Harry’s LIC at Water Taxi Beach
If you thought Long Island City was the antithesis of the Hamptons, the folks behind Schnack and New York Water Taxi would like you to reconsider. They’ve trucked in Jersey sand and a couple dozen picnic tables to create a manmade beach, complete with a tiki hut, $2 PBR tallboys, and a grill serving elk burgers, fish tacos, and Black Angus hot dogs. Starting this week, the bar is open five nights (Wed-Fri, 4pm-midnight; Sat-Sun, noon-midnight). Until October 10, you’ll find extended families and PS1 defectors playing volleyball to a thumping sound system or simply taking in the best view of midtown Manhattan this side of The Donald’s chopper. Access: The easy way is by water taxi (schedule permitting), but if you’re coming from the Jackson/Vernon Ave. 7 stop, walk through the parking lot next to the tennis center at 2nd St. and Borden Ave.
Maritime Café at Pier I
In June, the folks behind Pier 63 launched a new bar and grill on Riverside Park South’s modernist Thomas Balsley-designed esplanade, the latest stretch of which will be opened by Mayor Mike next week. You can either sit at one of the few dozen tables overlooking the water and the derelict float bridge (bring your own food or enjoy the grill’s Portobello and mozzarella sandwich or its 8-oz. Lehman Ranch burger), or sip a rum-and-fruit smoothie on a chaise lounge anywhere in Riverside Park South, whether on the grass or on one of the scenic overlooks (call ahead to reserve). Reggae musicians lend a Caribbean beach vibe, and next summer there’ll be a floating dock for water ski rental. Access: The bar is a block to the right of the stairs at the end of 70th Street.
Pier 63 Maritime
Hudson River Park has gotten an extensive facelift, but this pier (actually a railroad car float) remains a stalwart of decrepit fun. Built in 1929, the historic Frying Pan lightship spent three years underwater before being restored as a barnacle-encrusted party space. Fridays, Turntables on the Hudson holds court inside the boat’s sinister hull or on the pier, where a tiki bar and burger grill is open daily from noon to well after dark. The new Café du Soleil serves up specialties like seared tuna to tables. Grab a seat on the 16-foot observation deck and if you’re lucky you’ll get to see the John J. Harvey fireboat, also docked here, go out for a sunset spray. Access: Arrive a la Brando on the water taxi, or walk (or take the M-23) to the end of 23rd St. The entrance to the pier is behind Basketball City’s parking lot, to the right.
Hudson Beach Café
It’s not as grand a production as its sister the 79th St. Boat Basin Café, but this humble bar on a concrete terrace next to Riverside Park’s jogging path is a great place to watch the sun set over the Hudson. At least, the stroller-pushing moms who come here for a burger and a glass of chardonnay think so. There’s no beach, but the homegrown taps (kegs hooked up to coolers), the occasional balladeer, and the sand volleyball courts a level below (where there is additional seating), add whatever atmosphere the roll of the expressway takes away. Access: Walk to the end of 103rd Street until you hit Riverside Park. Follow the path and then descend the stairs until you see the bar across from the jogging path.
The Crow’s Nest at The Water ClubThere’s a frayed, Yankee charm to this geriatric piano bar, and after a few rounds of Gershwin, the place for a romantic nightcap is on the rooftop, which feels exactly like the upper deck of a modest ship. A small bar serves up tumblers of Johnny Walker Black, the perfect complement to a close-up view of Midtown East’s skyline, the glimmering 59th Street bridge, and Queens across the way. Access: If walking or driving north, go the end of 34th Street. If driving south, you’ll have to take 23rd Street, and make a U-turn onto the service road that will put you in front of the restaurant.
This is the place to salsa under the stars. Most days, La Marina, formerly the Tubby Hook Café, is a chilled-out spot to enjoy the water breeze and the postcard view of the George Washington Bridge and the adjacent Cloisters while boats pull up to the dock. Weekends there’s a $20 cover for Latin performers and reggaeton djs. The tube-top-and-jeans crowd enjoys budget bottle service ($185 for a bottle of Patron) at dozens of tables on the grass (call ahead to reserve a seat in the VIP section closer to the stage), periodically getting up to cut a rug on the wood-plank dance platform or to visit the cruisy tiki bar. A modest kitchen serves up short-order Latin food and ceviche.Access: Take the A train to Dyckman Street and walk west past all the car stereo parties, until you hit the water.
Plus: A Booze Cruise for Everyone
Even if party cruises usually turn your stomach, these might float your boat.
If you like it Latin… The Copacabana’s Boat Ride, featuring DJs spinning a mix of reggaeton and traditional Latin music, leaves every Thursday from Pier 40 at Houston and 12th Avenue (boarding from 6pm-8:00pm). Tickets are $10 with reduced admission and there’s a cash buffet. When the boat docks around 10:30, passengers get in free at the Copa.
If you want to rock while the waves roll… The Rocks Off Concert Cruise Series hosts everything from experimental jazz to power-chord punk on one of two bi-level ships: The Half Moon leaves from 23rd Street and FDR Drive and passes under three bridges before circling the Statue of Liberty, and the luxurious Temptress leaves from 41st Street on the West Side.
If you like blues with your cruise… Yes it’s a Circle Line cruise, but Blue Water Music’s NYC Blues Cruise keeps it real with acts like Buckwheat Zydeco, Bo Diddley, and the Radiators. Tickets are $35-$45.
If you really want to cruise… The Queen of Hearts riverboat’s weekly Sea Tea departs from the Christopher Street Piers every Sunday at 7:30pm and returns at 10pm. Every cruise caters to a different crowd (leather-lovers, rent boys, etc.) but there are always drag queens, half-naked waiters, and men who are hungry for more than the free buffet.
For a religious experience… Or just to cleanse yourself after a wild Friday night, join Spirit of New York’s gospel cruise, departing certain Saturday afternoons from Manhattan. Chapter Six provides the worship song while diners enjoy a soul food buffet.