I first came here back in 2016 for the free kayaking. It was a blazing hot day and I just HAD to find a way to get out on the water, somewhere in the city. Manhattan Community Boathouse was just the place! I felt so welcomed and had so much fun during my first visit that I decided to become a volunteer.
5 years later, I still spend almost every summer weekend here, helping the organization offer the public the priceless (FREE!) experience of paddling on the Hudson river. Sharing this unique experience with the public is one of my favorite things to do in the city, and seeing the smiles on people's faces makes it all worth it. As a volunteer, I enjoy the extra training classes offered and volunteer-only kayaking trips we get to go on as well!
A few things to know for the 2021 season, some of which is different from prior year reviews: MCBH is operating by reservation to prevent overcrowding. They are open Saturdays and Sundays from 12 PM - 6 PM through October 10. You can reserve your spot up to 2 weeks in advance on the website. Paddlers of all skill levels are invited to participate as long as you know how to swim. Anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. They offer changing rooms and lockers with locks provided, so you can bring a change of clothes if you want, because you will get wet. There's no public restroom here though, so be sure to stop in Clinton Dewitt park at 54th & 11th Ave before walking over if you need to use the facilities! Otherwise, a portapotty along the bike path near the boathouse is the only toilet option.
Did I mention it's all free? The program is run entirely by volunteers, and funded solely by donations from the public, but there is absolutely no pressure to donate. Whether you come as a volunteer or as a member of the public, I think this is the best free activity in NYC!