You probably think of the Circle Line, the floating equivalent of double-decker tour buses, as the sole domain of tourists or newbies. Not anymore. The sightseeing cruise line recently launched a Hello Brooklyn cruise, which is a surprisingly relaxing and information-packed river ride that shows you a side of our borough you likely haven’t seen before.
The two-hour cruise boards every afternoon at 2pm from Pier 83, on the West Side, motoring down the Hudson to the East River and returning at 4:30pm. While Brooklyn is the intended highlight, there’s plenty to see on the other side of Manhattan, including Lady Liberty, where the cruise pauses long enough to get a good photo. The two-decker boat then bends on its way to the East River, hugging the waterfront along South Brooklyn neighborhoods you usually only view from land: Gowanus, Red Hook, Sunset Park and Bay Ridge.
Did you know that Michael Shannon (of Boardwalk Empire fame) lives in Red Hook? I didn’t, until our guide Chris Mason, who grew up in Bay Ridge, told us. Mason also couldn’t resist sharing some On the Waterfront trivia: Although the classic Brando film is set in Red Hook, it was actually filmed in Hoboken. These days, there’s plenty of movie and television production on the South Brooklyn waterfront, and the cruise takes you right by Steiner Studios, where Boardwalk Empire, Girls, Bored to Death, and more have filmed.
As we cruised toward the Williamsburg Bridge, we were reminded that Buttermilk Channel is an actual waterway and not just a restaurant in Carroll Gardens, and that we were sailing the same waters through which George Washington led 9,000 troops, silently, without losing a single man in his legendary Revolutionary War “great escape.”
There are local snacks, of course, this being the Hello Brooklyn cruise. Brooklyn Brewery beer, Junior’s cheesecake, Blue Marble ice cream and McClure’s pickles all grace the snack bar. Tickets for a spot on the lower deck, which offers a cash booze and snack bar, are $38 for adults $30 for children, and $36 for seniors. For $15 more, a premiere wristband gets you on the top deck.
Even if you’re a regular East River Ferry commuter, Hello Brooklyn is worth a spin, especially if you’re entertaining out-of-town guests. You’ll learn something. Really.
Check out our guide to entertaining out-of-towners.