The 20 Best New York City Tours

These guided tours help make the most of your time in the Big Apple.

U.S. News & World Report

The 20 Best New York City Tours

Best New York City Tours

Central Park Bike Tours allows visitors to ride through one of the city's most iconic landmarks.(Courtesy of the Central Park Conservancy)

With its never-ending list of must-see attractions, New York City can prove overwhelming for even the most seasoned traveler. In an effort to squeeze in as much sightseeing as possible, why not lean on the assistance of locals to help guide you? Consulting both traveler sentiment and expert opinion, U.S. News identified 20 of the Big Apple's top tours, including scenic cruises, cycling trips through Central Park and helicopter rides over the skyline.

Bike Rent NYC – Central Park Bike Tours

The Central Park Bike Tour – led by Bike Rent NYC – guides cyclists through about 5 miles of Central Park in roughly two hours, with several stops along the way. Reviewers generally offer effusive praise for the guides' knowledge of and enthusiasm for the park. Tours, which travelers say are not strenuous, are available four times daily, with the first departing at 9 a.m. Tickets costs about $50 for adults and $35 for children 12 and younger. The ticket covers use of bicycles as well as helmets, which are mandatory for riders 14 and younger. Bike Rent NYC also has bicycles available to rent.

New York Tour1 – Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

For an in-depth look at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, sign up for this excursion with New York Tour1. The 4 1/2-hour guided tour includes access to the grounds of Liberty and Ellis Islands, the Pedestal at Liberty Island, the Immigration Museum and the Statue of Liberty Museum as well as round-trip ferry tickets. Guides win praise from reviewers for their expertise and engaging delivery and their ability to navigate the crowds. Tours depart daily at 8:30, 9 and 9:30 a.m. from Castle Clinton in Manhattan's Battery Park. Tickets cost about $60 for adults and $50 for kids 4 to 12. New York Tour1 also conducts afternoon tours of the Statue of Liberty and of various New York City neighborhoods.

9/11 Ground Zero Tour

Go beyond the 9/11 Memorial with this 90-minute walking tour, led by New Yorkers with personal connections to 9/11. Tours begin at St. Paul's Chapel, which served as an impromptu rescue center during the attacks, and then move to the 9/11 Memorial, a plaza at the former site of the twin towers. From there, your tour may also stop at the FDNY Memorial Wall, the "Survivor Tree" or the Oculus at the World Trade Center transit hub, depending on your tour guide. Tour-takers find the guides to be insightful, respectful and passionate. Tours take place at 9:30, 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily. Tickets cost approximately $35 for adults and $30 for children 6 to 12. Packages that combine the 9/11 Ground Zero Tour with a visit to the 9/11 Museum or to the One World Observatory are also available.

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The New York Beer and Brewery Tour – The Signature Tour

The New York Beer and Brewery Tour provides both local and visiting craft beer enthusiasts an ideal way to drink in some of the city's best brews. The 4 1/2-hour Signature Tour, which starts at 11:30 a.m. on Saturdays, escorts travelers via minibus to four breweries or beer halls, including Brooklyn Brewery, Spuyten Duyvil and SingleCut Beersmiths. Along the way, guides provide information about beer production and the city's brewing history. Visitors frequently praise the guides, describing them as exceptionably knowledgeable and entertaining. In addition to beer tastings at each stop, the approximately $125 ticket price includes food pairings and round-trip transportation from midtown Manhattan. The company also offers a shorter three-hour tour and a tour focused exclusively on Brooklyn-based breweries.

Foods of New York Tours – Heart and Soul of Greenwich Village

The Heart and Soul of Greenwich Village tour highlights the diverse culinary offerings of one of the city's most eclectic neighborhoods. Reviewers enthusiastically praise the varied array of food sampled during the three-hour walking tour, which stops at various cafes and specialty shops for seven tastings – one seated, the rest on-the-go. Specific tastings vary by day and time, but may include artichoke pizza, fresh pasta, empanadas or kati rolls. Tours are offered Thursday through Monday year-round at noon, 12:30 and 1 p.m. The tickets, which cost approximately $55, cover the food and one bottle of water. The excursions are limited to 16 people. Foods of New York Tours also conducts tours of other neighborhoods, such as Chinatown and Little Italy, as well as an Italian-themed exploration of Greenwich Village.

Each Museum Hack tour starts with a cheer.(Courtesy of Museum Hack)

Museum Hack – Un-Highlights at the Met

Museum Hack's Un-Highlights @ the Met tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art offers an irreverent take on the stately institution. Rather than using typical museum docents, this tour employs so-called "renegade" guides – entertainers, actors and comedians mainly – offering curious facts about the work on display and gossip about those who made it, which many reviewers find funny and engaging as well as informative. The two-hour tours welcome 10 or fewer participants, all of whom must be at least 16 years old. The tickets, which cost approximately $70, include admission to the museum. Museum Hack also leads tours of the American Museum of Natural History.

Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises – Landmarks Cruise

The Landmarks Cruise offered by Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises gives you the opportunity to soak in dramatic views of the New York City skyline from the water surrounding Manhattan. The 90-minute boat ride goes under New York's famous bridges, including the Brooklyn Bridge, cruises past the Statue of Liberty and glides by other famous structures. English-speaking guides, who are characterized by reviewers as informed and entertaining, provide a running commentary about the various sights. Prerecorded narration is available in a variety of other languages. Food and drinks, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic, are available for purchase. Tickets cost approximately $35 for adults and $30 for children 3 to 12. Specialized cruises to the Statue of Liberty and evening cruises are also available.

Liberty Helicopters – Big Apple Helicopter Tours

During its Big Apple Tour, Liberty Helicopters offers a bird's-eye view of many of New York City's iconic attractions. The roughly 12- to-15-minute flight features views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, Central Park, the USS Intrepid, One World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial. Reviewers call the experience amazing and awesome. Tickets cost approximately $225 per person (plus heliport fees). Flights depart every 15 minutes from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday depending on weather and visibility. Advance reservations are required. Liberty Helicopters also offers several other NYC air tours, including an evening ride to admire the city lights.

Big Bus New York – Hop-On Hop-Off Tour

See all of the Big Apple's top sights and let someone else do the driving with Big Bus New York's hop-on, hop-off tours. With the Classic Ticket, you'll have your pick between the uptown or downtown route, which stops at top attractions, including St. Patrick's Cathedral, Grand Central Terminal, Times Square and The Guggenheim. English-speaking guides share information on board; prerecorded commentary is available in several other languages. Riders express enthusiasm not only for the guides' insight but also for their personality and humor. However, other travelers complain that buses can get crowded and that Big Bus drivers may alter routes to avoid traffic, meaning visitors miss stops for certain sights. Classic one-day tickets cost around $50 for adults and $40 for children 3 to 12 if purchased online. Big Bus New York also offers two- and three-day tickets as well as packages that cover the entrance fee to popular attractions, such as the Museum of Modern Art.

On Location Tours – "Sex and the City" Hotspots Tour

New York City offers something for just about everyone, including devoted fans of a certain television show starring four fashionable women. On Location Tours' "Sex and the City" Hotspots Tour escorts travelers via bus to more than 40 locations where Sarah Jessica Parker and her co-stars were filmed wining, dining and shopping. Travelers visit famed neighborhoods, such as midtown Manhattan, Greenwich Village, SoHo and the Meatpacking District. Tour-goers rave about the experienced and amusing guides and assure you don't have to be a fan to enjoy the tour. The approximately 3 1/2-hour, adults-only outings occur daily at 11 a.m. with an additional 3 p.m. tour on Saturdays. Tickets cost about $55 per person. The company also offers a variety of other TV- and movie-themed tours, including those that visit locations featured in "Gossip Girl" and "The Sopranos."

The Ride offers an onboard entertainment experience unlike any other.(Courtesy of The Ride)

The Ride

If you want to see the sights and enjoy some live entertainment at the same time, then The Ride might be just what you're looking for. The 75-minute excursion in a custom-made bus with floor-to-ceiling windows and stadium-style seating winds through Times Square and midtown Manhattan, which become the sets for an ensemble of actors, singers, dancers and musicians. Between the street performances, onboard hosts entertain as The Ride follows its 4.2-mile route past famous spots, such as the Chrysler Building and Columbus Circle. Reviewers rave about both the entertainers and the amusing guides. Tickets cost about $70. The company offers a variety of other experiences, including a multimedia sightseeing tour and a downtown tour that incorporates virtual reality.

City Sightseeing New York – Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tours

Sightsee your way through New York at your own pace with City Sightseeing Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tours. The three-hour Downtown Loop rides through neighborhoods like Chinatown, the Theater District, midtown Manhattan, the Financial District and Greenwich Village, making 23 stops along the way. Buses, which feature onboard commentary, run approximately every half-hour from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., though some travelers say their wait times exceeded 30 minutes. Tickets start at $33 if purchased online. City Sightseeing offers a variety of other options, including combo tickets that include the hop-on, hop-off bus service with access to museums (such as the Museum of Modern Art), sightseeing ferries or observation decks.

A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours – The Original Brooklyn Pizza Tour

Try a staple of New York cuisine and explore one of the city's famous boroughs with the Original Brooklyn Pizza Tour from A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours. On this 4 1/2-hour tour, you'll eat pizza at two different pizzerias, ride through Brooklyn on an air-conditioned bus and see locations featured in movies like "Goodfellas" and "Saturday Night Fever." Reviewers consistently applaud the Brooklyn-born tour guides for their familiarity, humor and passion for all things Brooklyn. Tours, which start at $80 for adults and $70 for children 12 and younger, are offered five days a week at 11 a.m. A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours also conducts tours focused on the borough's chocolatiers and a seasonal Christmas lights tour, among other offerings.

