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Big Bus New York Hop-On Hop-Off Tour
Photograph: Courtesy Big Bus New York Hop-On Hop-Off Tour

The best NYC bus tours

From the classic double-decker bus trip to a Sex and the City excursion, here are the best NYC bus tours for sightseeing

Annalise Mantz
Written by
Dan Q Dao
&
Annalise Mantz
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Short on time but want to take in all that NYC has to offer? Book yourself onto an NYC bus tour – these absolute crackers are a visitor's best friend. While you could take it easy on a walking tour or eat your way through NYC on a food tour, you’ll see more sights in a smaller amount of time on one of these great NYC bus tours. Whether you’re looking for the classic hop-on hop-off experience that stops at all the top attractions, a themed TV and movie route around popular filming locations or an excursion to the outer boroughs, we’ve got you covered with our guide to the best bus tours in NYC. Read on, then hop on, friends. These are fun.

RECOMMENDED: Find more New York City tours.

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Best NYC bus tours

First time in the wonderful city that is New York? This comprehensive, fully narrated tour of more than 30 attractions allows you to customize your itinerary to just how you want it, boarding and leaving whenever it’s convenient for you. Vouchers can be redeemed in Times Square, where the tour begins. Choose from three routes: the uptown loop, which includes Lincoln Center, Rockefeller Center and the Apollo Theatre; the Midtown loop, which stops at the Empire State Building, Madison Square Garden and United Nations Headquarters; or the downtown loop, which visits Little Italy, Chinatown and the World Trade Center. You can think of this as your passport to discovering the best of this fascinating city. Enjoy!

Double-decker bus tour not your thing? Ante up your bus tour game with this dynamic part-show, part-city tour. Yeah, it's as mad but as brilliant as it sounds. The $1.5-million bus (yep, you heard that right) offers outward-facing stadium seating with floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Billed as a “traveling theater,” the uniquely designed bus allows riders to take photos of top attractions and interact with street performers during the 75-minute ride. It's a blast.

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If New York is the city that never sleeps (which it is, btw), it makes sense to experience it in all its nighttime glory. This after-hours tour starts on the west side of Manhattan, then drives past iconic and hugely popular locations like the Empire State Building, Times Square and Chinatown. Finally, the bus crosses the Brooklyn Bridge for sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and oh boy are they are good as billed. Glorious.

Sex and the City Hotspots Tour

It's back! And while this bus tour won't be able to show you all the hotspots from the new series (they don't have a crystal ball) it will be able to show you those from the original sting of the hit show. After all, Sex and the City is so synonymous with NYC that it's difficult to think of one without the other, especially for die-hard fans. So board the bus and get reacquainted with some of your favourite scenes, like Steve and Aidan's bar Scout, where you can stop to sip a Cosmo (of course) the Pleasure Chest, where Charlotte bought her 'rabbit' and, of course, Carrie's stoop. Jimmy Choos optional.

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This comprehensive tour (it lasts for four-and-a-half hours) takes you through three boroughs—four if you count your departure from Manhattan. And why not? Board at Grand Central Station and drive north through the Upper East Side to Spanish Harlem and the Bronx. Check out Yankee Stadium and the Italian enclave on Arthur Avenue before crossing into Queens. You’ll drive through Astoria and Long Island City before entering Brooklyn. Then, you’ll head south through Greenpoint and Williamsburg with a stop at Fortunato Brothers for a cappuccino or gelato. There’s just enough time left to drive over the Brooklyn Bridge for one last look at the New York City skyline. Lush.

Like hot dogs and eggs Benedict, hip-hop was born right here in New York City. Discover the origins of the musical genre on this bus tour of Manhattan, Harlem and the Bronx. Led by a grandmaster (no, not Flash), the excursion starts at the location of the first hip-hop party in Manhattan before heading uptown to legendary spots like the Apollo Theater, the Graffiti Hall of Fame and Rucker Park. You’ll even learn how to freestyle! And if you're feeling inspired, you'll have a shot to spit your own hot 16. 

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s, You’ve Got Mail, Manhattan and Rosemary’s Baby - so many movies have been filmed in New York that it’s essentially one massive film set. See countless filming locations on this Turner Classic Movies bus tour led by a working actor. Your guide will play film clips to help you spot less-obvious landmarks like the subway grate from The Seven-Year Itch. This is one fascinating exploration that will make you movie geeks (and non-movie geeks, to be fair) very happy indeed. 

Explore the culture of Harlem, one of the meccas of African-American identity, on this guided tour. The tour visits both iconic and lesser-known attractions, such as Saint John the Divine, a renowned neo-Gothic church, and the Apollo Theater, where Michael Jackson once performed. The multi-sensory tour also makes stops at the soulful Sylvia’s Restaurant and allows guests to participate in a Gospel mass.

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Gossip Girl Sites Tour

“Spotted at Grand Central, bags in hand” is the opening line of the New York-centric hit show Gossip Girl. An homage to the city and its super-elite, the show takes place across a number of memorable locations. This three-hour tour takes fans to sites including the hotel that was home to the Bass and Van der Woodsen families, the Henri Bendel store where the girls shop and of course, Blair’s throne on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Sopranos Sites Tour

Make like Tony Soprano with this Jersey-set tour visiting key locations in the Mafia-inspired HBO series. The four-hour excursion starts in Midtown Manhattan and crosses into New Jersey to pass the fictional sites of hush-hush deals and violent beat downs, including Muffler Man, Pizza Land, the Valley Landscape silo and the ramp to the Pulaski Skyway seen at the end of every episode. You’ll also catch a glimpse of Satin Dolls (the Bada Bing bar).

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If you're really in a bind for time (say, one day), this guided six- or eight-hour bus tour might be your ticket to seeing it all. Both include a comprehensive tour of Manhattan from top to bottom, visiting spots such as Battery Park, Museum Mile, Central Park, Greenwich Village and Times Square. You'll also get to hop off the bus to explore historic sites like Wall Street and the South Street Seaport on guided walks. Opt for the longer tour to receive a one-hour sightseeing cruise with incredible views of the Statue of Liberty and the chance to look out over Manhattan from the Top of the Rock. 

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