Discovering NY Harbor: The Gateway to America

Celebrating the historic and cultural significance of New York Harbor, the National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy (Harbor Conservancy) and National Park Service kick-off their summer harbor tours aboard New York Waterway ferries with their Gateway to America cruise, an audio tour that is narrated by actress Kathleen Turner and brings 400 years of New York Harbor’s extraordinary past to life. The boat tour runs five times daily leaving from Slip 5 at the Battery Maritime Building.

Gateway to America is in its sixth season. The boat tour experience offers visitors the opportunity to see the city from a new vantage point &#8211 from the water while learning about the role New York Harbor played and continues to play as the gateway to America for millions of people.

Gateway to America is the only official tour of the National Park Service that ties together all five interpretative themes of the national parks that ring New York Harbor- commerce, military defense, immigration, birth of the nation and harbor ecology. &#8220The tour itinerary weaves together the rich tapestry of New York harbor’s history &#8211 from its first settlement by Native Americans through the tragic events of 9/11, and it offers new insights about the unique geographical and environmental features that made the harbor our nation’s most valuable commercial asset throughout four centuries,&#8221 according to Harbor Conservancy President, Marie Salerno.

Produced by Antenna Audio in the style of a public radio broadcast, Gateway to America is introduced by David Rockefeller, Jr. a co-founder of the Harbor Conservancy and whose family was instrumental in preserving open space through the National Park Service. The Gateway to America tour was the first harbor boat tour to present recorded audio commentary by National Park Service Rangers. Prominent experts like Columbia University professor, historian and editor of the Encyclopedia of New York, Kenneth T. Jackson- Daniel Libeskind, who emigrated to New York from communist Poland as a teenager and became one of the world’s leading architects- Pulitzer-Prize winning author David McCullough- and world-class swimmer Nancy Steadman Martin, (who battled the currents to swim the 28-mile circuit around Manhattan) also provide engaging remarks and insights.

Gateway to America tells stories of the five military forts, now historic icons that protected the city from invasion. The tour illuminates the harbor’s role as the portal to the American dream for generations of immigrants &#8211 including those newcomers who are still shaping the city’s future. Passengers hear sounds, special effects and original music that bring to life the drama of the thriving commercial port.

This 60-minute tour is offered daily beginning Apr. 4 &#8211 May 31 at 11am, 12:30pm, 2pm, and Jun. 1 &#8211 Sep. 30 at 10:30am, 11:30am, 12:30pm, 1:30pm, 2:30pm, departing from the Slip 5 in the Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan, located next to the Staten Island Ferry. Tickets can be purchased online or at the Harbor Conservancy’s new ticket booth at Castle Clinton in Battery Park. Prices are: Adults: $18, Seniors (62+): $16, Children: $14, Children under 3: Free.

For more information about other affordable boat and walking tours created by the National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy visit:

Russell Shorto To Guest Host NY Harbor Walking Tour

Island at the Center of the World author Russell Shorto will guest host a special edition of The New Amsterdam Trail walking tour of the National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy, to celebrate the culmination a week-long celebration of the 400th Anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery of New York Harbor. Urban historian and National Park Ranger Steve Laise will lead the event which will also include an exclusive curator’s tour of New Amsterdam: The Island at the Center of the World, a new exhibit opening at the South Street Seaport. The tour takes place on September 13th at 9:30 a.m. Tickets are limited and must be purchased in advance by visiting

Throughout the 90-minute tour of lower Manhattan, Laise and Shorto will share entertaining and insightful stories about the famous and infamous characters that helped make New Amsterdam a bustling seaport, an international melting pot and a center of commerce. They will also discuss how the Dutch colony still impacts our culture today. The curator’s tour at South Street Seaport follows, with an insider’s peak at rare documents, maps, plans and watercolors connected to New Amsterdam &#8212- including “the best real estate deal of all time”—the 1626 letter of purchase of Manhattan for goods worth 60 guilders. Many of these items have never been seen in the United States.

The audio and map for this tour are available for free at:

The New Amsterdam Trail, Free Downloadable Audio Tour

The Dutch and the indelible role they played in the formation of the ideas and ideals that shaped New York City and America is being celebrated by National Parks Service, the National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy, and the Henry Hudson 400 Foundation with The New Amsterdam Trail. This free downloadable audio walking tour is the first of three in a series featuring the iconic National Park Service Rangers and an expert cast of historians, scientists, and other great storytellers.

Using a backdrop of period music and special sound effects, the audio with map can be downloaded from the Harbor Conservancy’s website or on the Henry Hudson 400 website. Visitors travel through the streets of downtown Manhattan to 10 historically significant locations, cueing commentary from their mobile phone, mp3 player or ipod. As they stand at the tip of the Battery, they can visualize Manhattan in the hours before Henry Hudson arrived and when he first navigated our waters and then listen to the stories of the life and times of New Amsterdam’s most famous and infamous settlers.

The New Amsterdam Trail features Steve Laise, Chief of Cultural Resources for Manhattan’s National Parks- Eric Sanderson, author of Mannahatta, Natural History of New York City- Andrew Smith, editor of The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, and Russell Shorto, author of Island at the Center of the World.

The family-friendly walking tour takes about 90-minutes&#8211 however, you can walk the trail at your own pace during lunchtime and pause the recorded commentary at any point. For more details and to download the free tour, visit or

The Harbor Conservancy is the official partner of the National Parks of New York Harbor and together they champion the 22 National Park sites that call New York Harbor home by helping to preserve the environment, promote economic development and create the finest urban waterfront recreation and educational park system in the world.

Henry Hudson 400 New York is a foundation created to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s legendary voyage for the Dutch to the Hudson River and New York. The unique character of New York City, originally New Amsterdam, has been shaped by the legacy of the multiethnic and tolerant culture of 17th century Amsterdam. Henry Hudson 400 is producing a series of special events in 2009 to celebrate the spirit of freedom, enterprise, and diversity shared by Amsterdam and New York.