The energy of New York City is found in its streets. One of the best ways to experience this vitality, and cover serious ground at the same time, is with a bus tour, rolling between Manhattan neighborhoods, one beautiful block at a time.
From a themed tour (like the Sex and the City Hotspots tour) to hop-on, hop-off options that offer direct transportation to the top landmarks in the city, here are the five best bus tours that NYC has to offer.
Big Bus New York
The Big Bus is easy to spot: bright red, open top, and double-decker. This classic bus tour provides a thorough introduction to Manhattan, with two routes, the downtown red loop, and the uptown blue route – and hop-on, hop-off service for stopping at top landmarks along the way. Take a seat in the open-air top deck and instead of traveling by subway (where you see nothing as you move between neighborhoods), you will see New York’s famous street life as the bus travels between the Financial District, Chinatown, Greenwich Village, and Chelsea. The most popular stops on the downtown route include the 9/11 Memorial and the High Line, while popular stops on the uptown loop include 5th Avenue shopping and Harlem’s Apollo Theater. For some fresh air, stop in the 843-acre Central Park and go for a stroll.
Climb aboard The Ride – and the bus becomes the theater while the New York City streets are the stage. Instead of seats facing forward with the flow of traffic, seats aboard The Ride are turned toward the floor-to-ceiling windows, stadium-seating style. This 75-minute tour combines sightseeing (including landmarks like the Chrysler Building and Carnegie Hall) with live entertainment (both from onboard guides providing fun facts and screening movie clips, and on-the-street performers including break dancers and improv comedians). The busy Manhattan streets provide additional entertainment and the bus is equipped with 40 TV screens, tons of LED lights, and a club-quality sound system to keep the atmosphere festive. Kids age 6 and up are welcome to join.
Gray Line CitySightseeing Holiday Lights Tour
Witnessing New York City by night is an essential experience when visiting Manhattan. The streets always have certain electricity, but by night, the thoroughfares, landmarks, and bridges are lit up in spectacular fashion. There’s no better way to see it than from the open-air top deck of a double-decker bus. This after-dark excursion takes between two and three hours to complete and includes the chance to see famous attractions including Rockefeller Center (and its famous sparkling Christmas tree), the bright lights of Radio City Music Hall, the department store holiday windows along 5th Avenue and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. From Times Square to Central Park, this tour showcases the best of New York’s famous holiday lights.
Open Loop New York
Take advantage of technology to know exactly when your bus is coming, with the “Where’s My Bus?” web page from Open Loop. This bus tour, with an uptown route and a downtown route, offers a double-decker experience complete with an audio guide available in multiple languages (including English, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, and more). Tickets are available for one, three, or five days of unlimited use, offering convenient transportation to attractions across Manhattan including the Empire State Building, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Times Square, and the High Line. Hop-on, hop-off stops are also available in favorite downtown neighborhoods, including the West Village and the East Village. When you’re done with exploring, use your phone to confirm where and when to hop on the next bus.
Sex and the City Hotspots Tour
Strut the same streets as Carrie and shop in the same stores as Samantha during this 3.5-hour bus trip from On Location Tours complete with Sex and the City trivia, cocktails, and New York City sightseeing. The tour begins in front of the iconic Plaza hotel and continues throughout neighborhoods featured in the popular HBO series including the Meatpacking District, the West Village, and SoHo. The tour includes a glimpse of Carrie’s gorgeous brownstone (which is actually in the West Village and not the Upper West Side, where it is supposed to be located in the show) and stops include an adults-only sultry boutique and a cupcake bakery favored by Carrie. The tour wraps up with a drink at the bar that stood in for Steve and Aidan’s bar in the series.