Begin at Wall St/Pier 11, where the ferry takes off. Not much to see here except a lot of big business buildings, a manic-depressive economy, and plenty of tourists. But just several blocks up from the pier is the masterfully designed Andaz Wall Street, the only hotel that actually sits on Wall Street. And if their location doesn't grab you, maybe their twice-weekly farmers market will.
Brooklyn Bridge Park is the next stop, in a neighborhood referred to as DUMBO ("Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). But since DUMBO is really just the strip along the water, hop on over to Downtown Brooklyn, a ten-minute walk, to check out Aloft Brooklyn, a new hotel that's making waves with its interesting lobby art and forthcoming shared rooftop bar.
The next stop you want to look out for is N. 6th St, which drops you off right in the heart of Williamsburg. McCarren Park, Bedford Avenue, and a new gourmet movie theater are all musts. But anyone who's been following the opening of Hotel Williamsburg (just six blocks away) knows there's quite a lot to look forward to. Well-dressed staffers, a rooftop bar, and—yes—tacos!
Skip over Greenpoint, which, though beautiful, has virtually no hotels to speak of, and head over to Hunters Point South/Long Island City. Here, at the bottom tip of Queens (your third borough of the day!), you can enjoy a five-minute walk up Vernon Blvd to the Z Hotel. Though the hotel boasts its own limousine service, we think this is a much cooler, more relaxing way to reach the waterfront neighborhood. And once you're there, don't forget to climb up to the rooftop bar, where you can look down and survey your seafaring journey thus far.
Now as your hotel-hopping excursion winds down to a satisfying close, you should feel more educated. And maybe slightly drunk after your stop at the Z rooftop. So ask yourself, what am I in the mood for? East 34th St, the last stop on the ferry, offers several options. Head west from the river towards Park Avenue South, where you'll find Gansevoort Park (by now you'll be ready for a cool dip). A more expensive alternative sits slightly to the north, over on Fifth Avenue. The Setai Fifth Avenue goes for $545 a night (significantly more than that ferry ticket you purchased earlier), but boasts one of the most elegant lobbies we've seen in a while. Kick back in a white leather armchair and grab a ginger beer ($6)—you've had a long ride.