A Half Day Along the Hudson River, A Budget Friendly New York City Itinerary

With New York being such a popular destination for travelers across the world, I often find myself running around the city playing tourist myself, with my friends visiting from all over. One route that proves particularly popular with visitors is what I like the call my ‘Half Day Hudson Tour’, which takes us all along the western border of Manhattan, stopping through a plethora of famous attractions along the way!

Our first stop is at the Little Island at Pier 55, one of New York City’s newest parks. The artificial island contains three concession stands and an amphitheater for performances and was only opened to the public in mid 2021.

This park is super unique in that it was built out over the Hudson River using 132 concrete tulip shaped pots with heights that vary in a wave-like design, adding hills and depth to what would otherwise be a boring platform on the water. There are some small art pieces to explore and a beautiful view of Manhattan from the highest point of the park. There’s also a free and clean public bathroom located within the park- through the cave-like design was an interesting choice. I was a little disappointed to find that the segmentation from the pots didn’t translate into the park itself but it’s still a lovely place to visit.

From Little Island, take a five minute walk over to Chelsea Market. Once a NABISCO factory, this classic 1890s building is now known as one of New York City’s most famous food halls. With dozens of food vendors of all types, there’s something for everyone. Los Tacos No. 1 is one of the most popular spots in the market, but don’t worry- that line moves faster than you’d think.

The tacos are good, but I wasn’t particularly impressed by them, so I usually stop for a Passion Fruit Pastel de Nata at Joey Bats Cafe. The pasties in Portugal are still unmatched, but these satisfy the cravings.

While there are some retail shops scattered throughout the main floor, a few steps down at the Western end of the Market is a dedicated section for local vendors. Browse here for hand crafted jewelry, clothes, and original prints from local artists.

If you’re visiting during a holiday, make sure to check out Chelsea Market’s themed decorations!

Chelsea Market punctuates one end of the High Line, which runs past its 10th Avenue side- just look for the stairs.

The High Line is yet another fairly new park, opening in 2009. Since it’s inception the urban park has become a tourist attraction in its own right, and has inspired cities worldwide to make use of once-defunct urban structures.

The High Line was once an elevated section of New York Railroad’s West Side Line and the original track is still incorporated in the park today. Since the park is refurbished from its original structure, the most common complaint I’ve heard from visitors is that they wished it was just a bit wider- with eight million visitors a year, it can get crowded. Still, the walk is scattered with different art pieces, and view points.

The popularity of the High Line itself has increased real estate development in the surrounding area leading to increasingly interesting buildings to admire along the way.

The park extends 1.45 miles to 34th Street, but I recommend hopping off at 30th street to check out The Vessel at Hudson Yards.

Officially opened in early 2019, the structure was intended to be climbable by the public, but has since been closed indefinitely for safety reasons. Visitors are still allowed to enter the bottom floor of the structure and it’s so shiny that it’s interesting to look at from different angles, but I’m a sucker for a good viewpoint, so I’m disappointed to see that it’s unlikely to fully reopen.

There has been a concentrated effort to breathe life into the area around Hudson Yards, so the Vessel and its surrounding courtyard often serves as a communal theatre. A huge screen is set up in front of the structure and plays different movies or sports games listed on a public schedule.

Once you’ve looked your fill, walk just about 15 minutes uptown to the ferry port at Midtown West, Pier 79. These ferries leave every hour or so, so try to time your walk to arrive 15-20 minutes prior to the departure time. The ferry costs $4 and tickets can be purchased either on the NYC Ferry By Hornblower app or at a singular ticket machine on the Southern wall of the ferry terminal building. If you’re facing the water, it’s the one on your left! Neither the staff behind the counter nor any other ticket machine will offer these ferry tickets.

The ferry itself usually docks at one of the first two piers on the southern side of the dock, but don’t be afraid to ask someone for help if you get confused. Tickets are checked before you board the ferry so they must be purchased and activated by this time.

There is an enclosed main floor with a snack bar that may or may not be open, but you can pass the snacks on your way out the door at the back of the ferry to head up the stairs to the open top of the boat. This is where you will get the best views of the city.

The ferry heads South down the Hudson River with one stop at Battery Park City. This follows more or less along the same route as the High Line, but offers gorgeous waterfront views of the West Side of Manhattan and one of my favorite views of One World Trade Center.

On the opposite side of the ferry, you can catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty!

The ferry terminates in St. George, Staten Island after about 35 minutes, but don’t worry- you can follow the crowd over to the left where you’ll come across the Staten Island Ferry. These orange ferries are free to use and deposit you directly at the Whitehall Terminal at the very Southern tip of Manhattan. This ferry departs with just enough time for a leisurely walk between the two ferries and takes about 25 minutes to travel.

Once I get off the ferry, I like to check out Battery Park, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite parks in the city, likely because this half day tour keeps landing me here around golden hour, when the park looks truly spectacular.

While some may wish to avoid the $4 fee from the New York Ferry, I feel like the cost is well worth it. The ferry is much smaller and typically less crowded than the Staten Island Ferry, plus I feel like it has a better view of Downtown and gets closer to the Statue of Liberty. Either way, it’s cheaper than the ferry tours that are recommended on tourism sites for around $60!

This itinerary usually takes us somewhere around four to five hours to complete, depending on how leisurely we’re walking and how well I plan our arrival to the Midtown West ferry port, and racks up a total cost of a whopping $4 (plus any other purchases made at Chelsea Market), making it one of the cheapest ways to spend a day in New York City!

11 thoughts on “A Half Day Along the Hudson River, A Budget Friendly New York City Itinerary

  1. Such a great west side itinerary for any season. I’ve never been in Chelsea Market at Xmas but can only imagine how cozy & festive it must feel!

    1. Cozy may just be another word for crowded around the holiday season! It’s usually a good idea to go earlier on a weekday around that time of year 😅
      Still, it’s very cute and I love trying new food there!

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