Note: Some tour providers on this list may have limited or ceased operations due to COVID-19. Check with your tour operator about availability before you book.
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 17 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 Tour
The Central Park Bike Tour – led by Bike Rent NYC – guides cyclists through about 6 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 $35 for adults and $25 for children 12 and younger. The ticket covers use of bicycles as well as helmets, which are mandatory for riders 14 and younger. Prefer to explore on your own? The company also has bicycles available to rent.
Ahoy New York Tours & Tasting – Chinatown and Little Italy Food Fest
Eat your way through Chinatown and Little Italy on this three-hour walking tour. As you explore these iconic New York City neighborhoods with an expert guide leading the way, you’ll stop for seven tastings. Tastings may include Chinese dumplings, cannolis and homemade mozzarella, among other dishes. Participants praise guides for their historical knowledge of the area and the amount of food served (many warn that you’ll want to arrive hungry to fully enjoy all of the tour’s offerings). Tours run Thursday through Monday at 10:30 a.m., with an additional 2:30 p.m. tour on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets cost about $105 per person and cover all food, plus the option to add a glass of wine or beer at the seated tasting (for participants 21 and older). If you’re still hungry, Ahoy New York Food Tours also offers tours of Mulberry Street.
ExperienceFirst – 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 ExperienceFirst. The five-hour 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. What’s more, you’ll enjoy priority line access to board the ferry. Guides win praise from reviewers for their expertise and engaging delivery and their ability to navigate the crowds. Tours depart daily at 8:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. The guided portion of the tour begins at Castle Clinton in Battery Park (where the tour meets) and ends at Ellis Island. From there, you can continue to explore on your own for as long as you wish or hop back on the ferry to return to Battery Park. Tickets start at $67 for adults and $59 for kids 4 to 12. ExperienceFirst also conducts three-hour “express” tours of the Statue of Liberty, in addition to walking tours of various New York City neighborhoods, including Little Itlay and Chinatown.
Broadway Up Close Walking Tours – Broadway’s Beginnings
Theater fans can’t miss the chance to tag along on the Broadway’s Beginnings tour. During the nearly two-hour, half-mile walking tour, you’ll pass by the theaters at the southern end of the Broadway theater district, from 41st Street to 44th Street. Along the way, your expert guide will share tales of Broadway’s early years and detail how a show evolves from the first rehearsal to opening night. Plus, guides regale you with stories of the ghosts that reportedly haunt the district’s theaters. Reviewers rave about the guides’ passion for theater and the behind-the-scenes scoop they share. Tours are generally available Sunday, Wednesday and Friday at 11 a.m. A maximum of 15 participants are allowed to tour. Tickets cost approximately $40 for adults and $35 for kids 12 and younger. Can’t get enough of Broadway? The company offers a variety of other themed tours, including one that focuses on “Hamilton: An American Musical” and another one all about the Shubert brothers (best known for their theater empire in the 1900s).
Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises – Landmarks Cruise
The Landmarks Cruise offered by Circle Line 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 sails beneath 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 $37 for adults and $31 for children 3 to 12. Specialized cruises to the Statue of Liberty and evening cruises are also available.
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 Friday through Sunday year-round at noon. The tickets, which cost approximately $58 per adult and $35 per child ages 12 and younger, cover the food and one bottle of water. The excursions are limited to 10 people. Foods of New York Tours also conducts tours of other neighborhoods, such as Chinatown and Little Italy, as well as Brooklyn.
You’ll visit the 9/11 Memorial, a plaza at the former site of the twin towers, during the 9/11 Ground Zero Tour.(Getty Images)
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 a.m., 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.
Nice Guy Tours – Lower East Side Tour
You’ll want to come hungry to this food tour, which visits a minimum of seven eateries for samples of pickles, pastrami and doughnuts, among other dishes. During the three-hour walking tour, you’ll stop at famous restaurants like Katz’s Deli and Russ & Daughters as your guide regales you with stories about the Lower East Side’s history and culture. Reviewers are particularly fond of the guides, who they describe as friendly, informative and entertaining. Travelers are also complimentary of the generous amount of food offered. Tours are available Wednesday and Friday at 10:30 a.m. Tickets start at $65 per person. Still hungry? The company also offers food tours of Greenwich Village.
Tommy’s New York – The Catacombs by Candlelight
Explore the crypts beneath the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral and enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour with Tommy’s New York. On the 90-minute tour, participants will learn the history of the catacombs, which date back to 1815, and the histories of the people buried here, including bishops, priests and families. Unlike the catacombs in Paris and Rome, there are no visible bones. Tourgoers will also walk through the cathedral and see its Erben pipe organ. Reviewers applaud guides for their engaging and educational delivery and vast knowledge of New York history. Tours are available Friday through Monday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Ticket prices start at $37 for adults and $30 for children younger than 12.
On Location Tours – “Sex and the City” Hotspots Tour
New York City offers something for just about everyone, including 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. Tourgoers 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 are offered Monday through Friday at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays at 1, 3 and 4:30 p.m. Tickets start at $110 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.”
Learn all about Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo with Free Tours by Foot.(Getty Images)
Free Tours by Foot – Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO Tour
For a local’s perspective on Brooklyn history, consider this three-hour walking tour. You’ll start your tour by walking a mile over the Brooklyn Bridge. Then, you’ll explore America’s first suburb, Brooklyn Heights, before stopping to admire the views of Manhattan and New York Harbor. You’ll end the tour in Dumbo. Participants compliment guides for their expertise and friendly personalities, as well as their willingness to answer questions. Because it’s a name-your-own-price tour, participants choose if they want to compensate the guide at the tour’s conclusion. Though the tour is free, reservations must be made on the company’s website. Tours, which meet at City Hall Park, are offered Thursday, Friday and Sunday at 9:30 a.m. The company also offers a variety of other themed tours, including walks through Harlem, Chinatown and Little Italy.
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 excursion, 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 four 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. Plus, 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 4:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, lasts 20 minutes. Tickets cost approximately $290 per person (plus heliport fees). The company also offers 15-minute flights concentrating on the Liberty Harbor area and nighttime skyline tours.
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 Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tickets start at $35 for adults and $30 for children 4 to 12. The company also offers tours that focus on the 2008 financial crisis.
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 9 or 10 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 tourgoers. Tickets also include one of two outings: a boat ride on the Staten Island Ferry (offered April through December) or a stop at Pier 17 and Wagner Park for photo-ops (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.
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 are generally offered daily at 10 a.m. Tickets cost about $80 per person. Groups are limited to 12 people. Urban Adventures also offer tours focusing on New York breweries or craft cocktails, as well as a tour all about Alexander Hamilton.