generous windows offer a fine glimpse of the towering glass and steel façade that’s a must-see symbol of hope and rebirth.

Ellis Island

Ellis IslandEllis Island — Photo courtesy of Julienne Schaer/NYC & Company

Between 1892 and 1954, Ellis Island was the first stop for over 12 million immigrants coming to build a new life in the United States. It’s estimated that approximately 40% of Americans can trace at least one ancestor to Ellis Island, making it a magnet for those who crave connection to their family’s story. The Circle Line takes you in close for a privileged look at the Ellis Island National Immigration Museum, once the main building of the historic immigration complex.

A trio of bridges

Cruise under a bridgeCruise under a bridge — Photo courtesy of Allison Tibaldi

New York City is awash with bridges. The Circle Line glides under three of the East River’s most stunning: the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge and the Williamsburg Bridge, all connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn. As the ship slips underneath, you’ll witness pedestrians, cyclists, cars and even the subway passing overhead.

Hudson Yards

Hudson Yards, the VesselHudson Yards, the Vessel — Photo courtesy of Related Oxford/NYC & Company

As the ship passes Hudson Yards, one of New York City’s newest neighborhoods, it presents a dynamic panorama of the Vessel, a futuristic honeycomb-like structure with 154 intricately connecting exterior flights of stairs. Lift your gaze to where the birds soar and catch sight of Edge, the highest sky deck in the Western Hemisphere, where those without vertigo can peer down from 100 stories off the ground.

Little Island Park

Little Island ParkLittle Island Park — Photo courtesy of Allison Tibaldi

Part of the sprawling riverside sanctuary known as Hudson River Park, new Little Island Park is an urban green space suspended above water by innovative concrete planters whimsically shaped like giant mushrooms. Get a prominent peak of the park’s stunning amphitheater and lush foliage as you sail by.

South Street Seaport

South Street SeaportSouth Street Seaport — Photo courtesy of Julienne Schaer/NYC & Company

With the South Street Seaport Museum, shops, dining and rooftop concerts on Pier 17 merging with some of the city’s most historic architecture, South Street Seaport is both a popular local hangout and tourist attraction. The tall ship Wavertree is permanently moored here, and Circle Line passengers are able to admire her traditional nautical features, including three masts and an iron hull.

Governors Island

Governors IslandGovernors Island — Photo courtesy of Kate Glicksberg / NYC & Company

Governors Island is a favorite respite for New Yorkers craving fresh air. They hop on a ferry to pedal car-free paths and relax in a shady grove of hammocks. You’ll get an excellent look at this serene oasis, including new glamping tents where visitors may spend the night, as the Circle Line drifts by.

Jersey City

Colgate ClockColgate Clock — Photo courtesy of Allison Tibaldi

The Circle Line doesn’t just show off New York City, it gives passengers a fine look at a swath of New Jersey on the opposite side of the Hudson River. Jersey City is one of the most visually dynamic New Jersey towns you’ll cruise by. Its modern skyline is punctuated with a dramatic 80-foot sculpture, Water’s Soul, an alabaster wonder depicting a person’s face with a single finger held to its lips.

The retro Colgate Clock, built in 1924, is also visible. Named after the famous toothpaste brand, this octagonal clock is 50 feet in diameter, a nod to the Colgate plant that was once located here.

Book a Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise »

Details: Circle Line cruises of varying lengths and departure times are scheduled daily. The popular Landmarks cruise offers 90 minutes of scenery as it makes a semi-circle around Midtown and Lower Manhattan. The 2.5-hour Best of NYC cruise completely circles Manhattan.

Circle Line cruises depart from Pier 83 on 42nd Street and 12th Avenue in Midtown West. If you’re driving, there’s pier-side parking available.

If you’d rather embark Downtown, the Liberty Super Express Downtown cruise departs from Slip 6 in Battery Park, offering a 50-minute ride that gets you up close with the Statue of Liberty in a jiffy.