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The Top Guided Tours in New York City

Taste a different slice of the Big Apple with each of these experiences.

U.S. News & World Report

The Top Guided Tours in New York City

Times Square in New York.

These tours offer a taste of the Big Apple by bus, by bike or on foot.(Getty Images)

Whether you want to cruise New York City's most popular attractions in a double-decker bus, glimpse the Statue of Liberty from the skies or sample some local food, there's a tour for you. To help you find the perfect New York City tour, U.S. News asked local experts for recommendations. Here's what they had to say.

By Bus

First-time visitors may enjoy a tour from Big Bus, which allows you to hop on and off at various attractions. This tour includes live commentary and recorded narration in 10 languages.

One-day tours start around $44 and begin at Times Square. Choose either the uptown loop, which includes Rockefeller Center and the Apollo Theater, or the downtown loop, which goes through Little Italy and Chinatown to the World Trade Center site.

Jay Seo, assistant front office manager at The Greenwich Hotel, strongly recommends taking a double-decker bus tour at night – and not just because there's less traffic at the end of the day. "The city is literally more beautiful [at night]. Being on the top floor of the bus, going by all the neon lights, going down Fifth Ave, by all the galleries, the shops at Times Square, all the lights lit up, it’s just so beautiful.” The night tour starts at $29.

By Bike

Visitors can hop on a bike to see more of the nearly 850-acre Central Park in less time. For $48, enjoy a two-hour leisurely bike tour with Central Park Sightseeing that takes you past the park's famous landmarks like Bethesda Fountain, Strawberry Fields, the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, Shakespeare Garden and Belvedere Castle.

Tours are available mornings and afternoons year-round, and begin and end at 56 West 56th Street. The ride is just under 7 miles, and the company provides the bike, helmet and map.

Central Park Sightseeing bike tour(Courtesy of Central Park Sightseeing)

By Boat

Seo says the architecture cruises hosted by the American Institute of Architects' New York chapter are a fun way to explore the city's skyscrapers. The organization provides a range of guided cruises aboard 1920s-style yachts that offer views of New York City's famous skyline. From the water, you'll see art deco and beaux-arts icons (such as the Empire State Building) and bridges, as well as contemporary architecture and waterfront parks.

Cruises depart from Pier 62 at the Chelsea Piers. A 1.5-hour cruise costs $48, and a full circumnavigation of Manhattan costs $78.

By Helicopter

“Guests always want to see the Statue of Liberty, and they should know they’ll spend three to four hours doing this because there’s going to be [a lot of] security," says Isabelle Hogan, head concierge at The Mark hotel. To avoid the long waits, visitors might consider taking a helicopter tour, she says.

For $355 per person, a 25-minute helicopter tour from New York Helicopter will take you over Central Park, past Yankee Stadium, and by some of the city's most iconic bridges, including the George Washington Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge. Circling downtown, you'll see the Empire State Building, South Street Seaport, Lady Liberty and Ellis Island.

On Foot

Perhaps the best way to get acquainted with the city's eclectic neighborhoods is on foot. "We are the best walking city," says Chris Heywood, senior vice president of global communications at NYC & Company, the city's official tourism organization.

New York City has so many walking tours, it would be impossible to mention them all. Just rest assured there's something for everyone. Below are some of the most popular:

  • If you're interested in graffiti, the Street Art Walk is a two-hour tour that takes you through the colorful Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bushwick and Williamsburg for $25 per person. Or, if you want to save money, for free you can walk around the Welling Court Mural Project in Astoria, Queens, and see street art on every corner.
  • With its colorful history, it's no surprise that New York City might be a haven for hauntings. Ghosts of New York offers 90-minute walking tours that are less than a mile. Search for the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe, Eleanor Roosevelt or Harry Houdini. Reservations are preferred, and tickets cost $20 per adult.
  • Want a walking tour that's a bit off the beaten path? New York University history professor Joyce Gold leads two-hour "field trips" through some of Manhattan's most interesting street corners – including Hell's Kitchen and Greenwich Village – while exploring the city's past. Enjoy a history lesson and get some exercise at the same time. Unlike in the rest of Manhattan, reservations aren't needed here. Tours cost $20 per person.
  • Satisfy your sweet tooth with a guided walking tour of New York City's dessert boutiques in historic Greenwich Village, Chelsea and SoHo. The two-hour tour begins at Chelsea Market, costs $50 and includes samples of macarons, truffles and other chocolate delights. You eat chocolate, walk off the calories and see some of the city's favorite neighborhoods all at once.

Ghosts of New York tour(Jeffrey Karg)

Can't decide?

The Levys' Unique New York is a family-owned tour company that offers visitors customized itineraries, as well as several preplanned cultural, history and foodie tours around Manhattan and Brooklyn. Tours can take place on foot, by bike or in a chauffeured vehicle. Sign up for "Graffiti to Galleries: Street Art in NYC," "Bohemian and Beat Poets of Greenwich Village" or "Awesome Architecture" – or customize your own tour. Tours range from two to five hours.

Levys' Unique New York tour(Matt Levy)

To experience more of what New York City has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.

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