Whether it’s your first time in the Big Apple or you’ve been here hundreds of times, taking a New York City tour is a fun way to see a different side of one of the most famous cities in the U.S.
As a mecca for art, culture, food, and history, there are all kinds of New York City guided tours available. So, no matter what you’re into or how well you know the city, taking a tour is one of the top things to do in NYC. In this guide, I’ll share the 15 best tours of New York, including tours by bus, boat, and foot.
However, before I begin, I’ll tell you that this free tour is a great starting point, especially if it’s your first time in NYC and you want to get an overview of the most iconic landmarks. you can check out more free walking tours in NYC here. Also, this article focuses only on tours in New York City, but you can also book a day trip from NYC to Niagara Falls, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and other nearby cities.
1. Manhattan highlights bus tour, the best bus tour in New York City
First, if you’re looking for a good bus tour in New York City, I recommend this one from Manhattan. It’s a half-day sightseeing tour to see some of the most important NYC’s neighborhoods, including SoHo, Little Italy, Chinatown, and Greenwich Village.
You’ll travel as a small group past Central Park as you head to the Upper West Side. Along the way, your guide will point out some of the most iconic museums in the city, including the American Museum of Natural History, the Met, and the Guggenheim.
Next, you’ll ride along Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, past the Flatiron Building, the Empire State Building, the Rockefeller Center, and Radio City Music Hall. The New York tour continues with a drive down Wall Street, one of the most famous streets in NYC, while you learn more about the Financial District.
The tail end of this tour includes photo ops of One World Trade Center and a stop at Battery Park, where you can get a view of the Statue of Liberty. You’ll end the tour at Herald Square, home to the historic Macy’s building.
- Price: $79+
- Duration: 4 – 5.5 hours
- Highlights: Central Park, Fifth Avenue, Rockefeller Center, Little Italy, Chinatown, Wall Street, Battery Park
2. Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island tour, the best boat tour in NYC for families
Lady Liberty is a national symbol, so she’s worth a closer look even if you only visit NYC for 2 days. While there are lots of great Statue of Liberty tours, I recommend this one, which includes a round-trip ferry ride and admission to the Statue of Liberty Museum and Ellis Island Museum.
You’ll depart from Battery Park and board a ferry with a knowledgeable guide who will share the best viewpoints to capture photos of the Statue of Liberty. Once you land at Liberty Island, you’ll be able to explore the Statue of Liberty Museum, where you can see the original torch, historical exhibits, and the statue from ground level.
Later, you’ll ride the ferry over to Ellis Island and get some time in the Ellis Island Museum, a great place to discover more about New York’s immigrant history. Overall, this is one of the best boat tours in New York City to spend a half-day learning about one of the country’s most iconic landmarks.
- Price: $44+
- Duration: 3-4 hours
- Highlights: Ferry to Liberty Island, Statue of Liberty Museum, Ellis Island Museum
3. 9/11 Memorial walking tour, an important tour in New York
Taking a New York City 9/11 memorial tour is a good way to commemorate the victims of 9/11 and gain new insights into this historic event. What’s special about this tour is that it’s led by a local who has a personal connection to 9/11.
The tour begins at St. Paul’s Chapel, a nearby church that survived the 9/11 attacks and served as a rescue shelter for New Yorkers after the collapse of the Twin Towers. Today, the church is a tribute site, so you can still see some of the notes and signs left behind.
Then, you’ll make your way to One World Trade Center, where you can walk through Ground Zero and the 9/11 Memorial. Take some time to look at the Firefighter’s 9/11 Memorial Wall and the commemorative plaques with the names of the victims from the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the 1993 bombing. The memorial also includes two reflecting pools at the former site of the Twin Towers, creating a contemplative spot with a manmade waterfall.
While this is a wonderful historic tour of New York City, you may also want to go inside the 9/11 Observatory, or the museum, as it’s one of the best museums in NYC. In that case, I recommend getting your museum ticket or observatory ticket in advance. If you want to do all of these activities, get this combo ticket for the tour, museum, and observation deck.