Zip Aviation – Big City Helicopter Tour

Escape the crowds and enjoy panoramic vistas of the Big Apple on Zip Aviation's Big City Helicopter Tour. The route extends from Liberty Harbor up to the Bronx with views of landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Yankee Stadium and New York's various rivers and iconic bridges, along the way. Reviewers repeatedly laud the exceptional views, the fun flight experience and the professional staff. Prerecorded commentary is provided in multiple languages. Zip Aviation limits tours to four to six passengers, depending on the aircraft. The tour, which is available from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, lasts 20 minutes. Tickets cost approximately $290 per person (plus heliport fees). The company also offers 15-minute tours concentrating on the Liberty Harbor area and 30-minute flights that fly over Coney Island.

The Brooklyn Tour – The Best of Brooklyn Food & Culture Tour

The Best of Brooklyn Food & Culture Tour spotlights the borough's ethnically diverse cuisine. The 4 1/2-hour coach tour departs Manhattan's Greenwich Village daily at 11 a.m. and takes travelers to Brooklyn neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Gowanus, Carroll Gardens and Dumbo. While guides detail the borough's distinct history and culture, you'll stop for tastings of New York-style pizza, Cuban sandwiches, and traditional Polish pierogies and kielbasa, among other fare. Tour-goers commend the guides and the drivers for their professionalism and applaud the diverse food offerings. The ticket, which costs roughly $140 per person, includes all of the food and one bottle of water. Soft drinks and alcoholic beverages are not included, but can be purchased where available. The Brooklyn Tour limits groups to 23 participants.

The Wall Street Experience – Wall Street Insider Tour

The Wall Street Experience's Wall Street Insider Tour traverses some of the oldest streets of New York City. The 75-minute walking tour goes past (but not inside) the New York Stock Exchange, which is closed to the public, and the Federal Reserve. As you meander the streets of lower Manhattan, guides discuss the Financial District's history, architecture and related trivia. Travelers describe guides as funny and extremely well-versed in both finance and New York history. Outings start at Broad Street, just around the corner from Wall Street, at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tickets start at $35 for adults and $25 for children 4 to 12. The company also offers tours that focus on the 2008 financial crisis, the 9/11 Memorial, and the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Circle Line's Harbor Lights tour gives visitors beautiful views of the New York City skyline at night.(Courtesy of Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises)

Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises – New York City Harbor Lights Cruise

The Big Apple shines at night, and a great way to take in the glistening skyline is from the water. The New York City Harbor Lights Cruise allows you to do just that, admiring some of the city's most recognizable landmarks, including the Empire State Building and the High Line, during the two-hour evening sail. Cruisers relish the expansive views and photo-ops, and describe the tour as relaxing. The tours, which depart daily at 7 p.m., feature narration by English-speaking guides, with prerecorded commentary available in numerous other languages. Tickets cost approximately $40 for adults and $35 for children 3 to 12. Circle Line also offers daytime cruises, as well as specialized cruises to the Statue of Liberty.

USA Guided Tours – Discover NY Bus Tour

For an immersive exploration of New York City, hop on the Discover NY Bus Tour. The six-hour tour departs from Times Square at 10 or 11 a.m. daily and take tourists to top spots like Madison Square Park, Rockefeller Center and Central Park. At each stop, guides will exit the vehicle with the group for short walks and provide detailed information regarding sights, such as the Dakota building (where John Lennon once lived), the Flatiron Building and the 9/11 Memorial. The informative and friendly guides routinely win praise from tour-goers. Tickets also include one of two outings: a harbor cruise (offered April through December) or a guided tour of Grand Central Terminal (offered January through March). Tickets cost approximately $90 for adults and about $80 for children 3 to 12. USA Guided Tours also offers a night tour.

City Sightseeing New York Cruises – Hop-on, Hop-off Sightseeing Ferry

Hop aboard this narrated ferry cruise for a 90-minute guided tour of the waterways around lower Manhattan. Along the way, you'll spot One World Trade Center, the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, among other landmarks. Plus, enjoy hop-on, hop-off access at Pier 78 and the World Financial Center. In addition to the photo-ops, reviewers praise the well-versed guides. Tickets cost around $35 for adults and $25 for children. The company offers a variety of bus and boat tours around NYC, with combo tickets that cover admission to select top attractions.

Urban Adventures – Tenements, Tales and Tastes Tour

This walking tour of the Lower East Side, Little Italy and Chinatown illustrates how immigration shaped New York's culture and culinary history. Over the course of the three-hour tour, you'll sample an array of ethnic foods with a knowledgeable guide providing information about the cuisine and culture of the area. Stops include restaurants, cafes, bakeries and a community garden. Reviewers heap praise on the attentive guides and recommend pairing this tour with a trip to Ellis Island to gain a better understanding of the early immigrant story. Tours start daily at 10 a.m. Ticket prices for participants ages 6 and up range from approximately $70 to $80, depending on the day of the week. Groups are limited to 12 people. Urban Adventures also offer tours focusing on New York breweries or craft cocktails, as well as a Greenwich Village pub crawl highlighting the neighborhood's LGBTQ history.

John Rodwan, Contributor

John G. Rodwan Jr. has written about arts and entertainment, food and beverages, hospitality ...  Read more

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