You've probably heard of Chicago's popular architecture cruises, but did you know that New York City has its own tours that rival the Windy City's? Hosted by the American Institute of Architects' NY chapter, the series of guided boat adventures allow you to experience the Big Apple's buildings framed as a moving postcard along the water. The AIANY recently invited us to check out their Around Manhattan Boat Tour and preview this year’s “AIANY Featured Guide Tour Guide Series - 5 Boroughs 1 Waterfront”. Come along with us for a taste of what you can expect if you book one of these exciting and educational rides.
We started our journey at Chelsea Piers by boarding the Manhattan, a teak-lined 1920s-style yacht. After making our way back to the vessel’s enclosed observatory area, we grabbed a drink at the bar (guests receive a complimentary beer, wine, or Champagne on each trip), made a plate of hors d’ oeuvres and got comfy on one of the roomy banquettes. Because of the boat’s large panoramic windows, there really are no bad seats; almost every section offered clear views of the West Side skyline as we headed south on the Hudson.
The tour began right away with light commentary and interesting tidbits from an AIANY architect about the buildings as we passed them. Although the cruise focuses on Manhattan’s “starchitecture” and iconic skyscrapers, we appreciated the mention of less flashy structures, such as the FDNY Marine Company 1’s floating firehouse, and more obscure but historically significant pockets of the city like the East Side’s “Bedpan Alley.” But of course we also got to see structures like One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty as well, so tourists need not worry about getting in all of the major sights and photo opps.
After swinging around the southern tip of Manhattan, which was timed perfectly with the setting sun glinting off of the skyscrapers of the Financial District, the visibility of Brooklyn’s growing waterfront presence added another focal point to the other side of the boat. The yacht’s transparent ceiling suddenly became much more appreciable as we passed under the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges, admiring them from a different vantagepoint than usual. Then we skimmed the edges of Roosevelt Island and its majestic Four Freedoms Park before heading back from whence we started with a small but very picturesque detour that put us up close and personal with Lady Liberty herself.
If you’re interested in embarking on an architectural voyage of your own, there are four different AIANY tours to choose from: the AIANY Around Manhattan Tour, the AIANY Lower Manhattan Tour, the AIANY Bridges and Infrastructure Tour and the AIANY Featured Guide Series. Tickets range in price depending on the tour and vessel starting at $32 (for students) to $76. Don’t forget to tell them that Inhabitat sent you!