Travel, Teach, Live in the USA and Canada
New York City can be huge and overwhelming for first-time visitors and even for those who visit frequently. Taking one of the many fascinating tours is an easy way to get your footing right away, to see one specific landmark, or to take in many sights when your time is limited. Here are some tips about the New York City tours that are available by land, sea and air.
There are many different types of tours available, but you should always factor in the weather. Obviously, one of the city's many walking tours might be best to take in the warmer months. You can find walking tours in most neighborhoods, although historical, ethnic and food walking tours seem to be most plentiful in downtown Manhattan--Little Italy, Chinatown and Wall Street. Definitely consider taking a cruise/tour around Manhattan during the summer or early fall months, because these guided tours provide you with a unique view of the tip of Manhattan that few visitors every get to see. You'll also learn a lot about the history of Manhattan, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. If warmth and comfort are important considerations, then certainly take one of New York's many bus tours, including Gray Line Tours and CitySightsNY. A tour by air can be fun for the more adventurous visitor, and many options are offered by New York Helicopter Charter and Viator.
If you're staying in mid-town Manhattan and your time is limited, then try to take tours of the landmarks closest to your hotel. In midtown, for example, you can check out one of a handful of different tours that take place at Rockefeller Center, including a tour of the Center itself, the NBC Studios Tour and the Radio City Music Hall tour. If you're staying in downtown Manhattan, you can take advantage of the Circle Line guided boat tour or the moving walking tours of Ground Zero. It's best to research where you're staying in New York, and then find the places you'd most like to see within a 10-block radius. Begin with that plan, and then branch out if time permits it. Any of the city's "hop-on hop-off" bus tours give you a chance to see much more of the city than you would if you were trying to do it on your own. Check out, for example, the Gray Line Tours bus route through Manhattan, which is designed to let you hop off at popular sites like the United Nations and Macy's Department Store, spend several hours there, then wait for the next bus to catch back to your hotel. Just remember that these buses make frequent stops, so your return trip will take longer than you might expect.
If you want to see a specific landmark and have little interest in general tours, then by all means do the research and see if your favorite landmark conducts its own tours. Some of the more popular are:
Grand Central Terminal
Madison Square Garden
New York Botanical Garden
Radio City Music Hall
The Brooklyn Bridge Walking Tour
Theater District Walking Tour
Central Park Conservancy Tour
The Federal Reserve
Historic Trinity Church
History tours take place everywhere in New York City, but you'll find the most fascinating historical tours downtown, where the neighborhoods played a pivotal role in the Revolutionary War. The downtown New York Alliance offers a 90-minute free tour of Wall Street, which will take you to the U.S. Custom House, historic Trinity Church, Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange and other cultural and architectural sights. The tours begin on the steps of the U.S. Custom House, at One Bowling Green, every Thursday and Saturday at noon. No reservations are required, but groups should call (212) 606-4064 . You can also take one of the tours provided by Patriot Tours, which focus on the historical significance of Lower Manhattan and the Financial District, particularly during the Revolutionary War. The two and a half hour tours take place at 1 p.m., and tickets must be reserved in advance on the Zerve website. After you reserve, you'll receive information about a meeting place, directions and a map.
When booking any kind of tour, don't forget to take into consideration several factors: the time you have in New York City, the sights you would most like to see, your health, other people in your party and the weather. Although most New York City tour buses include open-air double-decker seating, they also include indoor seating for anyone who wishes to forgo the elements and remain inside. You can also sit indoors on the Circle Line and most other cruise lines that serve Manhattan. If you're particularly adventurous, you can tour Central Park on a bicycle through Bite of the Apple Tours, at $40 per person ($20 for children 15 and under), which includes bike rental and a tour guide.