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Full of excitement and energy, New York City is a tourism mecca with so many world-famous attractions to see and neighborhoods to explore – each with their own culture and style. There’s a surplus of tours for every interest, ranging from art, music, and culinary-themed experiences to relaxing sightseeing trips, bar crawls, history tours and boat rides to visit the tourist hotspots. To help narrow down the options, we rounded up the best tours to book when you're in the Big Apple. So whether you want to eat your way through the Lower East Side, visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, learn more about the vast subway system or see what's happening on Wall Street, read on to see our favorite ways to fall in love with New York City.
Best Overall: Hop On, Hop Off New York Harbor Cruise
For a fun way to get around the city on your own schedule while learning about its history, the Hop On, Hop Off New York Harbor Cruise is a great overall choice. The water taxi departs at Pier 79 in Midtown Manhattan and takes passengers on a 90-minute narrated cruise along the Hudson River for a chance to see the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, New Jersey skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge – so you can count on there being excellent photo opportunities. There are four designated stops, so passengers can hop off (and back on the next boat) to further explore Wall Street, the 9/11 Memorial, the Empire State Building and many other attractions. Boats depart every 45 minutes until 6 p.m. – allowing for plenty of flexibility.
Best for Music Lovers: New York City Original Rock n’ Roll Walking Tour
The East Village has long been known as an artistic hub for up and coming musicians and the New York City Original Rock n’ Roll Walking Tour is a fantastic way to see how some rock and roll legends got their start. The two-hour tour explores the area where the Ramones, the New York Dolls, CBGB's, Andy Warhol, the Velvet Underground, the Fillmore East, Led Zeppelin, Madonna, Iggy Pop and many more all called home. You’ll see the places they hung out, played and lived while learning about the history of the musical genre. The tour also stops at the St. Mark’s Hotel (home to a famous jazz club) and an iconic punk rock apparel shop.
Best Bus Tour: The Ride New York City
There are a wide variety of sightseeing tours in New York by bus, but “The Ride” steps things up a notch for a fun and educational experience. The 75-minute tour blends a classic narrated sightseeing trip with live entertainment while traveling the city in style. As travelers are whisked around Midtown Manhattan in a luxurious bus with oversized windows, television monitors and unique lighting, they’ll have a few surprise visitors like street performers (think break dancers, ballerinas, rappers) while the hilarious hosts narrate the not-so-average bus ride. There’s quite a bit of improv as hosts and performers interact with passengers and pedestrians – so no two trips are the same.
Best Food Tour: Lower East Side Food and Culture Tour
New York City knows how to eat well, and with so many different cultures and restaurants, it is a foodie’s dream come true. Sample some of the best food on the island and learn about the city’s eclectic past and present on the Lower East Side Food and Culture Tour. The three-hour tour explores Manhattan’s Lower East Side and visits fresh markets, bustling Chinatown and legendary Little Italy. Sample a number of foods such as knishes (savory pastries from the city’s Jewish population) or the stroopwafels (syrup waffles) that were brought to New York from the Dutch immigrants. Along the way, travelers will learn about the different cultures and history of the city and the influence on different foods.
Best Iconic New York Tour: Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Tour
No trip to New York is complete without visiting the iconic Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island – where more than 12 million immigrants were processed into the United States. The 4.5-hour, “Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Tour,” begins with a laid-back ferry ride from Battery Park to the Statue of Liberty for a quick visit to the museum before climbing 10 stories to the observation deck for amazing views of the skyline. A headset is provided to each guest to hear the guide’s informative narration. Next, travelers have an opportunity to get a sense for what it was like to arrive on Ellis Island as the guide leads them through the baggage room and Great Hall, plus time to explore on their own.
Best Bar Crawl: East Village Walking Tour
The “City that Never Sleeps” is known for its bars and bustling nightlife, and if you enjoy sipping on a premium adult beverage, the East Village has a wide array of craft cocktails and brews from expert bartenders and mixologists. On the 2.5-hour East Village Walking Tour, travelers experience some of the East Village’s trendy (and hidden) watering holes tasting several craft cocktails. The small group tour has 12 people or less and offers a chance to discover locally produced spirits from micro distilleries while an informative guide explains how Prohibition-era speakeasies shaped New York City. On the tour, you’ll get to know New York’s “cocktail culture” and visit one of the best wine and spirits’ shops for some optional liquid souvenirs.
Best Wall Street Tour: New York City Wall Street Insider Tour
For an in-depth look at New York’s legendary Financial District, consider the Wall Street Insider Tour, a 75-minute walking tour that’s guided by former Wall Street professionals. The tour was recommended by both BBC and The New York Times and covers more than 400 years of history that led to the creation of Wall Street, from a Dutch trading post to the current financial market. The fascinating tour passes New York Stock Exchange, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Building, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank. Viator members stated that they learned a lot of information on the tour and that the guides were also very entertaining.
Best Art Tour: Alternative New York Street Art Tour
New York’s art scene ranges from high-end galleries to amateur artists, but some of its most authentic works can be found on the streets themselves. For a unique alternative art tour, head to Brooklyn for a three-hour guided look at street art in two of Brooklyn's hippest neighborhoods. The tour begins in Bushwick to observe graffiti and how it provides insight into life in New York City. The guide will provide a history of street art, as well as insider tips to some of the trendiest bars, restaurants and nightclubs. The tour also explores the buzzing neighborhood of Williamsburg for more opportunities to learn about the art. Viator members loved the small group size and felt that the guides were very informative.
Best Private Tour: New York Underground Subway Private Tour
The NYC subway has a certain curious allure to it and this elaborate system of underground rails has a fascinating history. On the 2.5-hour, New York Underground Subway Private Tour, travelers can learn about the secrets of the subway with a personal tour guide. The guide will lead the way as you travel along the original 1904 route from Bowling Green to Grand Central Terminal, admiring underground art and learning about the subway’s engineering, construction and how it came to be. The guide will also tell of abandoned levels and fake houses to disguise escape routes. Be aware that because it is a private tour, the price is set for groups, so the more people in your group the more affordable it becomes per person.