The City I Love: The Ultimate list of NYC Skyline locations

Hey readers so I’ve been toying with a big summer project. The Ultimate list of New York Skyline shots. I came up with the idea the definitive list of the best places during a ride on the Circle Line. For those out of town the Circle Line Cruises is a New York institution like the Empire State Building. I highly recommend the three hour trip around the island. It the one of the few ways to really see the city. It really got me to thinking about the skyline and how amazing the city is on the water so here is the first part of the series. More will come, I promise, but let’s just start at the beginning…


New York City was initially created for the sole purpose of being a port city. It’s coastline being the first economic engine until the rise of Wall Street in the 19th century. In fact, New York City has 538 miles of coastline, filled with beaches, docks, promenades and parks which cover all of the five boroughs.

However, it has only been in recent years that the waterfront is now accessible for purposes other than for solely the manufacturing and transport of goods. Thus it’s no wonder that locals and tourists alike flock to the waterfront for either recreation or business.  In fact one of the earliest photographs every taken in New York City was from, you guessed it, on a boat in the harbor.

For this we’ll start with places that are cheapest to get to and work our way up price wise. You might find that these locations might be better suited for the frugal traveler and Native New Yawkers alike. The base cost for all views going forward is $2.75, or the standard cost of a Metrocard, for the subway.

Part 1: On the waterfront

Image from

Staten Island Ferry

It is often said that the best things in life are free. None more so than the Staten Island Ferry. New York’s legacy ferry service, which has been free since 1997.

The Lowdown

The Ferry runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and during the daytime there are six boats in operation. Of which four of them have balconies. They are called the Guy V. Molinari, John F. Kennedy, John I. Marchi and the Spirit of America. You want to be on these boats versus the other two, the Andrew Barberi and Samuel I. Newhouse so you can admire the view of the Lower Manhattan skyline, the harbor and the Statue of Liberty.

The History

The Ferry, which was founded in 1817, linked the city with the community of Tompkinsville, Staten Island. Other than its current ownership by the city, the ferry service was in private hands. Perhaps the most famous owner in its history would be none other than by Cornelius Vanderbilt, who became quite wealthy after gaining control of the ferry service. The Vanderbilt’s would later become associated with the Gilded Age period in late 19th century New York. The Vanderbilt’s later sold the enterprise to the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad.

In 1905, the City of New York formally gained control of the ferry service after one of the vessels, the Northfield sank. Despite the low loss of life, it was the excuse the city needed to wrest control from the B&O and it’s been that way ever since. On July 4th 1997, the ferry service was made free as a part of a campaign promise to Staten Islanders by former mayor Rudy Giuliani.


The best time to take a ride is sometime between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. or after 7 p.m., boats usually leave every half-hour at this time of the day and a round trip lasts almost an hour. The boat gets the most crowded during rush hour so it is best to just let one leave and wait for the next vessel. Therefore, you get first dibs on where you want to set yourself up to take pictures. In the afternoon the sun will warm up the Jersey Side of the boat but that gives the Statue Of Liberty the best lighting.


Pro 1: Operates frequently through a schedule so there is some flexibility to whenever you choose to ride the ferry.

Pro 2: It’s free, need I say more

Pro 3: Readily accessible by mass transit, such as the number 1 train to South Ferry or by other means of transportation like tour buses.


            Con 1: Can get pretty crowded on deck especially the statue side so arrive early.

Con 2: You have no knowledge of which boat is coming so read the signs on the boat to decide which one works best.

Con 3: While Lower Manhattan is going to be the most prominent of vantage points, it will mostly block the views of Midtown. However, if you time it just right you can see the Empire State Building.

Final note, Side views work best for views of Brooklyn or New Jersey, which are impressive views in their own right, for the best view it will be along the ends of the ferry which are open ended. However, for security reasons some outdoor areas near the end of the vessels may be closed off until disembarking. Also I found this quirky blog post from a Wagner College student which you can find here.

Gallery: Photos by me

FullSizeRender (1)FullSizeRender (4)FullSizeRender (2)Passengers

Thanks for reading will have more locations soon!