- Price: $39+
- Duration: 1.5-2.5 hours
- Highlights: St. Paul’s Chapel, Firefighter’s Memorial Wall, 9/11 Memorial, One World Observatory (if option selected)
4. Manhattan Island helicopter tour, the best sightseeing tour in New York City
Without a doubt, a New York City helicopter tour is one of the best sightseeing tours in NYC because you’ll get an unforgettable view of everything.
You have a few options if you want to do this type of tour, although I’ll tell you that this basic tour provides a nice, quick flight over Manhattan. You’ll board a helicopter with floor-to-ceiling windows, giving you an excellent view of several famous landmarks. Soar over Central Park, New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, and more!
Another option is this doors-off tour over Lower Manhattan. This is the New York City helicopter tour that we did, and it was an amazing experience. If you’re into photography, this air tour is the best way to capture aerial images of the city. See Battery Park at the edge of Manhattan, fly over Governor’s Island, and spot the different bridges connecting to the city. It’s an experience that’s worth every penny!
5. The Bronx, Queens, & Brooklyn bus tour, another great bus tour in New York City
This half-day tour of the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn is one of the best NYC borough tours if you want to explore some of the different communities in New York. These three specific boroughs of NYC each have certain characteristics that make them special, so this bus tour is a convenient way to experience them all in a short period of time. That is why we included them both in our one-week NYC itinerary and 10-day NYC itinerary.
First, the bus will pick you up in Manhattan, then pass through Times Square and Harlem as you head to the Bronx. Once there, your group will visit Yankee Stadium and see the Forest Houses, an urban revitalization project that’s bringing new life to the neighborhood and the main attraction in The Bronx.
Then, visit Queens, a neighborhood known for its mix of diverse cultures and traditions. Make a stop at Flushing Meadows Corona Park, see the Mets’ Stadium, and visit the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. You’ll also travel along Roosevelt Avenue, a main street in Queens with all kinds of cafes, shops, and restaurants.
Last but not least, you’ll head to Brooklyn, where your guide will show you the vibrant street art of the Bushwick Collective and the Jewish Quarter in Williamsburg, one of the coolest neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
- Price: $60+
- Duration: 5-6 hours
- Highlights: Harlem, The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn
6. Lower East Side food tour, a delicious food tour in New York City
It’s no secret that NYC is a haven for foodies, but you might not know that this Lower East Side tour is one of the best food tours in New York City. Over the course of three hours, you’ll walk through this Manhattan neighborhood, visiting different markets and bakeries and trying some of the must-try foods in NYC.
Moreover, you’ll travel as a small group, allowing you to visit more spots and sample more food. Plus, you’ll be led by a local guide who will share their insider tips on where to eat in NYC. While walking through Little Italy and Chinatown, you’ll learn about the history of immigrants in these neighborhoods, then try some traditional dishes.
Dig into Dutch stroopwafels, Chinese fried dumplings, Italian cheeses, Jewish baked goods, and other classic snacks. This New York City food tour is a culinary and cultural experience, and you may find some cafes, markets, and restaurants that you might not have otherwise heard of!
- Price: $79+
- Duration: 3 hours
- Highlights: Historical and culinary tour through Little Italy, Chinatown, and Columbus Park with free samples
7. New York Harbor night cruise, a lovely boat tour in NYC for couples
This New York City boat tour departs from Manhattan at sunset, so you’ll get lovely views of the skyline at golden hour. Then, you’ll sail through the Harbor in a comfortable, climate-controlled boat with indoor seating and an outdoor viewing deck. To make the cruise extra romantic, purchase wine or a cocktail from the fully-stocked bar.
As you sail past the Statue of Liberty, you’ll see her all lit up for the night. Then, you’ll cruise under the Brooklyn Bridge and admire the iconic illuminated landmarks. This New York City cruise tour includes live narration, so you don’t have to worry about missing any of the sights.
- Price: $41+
- Duration: 2 hours
- Highlights: Twilight cruise on New York Harbor, sunset views, full bar available
8. Superheroes of New York, a unique tour in New York to do with kids
For a fun NYC tour to do with family, check out this Superheroes walking tour. It lasts for two hours and takes you to some famous places in New York that have appeared in superhero films and TV shows throughout the years.
