Fall Fun: Oktoberfest Circle Line Cruise to Bear Mountain

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Update on 2015 Oktoberfest and Bear Mountain: 

Circle Line’s Bear Mountain Cruises are happening this fall on Saturdays and Sundays between September 26 and November 1 and on Monday, October 12 (Columbus Day). Circle Line will run a full-day Oktoberfest cruise from 8:30AM – 5:30PM featuring German beer and traditional German Oktoberfest food such as soft pretzels, potatoes and bratwurst. For $35, guests can purchase a souvenir 20 oz. beer mug on board in which they can fill up for free throughout the entire duration of the cruise; there will be beer bucket specials as well.  

Once at Bear Mountain, guests can enjoy leisure time from 11:30am – 3:00pm and hike, bike, visit the zoo, enjoy brunch at Bear Mountain Inn, view the foliage, boat on the lake, and more. On Saturdays, there will be a live German band aboard. For tickets and more information, please visit the Circle Line Bear Mountain Cruises page.


The chill is in the air and depending on where you are, you can already start to see the leaves changing. I love this time of year, and though I am a huge fan of the beach, sand, and warm sun during the summer months, Fall has always been one of those seasons that makes my heart happy.

My family and I enjoy taking the weekends to road trip in search of apples and pumpkins, and just take in the colors of the season.

Though autumn hasn’t officially started, we kicked it off a little early during Circle Line’s Bear Mountain Cruise of the season.

It’s a lot of everything I love: experiencing a destination by water, enjoying a beautiful day out, and beer festivals.

The day was perfect. The temperature was crisp, but not too much, and the sun was bright. We got on the boat for the early 8:30AM boarding time and left promptly at 9:00AM. We stood outside long enough to admire the skyline as we cruised further from the shore line, and then went inside to keep warm.

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Circle Line Cruise to Bear Mountain_girlgonetravelCircle Line Cruise to Bear Mountain_girlgonetravelCircle Line Cruise to Bear Mountain_girlgonetravelThe cruise to Bear Mountain is about 2.5 hours, though we managed to make it in 2. This left us plenty of time to explore the park (the scheduled time is 3 hours to do so), which also happens to be celebrating Oktoberfest.

I haven’t been to Oktoberfest in a really long time, and never with my kids. I have to say, it was some of the most fun I have had close to home with my kids in a while.

My husband headed straight for the beer, which in a large commemorative mug costs $25, and the kids and I went straight to the food, because although we had packed our picnic, it was no match for the bratwurst, knockwurst, sauerkraut and German potato salad! Circle Line Cruise to Bear Mountain_girlgonetravelCircle Line Cruise to Bear Mountain_girlgonetravel

Other groups came ready with small grills that they set up along the picnic tables and enjoyed for the day.

We watched the Polka band play tunes, which is where I learned that my husband mastered polka dancing during his years attending Oktoberfest in Green Bay, WI – the man never ceases to amaze me. We met some fun characters and walked around the various booths that sold everything from Native American handmade art and clothing to German trinkets.Circle Line Cruise to Bear Mountain_girlgonetravelCircle Line Cruise to Bear Mountain_girlgonetravel

After getting our fill of beer and food, we walked around Hessian Lake and took in the scenery and people in canoes as they slowly flowed by. My children decided to sit and draw it, a moment that made me teary and that I was so happy to capture.

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Though the 3 hours felt like they flew by, and we have decided to return for a longer day at the park, it was enough to get a good day in and enjoy the area and the event.

By the time we made it back to the boat, we were all tired. The wind wasn’t as cold or as strong then, so I was able to catch a nap while sitting on the outer deck to the sounds of Freddie Mercury singing, “I want to break free!

I’ve only ever taken the Circle Line tour around the city, an experience which I think is great for any first time visit to the island. But this new cruise was by far my favorite. It gives anyone who visits, a beautiful perspective of the diversity of our city along the Hudson River. Start off with the view of the massive skyscrapers and end surrounded by mountains and cliffs. On a beautiful day, the Hudson River is filled with motor boats and sail boats, jet skies and water skiers. It’s a side that not too many people really ever get to experience.

The cruise has an area where you can buy food and drinks, both alcoholic and non. And I discovered that there is also a small VIP section, where the seats are a bit more spacious and cushioned, and where there’s a designated outdoor seating area for eating or just enjoying the views.

The crowd was very diverse, made up of residents and tourists, families, couples, and groups of friends venturing out for the day.

The Circle Line Cruise to Bear Mountain sails on Saturday and Sundays till October 26 (2014), which is also the last day of the Bear Mountain Oktoberfest. You can drive to the park, of course, but since we don’t condone drinking and driving, taking the cruise from the city is one of the better options in our opinion.Circle Line Cruise to Bear Mountain_girlgonetravelCircle Line Cruise to Bear Mountain_girlgonetravelOne of the highlight was getting seeing the Little Red Lighthouse and cruising under the George Washington Bridge, in Fort Washington Park, a place where we have many fond memories. (Click link to read about our Little Red Lighthouse adventures when we lived in the area).

Some things to note:

  • The walk from the pier to the park is not too difficult, but it is uphill and I found that some guests with canes and pushing strollers had to take their time to get to the top. The park is wheelchair accessible, simply keep in mind the uphill trek.
  • The bar/food area on the boat accepts cards, and offer cold sandwiches and salads, as well to the aforementioned selections. Those looking to buy drinks and food at Oktoberfest can also pay with cards, and there is plenty of hot food options to choose from.
  • I was impressed with how clean the boat was, especially the bathrooms.
  • My kids handled the ride pretty well, and I found that most kids on board did. But it is a long day cruising, so please take that into consideration before deciding whether this would be something your kids would enjoy or tolerate.
  • There is a parking garage a block from Pier 83, where the Circle Line Cruise sails from, on 43rd and 12th Avenue. My friend Holly introduced me to this new app called ParkWhiz which helped me find and book my spot at a discount from my phone! I absolutely LOVE this app and it worked great! We saved $10 for the 9.5 hours we parked there. (Thanks Holly! Great tip!).

At one point, as we sat resting along the edge of the lake in the park, my husband sighed and said, “It feels like we are somewhere else,” and it really did. It was peaceful and different from all the noise and movement of the big city. Yet, were only a couple of hours away. This entire experience only took a day to enjoy and we left totally ready for more Fall fun.

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Carol Cain

Carol is her happiest when on an adventure, either close to home or farther away. She's the mom to three fun boys and wife to a handsome Irish/Scot. She lives in New Jersey with her happy crew, but will always be a girl from Brooklyn. You can read her full profile here.

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4 Responses to Fall Fun: Oktoberfest Circle Line Cruise to Bear Mountain

  1. That looks like something our family would enjoy! I know I love octoberfest, so now I’m thirsty!!

  2. StudioJewel says:

    it looks like a great excursion. we used to hike bear mountain when i was a kid!!

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