Double-decker bus tours are a New York institution. They rank alongside the Statue of Liberty costumes, the incredible chaos of Times Square and the I <3 NY T-shirts as an integral component of the city. If you’ve ever been to New York City, you’ve probably thought about taking a New York bus tour. If you live in the city, you’ve probably almost gotten hit by them or stuck behind them, or they have caused traffic for you somehow. Just as the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Buildings are permanent fixtures; the double-decker bus tours are here to stay and add color and personality to the Big Apple.
So whether you’re a tourist interested in really “touring” the whole city or a local family looking for a great staycation, now it’s time to hop aboard, as I did recently on a CitySights New York Bus Tour.
Kids will Learn a lot on New York Sightseeing Buses
These blue double-decker buses zoom across the city with sunglass and visor-clad passengers careening over the sides to see the buildings and skyscrapers while a microphone-toting tour guide narrates the surroundings. After taking the tour, I found myself with a newfound appreciation of the rich history of the city in addition to gaining a plethora of random yet interesting facts that everyone would benefit from.
New York City is teeming with history and most of it is widely unknown by the general public: you could be walking past Alexander Hamilton’s grave, the site where George Washington was inaugurated, the largest cathedral in the world, or Carrie Bradshaw’s old stomping grounds and not even know it. CitySights New York City tours show their riders these sites as well as numerous others; even the most jaded of New Yorkers are sure to learn a new fact or two.
Most tours focus on architecture, history and landmarks, so adults and children who are interested in learning about these topics will have the most fun.
Picking the Right New York Tours for your Family – Heading Uptown
CitySights offers 27 combinations of tours, and those are just the ones that involve a double-decker bus. (CitySights offers walking, boat and helicopter tours as well.) We chose to try the Uptown and Downtown tours. The Uptown tour travels through midtown, the Upper West and Upper East Side of the city, which is a huge stretch of pavement to cover, so be prepared for approximately a 2-hour long trip. If two hours sounds like a long stretch, don’t worry: the bus is hop-on, hop-off so the tour can be as long or as short as you like. On the Uptown tour, you’ll pass Lincoln Center, the largest opera house in the world, and the oldest symphony orchestra in the country, to name a few sites.
Narrations are led by the licensed New York City tour guides who point out interesting and historical facts about the buildings, streets and areas that you pass. CitySights tour guides do a great job at talking without getting too microphone happy; you get a chance to enjoy some peace and quiet and marvel at the beautiful architecture in relative silence, or as close to peaceful quiet as Manhattan can get.
Other standout stops are Fifth Avenue, Museum Mile, the Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Natural History. The seats are relatively comfortable and are in narrow 2-seat rows, so you won’t be far from the edge so you can get a great view of the sights. We took in the intricate architecture on the buildings on the Upper West Side: one particularly beautiful and poignant stop on the tour was The Dakota, the apartment building where famed musician and peace activist John Lennon lived and died. A stone’s throw away from the Dakota lies Central Park and Strawberry Fields, a serene, scenic section of the park dedicated to Lennon with the “Imagine” mosaic.
The Downtown New York Tour Bus Itinerary passes Famous Sites
The convenience of the hop-on hop-off option definitely came in handy, as it was a scorching hot summer day in the mid-afternoon sitting on metal seats: we had to take a break and cool ourselves in some air conditioning in Starbucks.
Be warned, though, there was approximately an hour wait for the next bus, so choose your moment to hop off wisely. We recommend getting off at locations you would be happy to spend an hour visiting.
The Downtown tour covered so many of New York City’s famous attractions from the Empire State Building to the Statue of Liberty. The tour started in Midtown, where passengers saw city staples such as Times Square, Madison Square Garden, the current and original location of Macy’s, The Empire State Building then went right down to cover SoHo, Chinatown, Little Italy, the Site of the World Trade Center, Wall Street, Financial District, United Nations, Rockefeller Center, among others.
This video is a look at what we saw while on our CitySights NY bus tour:
Planning Your New York Bus Tour
We saw more famous landmarks in New York City in two hours than most visitors can cover in a weekend. We also learned interesting tidbits of information about the city that we would not have otherwise known; such as the difference between brown and blue street signs and why St. Paul’s Chapel of Trinity Church is nicknamed the “Miracle Church.”
Each of the tours makes a loop back towards midtown but we took the opportunity of being in the Financial District to see Ground Zero and the new World Trade Center along with a visit to Battery Park and peek at the Statue of Liberty. The bus stop at Battery Park is also the loading place of the Brooklyn Tour, another tour that CitySights offers.
If you want to see New York City, CitySights bus tour pulls out all the stops and you are sure to leave the tour with a sunburn, great pictures and good memories. Also be aware that tips for the bus driver and the tour guide are encouraged. Prices for the CitySights Uptown and Downtown tours for adults are $39 and $29 for children and if you really get into it, the two-day pases make for a convenient form of transport for tourists and a really fun staycation for locals.
For more information, to view the all types of tours offered, or to book your bus tour, visit New York CitySights tours.
Additional reporting by Noelle Yeager, Maggie Puniewska and Sam Bienenfeld.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.