Oktoberfest Bear Mountain Cruise runs Saturdays and Sundays from the end of September til the beginning of November (2016’s last cruise is Sunday, November 6). They recommend you get there to Pier 83 (42nd & 12th Ave in Manhattan) by 8:15AM to redeem your tickets (you really should purchase them online since most cruises sell out). Boarding is from 8:30AM and the boat leaves promptly at 9AM.
You cruise for 2.5 hours to Bear Mountain with really interesting narration about the city for the first half hour or so, and then the Oompa Band starts pumping out their festive music on the entry level floor, which is covered and the best level if you have a stroller. There are no elevators, and bathrooms are in the basement (no changing tables, and expect long lines for the ladies’), and the 2nd floor is quieter with both outdoor and indoor seating areas, as well as a premium seating area (middle photo in collage below).
They sell an Oktoberfest menu to eat on the boat, as well as sandwiches and typical snack bar items, and you can pre-order picnics to eat on the mountain. They don’t allow outside food or drinks, but we did run into several families who brought their own picnics for the mountain and didn’t have an issue. They have a full bar on the 1st and 2nd levels, with Warsteiner beer options such as all-you-can-drink mug or mix-and-match 5 bottles of beer bucket, both for $35.
I have to say, there’s not a whole lot of kid-friendly things to do, so you’ll definitely want to bring some amusements to keep your little ones entertained! The seats on the boat are not bolted down, which means you can move them around a bit to give yourself some space to squeeze your stroller in, or even to lay a blanket down for your kids to have a little play space (we saw one family doing this and thought it was brilliant!!). There are also a few outlets around so you can charge a tablet or phone if need be.
There is some open space near the band, and though it is the thoroughfare for people getting food and drinks and moving about the boat, several kids (including our own) were bopping joyously along to the music here, and we didn’t notice anyone getting annoyed by it - phew!
3 hours, or less if the boat gets delayed, goes extremely fast and I can’t emphasize enough that you need to be back with plenty of time to spare (knowing that getting from point A to point B with kids can take 3 times longer than expected!!). My family only had time for Brunch at the Inn, but the walk to and from is beautiful and great for leaf peeping en route! Other things to do include a Carousel, the Trailside Museums & Zoo ($1 suggested donation), 50 hiking trails (some paved, some not), and letting the kids run about near Hessian Lake.
We brought our double stroller because including the 20 minute walk to our station, 1 hour subway ride, 20 minute walk from that station to the pier - and all in reverse after the cruise, it was going to be a 13 hour day for us and we couldn’t imagine handling that with a 3 year old and two 1 year olds and no stroller. Both piers and the boat handled our stroller just fine - they have ramps to get on and off and also some strong men to help if needed.
You betcha! I wouldn’t say it’s geared toward families, but there were plenty there having a great time, including me and my brood! My personal recommendation would be to leave the stroller at home or at least on the boat and have a ratio of at least 1 adult per child for the most fun and least stressful outing. It’s a great escape from the city and fun for all! Get more information about the Bear Mountain Cruise on Circle Line’s website.
Location: Pier 83 at 42nd Street and 12th Avenue in Manhattan.
Hours: Boards at 8:30AM, departs at 9AM and returns around 6PM on Saturdays and Sundays from late September through early November (September 24 - November 6, 2016).
Tickets: $65 for adults, $52 for ages 3-12, free for under 3.