As we cling to the last official week of summer, we’re looking for any excuse to hold on to the warm weather while it’s still here. And one of the best ways to celebrate the sunshine is by getting out on the water. Instead of shelling out for a harbor cruise, a fun and cost-effective outing idea is to take a FREE trip on the IKEA Ferry. (Yes, that IKEA.) The ferry lets off at the Red Hook IKEA in Brooklyn so shoppers can fill up large blue tote bags with affordable home goods. The free ferry is also a great way to get to Red Hook for a day filled with food, drinks, and outdoor adventures. Read on to learn all about the free IKEA ferry and things to do in Red Hook once you arrive.
All about the IKEA Ferry
The IKEA ferry is a free water taxi that travels between Manhattan and Red Hook, Brooklyn. Shoppers can catch the ferry on Saturdays and Sundays from Pier 79 in Midtown and Pier 11 in Lower Manhattan. Updated schedules can be found on the website or posted at the piers, but in general, these ferries are not as frequent as some other routes.
How to Ride the Ferry
Tickets are not required to ride the ferry. After checking the schedule and picking a departure time, head to the pier and look for the IKEA Ferry schedule sign. Once the ferry arrives, you will be told where to line up and you can board the ferry for your quick trip over to Red Hook.
Anyone who wants to enjoy the breeze — and the best views — will want to head to the ferry’s upper level. Unlike the Staten Island Ferry, most IKEA ferry riders choose to sit for the trip. But you can stand by the side of the boat if you want to snap some pics of the New York harbor.
Read More: A Day Trip Guide to Washington, D.C.
What to Expect
The IKEA ferry takes just 10 minutes to travel from Pier 11 to Red Hook. Boarding at Pier 11 means other people will have already gotten on at Pier 79, but getting a spot really isn’t a concern with two seating decks.
During the trip, ferry riders can soak in views of lower Manhattan, Jersey City, and the Statue of Liberty. Once it lets off in Red Hook, shoppers are just steps from the IKEA.
What to do in Red Hook
IKEA is a big draw when it comes to this ferry ride, but there’s plenty to explore in the rest of Red Hook. There are some great eateries, exhibits, and local shops just a short 10-minute walk from the ferry dock.
Of course, we must begin with:
IKEA | 1 Beard Street
Shopping hours are 10AM – 9 PM and it’s easy to spend a full day browsing for new home decor. The ferry lets off right in front of the IKEA which pretty much makes it impossible to resist.
Here are some other attractions + things to do in the area:
Ample Hills Creamery Red Hook Factory | 421 Van Brunt Street
This Brooklyn-born ice cream company lets visitors experience the ice cream-making process in its Red Hook factory. The 15,000-square-foot space includes a free museum and a look into the production facility. Kids can even host birthday parties here. And Ample Hill fans will know that each scoop shop offers a unique flavor. The Red Hook’s exclusive is The Hook — described as “burnt sugar ice cream mixed with salty fudge bites and Dutch stroopwafels.”
Baked | 359 Van Brunt Street
(Photo credits: @bakednyc)
Baked serves a selection of tempting treats and, between the cookies, coffee cake slices and brownies. It’s hard to leave the pastry case without ordering a few things. The coffee is also great and there’s plenty of space inside to sit and sip the drink. Consider watching Hearts Beat Loud before your trip — part of the movie was filmed here.
Hoek Pizza | 117 Ferris Street
The spacious patio is a nice spot to enjoy Hoek’s Roman-style brick oven pizza. Fun fact: “hoek” is a Dutch word that means “point” or “corner.” The Dutch named this area ‘Red Hoek’ for the color of the soil and the pointed shape of the area.
Hometown Bar-B-Que | 454 Van Brunt Street
For authentic Southern-style smoked BBQ, it’s hard to beat Hometown. This first-come, first-served spot has attracted a loyal customer base and lines form well before it opens at noon. There are plenty of shaded picnic tables for outdoor seating and customers are welcome to order a drink to enjoy while they wait out the line.
Keg & Lantern Brewery | 97 Nassau Avenue
(Photo credits: @kegandlantern_greenpoint)
Originally from Greenpoint, Keg & Lantern opened a Red Hook outpost in 2020. The space is still going strong and it serves a unique selection of brews – including NEIPAs, sours, and nitro stouts. The brunch, complete with Huevos Rancheros and Steak & Eggs, is a great way to kick off a Red Hook day.
Louis Valentino, Jr. Park and Pier | Ferris St + Coffey Street
Named for a local firefighter, Louis Valentine Jr. Park and Pier is a peaceful spot to picnic in Red Hook. It’s right next to Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie and not far from Food Bazaar if you want to grab some picnic supplies. The park offers a nice view of the Statue of Liberty and it’s fun to imagine how busy the waters were during Red Hook’s 19th-century shipping hub heyday.
Pioneer Works | 159 Pioneer Street
Pioneer Works is a unique collaborative space for artists and scientists. The multi-level industrial building features both studio and performance spaces. Pioneer Works is gearing up to reopen its public gallery space this fall, but a variety of programs are currently being offered.
Record Shop | 390 Van Brunt Street
This laid-back and aptly named record shop was started by local carpenter and actor Bene Coopersmith. It’s a community gathering spot that buys and sells records and there’s even a DJ booth in the window.
Next to the pier, the Red Hook Boaters offer free kayaking. This volunteer-based boathouse has been going strong since 2006. Anyone is welcome to use the kayaks to get out on the water for a bit. It’s a first-come, first-served system, but the wait doesn’t seem to be much of an issue.
The Red Hook Winery | 175 Van Dyke Street Pier 41, Suite 325A
Since 2008, the Red Hook Winery has served grape-to-bottle wines in the tasting room. A guided tasting experience is offered on weekends by reservation only.
Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie | 185 Van Dyke Street
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For more than 20 years, Steve’s has brought a taste of South Florida to Red Hook. The Swingle, a chocolate-dipped key lime tart on a stick, is the perfect to-go treat. The shop also offers 10-in and 8-in pies for larger groups.
Sunny’s | 253 Conover Street
With a history that dates back to the 1890s, this is an iconic spot in the community. It’s an eclectic space that often hosts live music, including bluegrass jam sessions.
Waterfront Museum | 290 Conover Street
Listed on the National Register of Historic Place, the 1914 Lehigh Valley Barge #79 now houses a maritime museum. Open boat tours are offered on Thursdays and Saturdays and cultural programs are offered throughout the year.
Widow Jane Distillery | 218 Conover Street
The award-winning distillery offers tours to give visitors a first-hand look at the whisky-making process. Interestingly, this distillery created its own varietal of corn called “Baby Jane” and is currently working on a 10-year age. The distillery tour comes with a sample of the 1-year version. Next door, Botanica at Widow Jane serves craft cocktails made with Widow Jane’s rye and bourbon.
With the IKEA ferry, Red Hook makes for an easy day trip from Hudson County. There’s so much to explore in this unique neighborhood. And if you do decide to do some shopping, the fare savings can be put straight into your IKEA budget. Just double-check the return ferry times before venturing into IKEA – it’s all too easy to lose track of time in there.