The Big Apple’s Best Bargain

New York City is expensive!

Not only to live in, but to visit as well. So to help soften some of that cost we want to pass along what we think is the best deal anywhere in the city. How about a boat tour of the harbor and an amazing view of the Statue of Liberty… for free?

We’re not kidding, just climb aboard the Staten Island Ferry any time day or night, since it runs twenty four hours a day seven days a week, and never pay a penny. We’ve done it many times.

While the ferry is free now, it wasn’t always. In the early days it was a nickel a ride, and went up to fifty cents before the fare was waved in 1997 in an election year bid for votes from Staten Islanders by Mayor Giuliani. Since then the route has been fare-free, even though it costs the city over five dollars per passenger for each crossing.

The Staten Island Ferry began in 1817 as a part of the Richmond Turnpike Company, but historical records reveal that the Native American tribes living on Staten Island traveled back and forth by boat to Manhattan and New Jersey long before any Europeans arrived in the New World.

In 1838 Cornelius Vanderbilt bought the company, and his name has been famously associated with the ferry ever since. It was as a young boatman in New York harbor that he was nicknamed Commodore, a moniker which stayed with him for the rest of his life.

During the Civil War the Union used two of the ferries, the Clifton and Westfield, to assist in a blockade against the Confederate Army. After helping to capture New Orleans, they moved on to fight in Texas where the Westfield was sunk and the Clifton captured.

In 1905 the City of New York assumed control of the company and made it a part of the New York City Department of Transportation. This means that the service is considered more like a road than mass transit.

But none of this history lesson matters when looking for a little free fun on the water in the City That Never Sleeps. So for the Big Apple’s best bargain we always head down to the Whitehall Terminal on the southern tip of Manhattan, right next to Battery Park.

For the best view of Lady Liberty choose the starboard, or right hand, side of the boat. It’s not hard to tell where to go, it’ll be where about eighty percent of the other passengers are. On the way out the route first passes Governor’s Island on the other side. This little isle has quite a history of its own.

During the Revolution and War of 1812 it was armed with fortifications for the city, then later as a Coast Guard installation. In between the island was more than doubled in size by dumping the excavations from digging the subways.

Now it serves as a green space getaway for city dwellers, complete with its own faux tropical beach.

By the time the ship gets far enough out in the harbor for a good look at the statue, so many people are usually on that side the boat is listing. The view of the Statue of Liberty is not as close up as the tourist boats, but remember, for the price it can’t be beat.

And it is certainly close enough to get a good photo op. (Don’t forget to zoom in.) Right next to Liberty Island is Ellis Island, certainly not as impressive from afar, but every bit as historically significant, if not more so.

Usually when we reach Staten Island we just disembark and then turn around and get right back on for the return trip. Everyone is required to leave the boat and go inside to get back in line for the next ferry. It’s no big deal because there is never more than a half an hour wait.

Depending on the time of year though, there is another of the city’s best bargains right by the dock, The Staten Island Yankees. This minor league baseball team is often called the Baby Bombers because they are the single A level affiliate to their parent team the Bronx Bombers. They could also be so named for their much smaller admission fee.

As fun as it is to see these young hopefuls striving to make the big leagues, perhaps the most exciting thing about them is their stadium, Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George. That may be a mouthful, but the view over the outfield wall is an even more amazing eyeful.

Watching the sun set on the world’s most famous skyline is worth every penny of the dozen or so dollar ticket price, no matter who is on the field.

After the game, or if it isn’t baseball season, the view of the skyline on the return trip is even better. Every time we can’t help but join the groups of onlookers watching the skyscrapers of lower Manhattan loom as we approach the terminal, no matter how many times we’ve done it.

This incredible backdrop has also made the Staten Island Ferry a very popular setting for filming movies, including Working Girl, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and the recent Spider-Man: Homecoming.

We can see why, no set or soundstage could possibly top it, but for us it is just the best cheap date in the city.

David & Veronica,

Got any other amazing deals to pass along? Tell us about them in the comments.

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