10 Must-See Attractions near the New York Cruise Ports

No one on the planet will feel sorry for you if you are stuck in New York waiting for your cruise to depart. First of all, you are one of the rare people who is afforded a vacation. Secondly, New York is a city that doesn't even know the word "boredom." 

The main problem you have if you find yourself with time to spare around Manhattan or Brooklyn's Cruise Port Terminals is narrowing down the choices. Should you go into the city from Manhattan's Port and wander around Times Square, trying to respect the daily limit on your credit card? Should you try to meet a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall? Or from Brooklyn, should you do as the locals do and get some of the best Latin American food truck eats in town at Red Hook Ball Fields?

You may feel like there is nothing around the docked cruises, but you would be wrong. You can see some of New York's top attractions, whether you gaze at the Statue of Liberty from the cruise terminal itself or go to nearby Louis Valentino Jr. Park & Pier to catch a better glimpse. The world - including New York - is your oyster. 


If you find yourself waiting for a boat at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, you mind find yourself stuck for things to do. Luckily you are right in the vibrant neighborhood of Red Hook and are surrounded by options. Take a moment to wander down to Louis J. Valentino Park. Named after a firefighter and lifeguard who lost his life while searching for wounded firefighters in a three-alarm blaze, Valentino Park plays host to a spectacular pier which shows off incredible views of the Statue of Liberty, Governor's Island, Manhattan's skyline, and the New York Harbor. The park is also surrounded by historical buildings both residential and industrial in nature and gives a true sense of how the New York shipping industry developed and the diverse changes the neighborhood has seen. This is a great spot to grab some grub from one of the many delightful local cafes and take a seat, drinking in the spectacular views. The surrounding area is also worth a look, boasting small cobblestone streets, charming boutiques and art galleries.

One of the most enjoyable spots near the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal is Bait & Tackle. The location has been in Red Hook for over 100 years and was one of the first bars to open in the neighborhood as a social club and make-shift bait shop for local fishermen. However, they beg of you not to call for bunker and lures. They are not, they repeat, are not, a bait and tackle shop. The vibe is laid back and friendly and the drinks are reasonably priced, but what makes Bait & Tackle truly stand out is its interior. The space is crammed with curious items from authentic, antique metal signs, a stuffed black bear, a lone coyote, a traditional NYC phone booth, remnants of a Tiki bar and more.

What better excuse to be hanging out around the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal than Fort Defiance in Red Hook, Brooklyn? This café-bar boats a fantastic seasonal menu of American Cuisine, owned and operated by award-winning food and drink writer, St. John Frizell. Fort Defiance, named after a Revolutionary War fort, is a thoughtfully created space with large front windows and modest but attractive décor. The doors open at 8am to welcome in the morning coffee hounds, appeasing them with earthy ground java made from a drip bar complimented by an array of delicate, locally made pastries. Lunch keeps it simple with a menu of sandwiches and salads and dinner plays hosts to stand out dishes such as Roasted Berkshire pork chop, Black pepper fettucine and Pino's hamburger. What truly steals the show at Fort Defiance are the cocktails. Reasonably priced with stellar ingredients, they are potent and delicious.

Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum
Photo courtesy of Phil Elsner

The aircraft carrier USS Intrepid participated in World War II's Pacific Campaign. Launched in 1943, this amazing aircraft survived five kamikaze attacks and one torpedo strike. Now docked in the Hudson River, this 900-foot behemoth affords visitors a glimpse at one of the Navy's most successful and durable carriers. The decks where men fought and died are open to the public, making this museum more than your standard exhibit-filled gallery. Also included are tours of the destroyer USS Edson, submarine USS Growler and an aircraft exhibit that includes a Lockheed A-12 Blackbird, the world's fastest plane. Also make sure to view the British Airways Concorde. This was the plane that accomplished the fasted Atlantic Ocean crossing by any Concorde in 1996: only 2 hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds.

Sure, you could go on the regular subway, but it just wouldn't be as much fun. Just 2 miles away from the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, get down and dirty at Downtown Brooklyn's homage to the underground. Situated in a historic subway station since 1936, a visit to the Transit Museum is an immersive experience. The well-marked exhibitions take visitors on a continual descent into the station, and include historical documents, such as news reports and controversy surrounding the original construction of the subway, as well as interactive exhibitions and film screenings chronicling New York City's world-renowned public transportation system. The Transit Museum also has a collection of antique train cars that show the evolution of the equipment and on board experience.

These two sights represent freedom for millions of people, and the Statue of Liberty, a 450,000 pound gift from the people of France, is a must-see for anyone visiting the Big Apple. It used to have the lengthier title "The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World." Access to the islands is via a Circle Lines ferry, and a (free) timed pass is required. Ranger-led tours detail the history and technical aspects of the statue. Inside the base of Lady Liberty you'll find a number of exhibits and concessions, and from the observation deck the city and harbor views are unbeatable. Circle Lines recommends that guests arrive at least two hours in advance of their scheduled departure time.

Theatre District

Host to some of the top performers of all time, Radio City Music Hall was built in 1932 with the slogan, "The Showplace of the Nation." Radio City was the brainchild of theatrical impresario "Roxy" Rothafel, who had earned a reputation as a theatrical genius by employing an innovative combination of vaudeville, movies and razzle-dazzle decor to revive struggling theatres. Saved from demolition in the 1970s, the building was given landmark status in 1978. Walking tours give visitors the chance to see the gold-leaf ceilings, 30-foot chandeliers, decorative carpeting and the backstage area with a historic costume shop. The highlight of the tour is a meeting with a Rockette, one of the world-renowned high-stepping dancers who have graced the stage since its inception.

Spanning from the South Street Seaport to Brooklyn Heights, the famous Brooklyn Bridge has ushered New Yorkers across the East River since 1883. A must-see for any visitor to the Big Apple, the best way to experience the bridge is to take the 30-plus minute, 3,455-foot expedition and walk it. The wide pedestrian walkway is unparalleled and the view of Manhattan is incredible, suddenly making it easy to understand why decades of poets and painters have been fascinated by it. The great Walt Whitman even described the view from the bridge as the "most effective medicine my soul has yet partaken."

There are many active reasons that you may want to visit Red Hook Ball Park. A friendly game of Little League. A nice outdoor pool swim to exhaust the kids for a few hours. Even an indoor basketball court or pool tables. However, the real reason many people go here is not to stay in shape, but rather to lose their shape - and happily. Since 1974, artisans food vendors from all corners of Latin America have gathered here. There were Food Trucks here before Food Trucks were trendy. It is even home of the NYC Vendy awards - the Oscars of Street food.

For nearly a century, the brightest lights, the biggest music, the longest parties and all the star power you could ask for have stemmed from along a few blocks of a street called Broadway. Some of the hardest working performers converge here in the Great White Way for the chance to entertain the world. At one time, this area was a haven for decadence. Seedy sex shops and peep shows infested the area until a successful revitalization effort and the arrival of new tenants like David Letterman paved the way for a new Times Square. Each year, 26 million tourists walk the theater-laden streets (40 theaters, including 22 landmarks) and dine at the various restaurants (with over 250 offering everything from fast food to luscious local and international eats). In addition, Times Square hosts the largest New Year's Eve celebration in the country. You may have heard of it.


Meet Courtney Sunday

Courtney Sunday has lived in England, Switzerland, Canada and the US, finding her way into the professions of freelance writing and yoga teaching in between travel opportunities. She learned...  More About Courtney