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The Five Best Places to get a Free View of the New York City Skyline

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 5 14

New York City is an expensive place to enjoy whether you are a native or a visitor. However, one of the great pleasures of the city is simply taking in the incredible view of the skyline. You always have the option to pay and go up to the top of the Empire State Building, or you can take a short subway ride off the island and catch the view for free (not including a couple bucks for the subway). I've listed five of the best places for doing this below. For each site, I've described how to get there and what makes it a good place to visit.

1. Brooklyn Heights Promenade - The Brooklyn Heights Promenade is a great waterfront walkway located right next to the Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Heights
. The view is great both day and night. Also, the surrounding neighborhood makes for a great stroll especially if you combine it with a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. Walking over the bridge will give you an even better view of the whole island. Once you've finished there are a few good restaurants in the neighborhood to enjoy as well.

How to get there: Take the 2 or 3 train to the Clark St. stop. Once you get out just walk towards the water.

Left: picture from Wikipedia of the view from the Promenade.

2. Staten Island Ferry - The Staten Island Ferry is a free (and seemingly accident-prone) ride from Manhattan to Staten Island. Why would you want to go to Staten Island? Well, you wouldn't except for the spectacular skyline view you get along the ride. The ferry leaves pretty often and will also give you a nice view of the entire New York Harbor, including the Statue of Liberty. Once you get to Staten Island, you can hang around until the ferry takes you back. The ride each way is a leisurely 15 minutes or so.

How to get there: Take the 1 train to South Ferry or the 4,5 to Bowling Green.

staten island ferry (16550)
Left: view from the ferry

3. Jersey City - Across the Hudson River is an often maligned state known as New Jersey. The state may or may not deserve the reputation, but either way - you can get some great views of the city from Jersey City. Jersey City is the home to many commuters and is easily accessible by the PATH train. Once you've come back above ground, you can walk along the water and take in the view from a place that is not in New York City.

How to get there: Get on the PATH train (has a few entrances around Manhattan) and take it the Exchange Place, then just walk along the water.

Left: The view from Jersey City as Google street view sees it

4. Roosevelt Island - Roosevelt Island is a thin island that is sandwiched between Manhattan and Queens. This location makes it perfect for catching great views of midtown. You can walk along most of the island and the walk is right on the water.

roosevelt island
Left: The view from Roosevelt Island, I took this picture using Google street view. Pretty neat, right?

How to get there: Take the F train to the Roosevelt Island stop.

5. Long Island City, Gantry Plaza State Park - Gantry Plaza State Park is a nice, small park located in Long Island City which is in Queens and right across from Manhattan. The park offers a great view of the city and, especially, the UN Building.


Above: View from the Park, Google Street view

How to get there: Take the 7 train to Jackson Avenue and walk towards the water.

There you go, five places to get a spectacular view of the NYC skyline, now get out there check them out! Also, let me know in the comments if you have more suggestions.



May 29, 2010 8:11am
Congrats on getting on the front page! As a native New Yorker (now living in much maligned NJ), I did not know all of these!
May 29, 2010 2:42pm
Thanks, glad you enjoyed the article! I didn't realized I was on the front page until I saw your comment, it was a pleasant surprise.
May 30, 2010 4:03pm
Very nice article provided with excellent sample pictures.
May 30, 2010 4:28pm
You are completely right. Brooklyn Heights is definitely number one. This promenade is enormous and very lengthy so you can see all parts of Manhattan from the bridge on south. It is also a relaxing change from the hustle of NYC.
May 31, 2010 1:03pm
Excellent information about The Five Best Places to get a Free View of the New York City Skyline. I like reading your article and thanks for sharing it. 5* plus recommendation!
Jul 13, 2010 12:20pm
A great list for a view of a beautiful skyline! Thanks for the tips!
Jul 16, 2010 6:13am
Really cool article, could you write a "How to get to New York from Ireland For Free" article next :)...
Jul 28, 2010 8:47am
Cool article, I noticed this on the front page the day after I wrote something similar about Chicago's skyline haha!
Sep 17, 2010 10:54am
There is a great bar called "323 East" I believe thats what it is called. Roof top bar with an amazing view!
Oct 22, 2010 6:23am
Nice, very nice. I have plans to visit NY - one of my friend is established there - so thanks for sharing. I already have a huge list about places to visit there but I think these you mentioned here will surpass some of mine. You gave me also an idea - I will use my huge list to write an article about other place worth visited in NY.
Dec 30, 2010 10:03am
I also have plans to visit New York this spring, and I am definitely bookmarking this page. Thanks for the tips!
Jan 1, 2011 11:47am
Governor's Island is an awesome view as well. The short ferry ride is free and I believe it runs from sometime in May to mid-October. You can explore the abandoned Coast Guard base which is pretty cool. Views of Manhattan are hard to beat.
Nov 8, 2012 8:06am
good article, I knew about Brooklyn Promenade, and Roosevelt Island. Also, Battery Park (west side, facing Hudson River) is a decent view too, of New Jersey skyline.

I've only heard of one (major) incident involing Staten Island Ferry...happened maybe 7 or 8 years ago, involving run-in with the pier, other than that, haven't heard anything bad... taken it 4 times myself
Feb 17, 2014 4:32am
I took the Staten Island ferry , totally recommend it.
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