(New York City, NY, USA)
Strawberry Fields in Central Park
New York Bus Tour Review
I am a New Yorker, so I’m used to using the subways, buses and good old fashioned walking to get around. But when an out-of-town friend of mine was coming to New York City to visit me, she was a bit overwhelmed and afraid of the subway system. She’s from a small town in Arizona and had never been on a subway before and no amount of reassurance on my part could coax her to it!
I wanted to be a good guide. I wanted to show her the NYC of the movies, to show her the main tourist spots that out of town dreams are made of. Showing her around my neighborhood and to the local coffee shop wasn’t going to cut it — but it was over that cup of coffee that I remembered the New York City tour buses. I must admit that I’d always seen it as a “tourist” thing and something I’d never do… but I also must admit that they always made me curious & looked like lots of fun, too. I realized this would be a perfect solution — my friend would be able to experience “The Big Apple” in a big way, and I would have an excuse to go along for the ride.
So we took a taxi to Times Square, and purchased the All Around Town tour tickets. The value was pretty good, and would have been even better if we had the time to have used it all up. We were only able to take advantage of the Downtown Tour, Uptown/Harlem Tour and Nighttime Tour, although that package also included a Brooklyn Tour, Circle Line boat trip and free admission to the Museum of the City of New York.
New York City Bus Tour Tips
We should have realized ahead of our purchase that we wouldn’t have the time to use everything included, but we were too excited to try. For anyone buying tour tickets, I would recommend thinking realistically about how much time you’ll have, also putting into account the time you’ll spend stopping off at the hop on/hop off stops. That may help you save some money by choosing the tour that is exactly right for you & your time frame — or even make you realize you have time for the extras & one of the bigger tour packages!
However, we both thoroughly enjoyed the three tours we took and I would definitely recommend the tours. If you are visiting NYC for the first time, the tours are a very “first time friendly” way to experiencing the city, and will take you straight to the big tourist spots. If you are a local, I’d still recommend the tours as a great idea for when you have friends to show around the city. Even if you don’t, it’s fun to take the “local” chip off your shoulder and enjoy the tours… especially on the top level of the double-decker bus. It gives a whole new view of the city!
The guides we had on the tours knew their stuff, and were able to offer lots of facts and history for every part of the city. My friend especially enjoyed how the guide pointed out different spots that were movie or TV shoot locations. A few things they shared were pretty obscure & I didn’t know them beforehand, either. For example, they pointed out the exact streets the rooftops at the beginning of “West Side Story” were located.
The attractions we “hopped off” at to explore further were Greenwich Village where we went to Washington Square Park, Battery Park where we explored Battery Park and the views along the North Cove & South Cove just beyond it. The views of the Hudson River there are incredible. We also checked out the South Street Seaport for more river views and shopping. This was all during the ‘downtown’ part of the Downtown Tour.
As the Downtown Tour made its way further uptown, we went to Macy’s for more shopping and window shopped various shops along 34th Street. My friend is a music lover, so of course we stopped all along Times Square and the theater district, as well as getting a good look at the outside of Carnegie Hall.
When we took the Uptown Tour, this also made checking out Lincoln Center a highlight. I made sure to show her the Performing Arts Library within the Lincoln Center, which is a field day for anyone interested in the arts. We also made sure to visit MOMA (Museum of Modern Art).
She was very excited about Central Park which is also one of my favorite spots in the city, so we gladly hopped off and spent lots of time there, especially in the Conservatory Garden in the very north part of the park.
If you can only do one tour, I think the city looks the best at night and that the Nighttime Tour would be the one to pick. Especially when you are on the top of the double-decker bus in a spring or summer night, it really felt like total perfection to see all the lights go by in the breeze.
By the end of all of the tours, my friend felt totally comfortable and safe in New York City. This may be the best thing the tour did. In fact, she wants to visit again and might even try the subway or go off on her own this time! She really liked the maps/guidebooks we got, and brought them back home as one of her souvenirs.
The next time she visits comes around, I think we’d still do the Nighttime Tour for another go-round, or perhaps try out the Tours we didn’t have time for. My main tip for visitors, again, is to make a realistic plan of your time available to sight-see so you are not disappointed. I would also recommend taking the time out to go over the list of attractions and to think about them all, and prioritize and personalize a list of the places you truly want to see.
While it might seem like Times Square or the Empire State Building is the be-all and end-all of attractions you must see, take a minute to truly think about it — if you are interested in theater, going to the Lincoln Center or theater district might be more meaningful for you, or if you’re a restaurant aficionado stops in Soho & Little Italy might be more rewarding, etc. Prioritize & personalize your time and you’ll be on the way to finding the NYC you dream about as you take a New York City Bus Tour!