For example, you’ll see locations from The Avengers movies, like Tony Stark’s tower and the United Nations Headquarters, plus the apartment where the Green Goblin lived. You’ll also visit the site where Christopher Reeve took his first flight as Superman while your guide tells you about the origins of Kryptonite.
This NYC superhero tour is a great thing to do in New York City with kids, although adults will also have a good time. Along with filming locations from Gotham and Daredevil, you’ll see the Daily Planet news building and the cafes where some well-known comic book artists hang out.
Overall, the tour is the perfect balance of excitement and history, as you’ll recognize scenes from some of your favorite movies while also learning how the comics industry has changed over the years.
- Price: $35+
- Duration: 2 hours
- Highlights: TV and film locations from Superman, Gotham, Daredevil, The Avengers, and more
9. SoHo, Little Italy, & Chinatown tour, one of the best walking tours in New York City
SoHo, Little Italy, and Chinatown are three of the most popular neighborhoods in NYC, and this walking tour lets you visit all three over the course of two hours. So, if you’re short on time but want to see some of the best places in Manhattan, this tour has got you covered!
First, you’ll walk through SoHo, a chic area with art galleries and fashion boutiques. It’s also a favorite hangout spot among celebrities, so keep your eyes peeled during the tour. You’ll walk through the Cast Iron District, past the apartment where actor Heath Ledger died, and visit the Ravenite Social Club, where American gangster John Gotti had his headquarters.
Then, you’ll continue the tour in Little Italy, wandering past the National Shrine Church of San Gennaro and Umbertos Clam House, where mobster Joe Gallo was shot. Your tour guide will lead you down Mulberry Street, home to dozens of old cafes, bakeries, and shops, such as Alleva Dairy, a cheesemaker that’s been in business for over 100 years.
The final leg includes a tour to the highlights in Chinatown, NYC, where you’ll see the city’s last known opium den, as well as Columbus Park and a variety of bustling markets, dumpling vendors, and noodle houses. There’s no doubt that this is one of the best walking tours in New York City, especially since you can sample delicious traditional foods.
Not only that, but you’ll hear anecdotes about Chinese, Dutch, German, and Italian immigrants, the city’s Mafia history, and how the area is much safer now.
- Price: $39+
- Duration: 2 hours
- Highlights: SoHo, Cast Iron District, Little Italy landmarks, Chinatown, Columbus Park
10. Greenwich Village Counterculture Tour, another NYC walking tour you should do
Greenwich Village is another New York City hotspot, so you can find lots of cool NYC walking tours here. That said, I recommend this one, which will take you on a two-hour exploration of the neighborhood’s counterculture history.
During the tour, you’ll see remnants of Greenwich Village’s Beat Generation and LGBTQ+ history. Check out some old hangout spots for rock ‘n’ roll stars like Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix, as well as the Stonewall Inn, the site of the 1969 Stonewall riots. Another cool site on the tour is Jones Street, where The Freewheeling Bob Dylan album cover was shot.
Then, see where writers and intellectuals like Edgar Allan Poe used to congregate, such as Washington Square Park and the Café Society, home to the first integrated NYC club. This New York City walking tour also goes to the Friends apartment; the Isaac-Hendricks House, the oldest wood-frame house in NYC; and Cherry Lane Theater, the oldest off-Broadway theater in New York.
As I said, Greenwich Village is one of the best neighborhoods to explore, and the café scene here is excellent, so if you want to see more, consider this NYC cupcake tour. You’ll stop by several top bakeries in the area and get to sample delicious, sweet treats, so it’s one of the best food tours in New York City.
- Price: $35+
- Duration: 2 hours
- Highlights: Washington Square Park, Stonewall Inn, Café Society, Cherry Lane Theater, Friends apartment
11. Chelsea Market tour, another fun walking tour in New York City
I also recommend doing a walking tour of Chelsea, NYC, like this one. It goes through the Meatpacking District, the High Line, and Chelsea Market, giving you a great overview of this area.
First, you’ll walk through the High Line, one of the best parks in NYC and the only elevated park in the city. The High Line was built on old railroad tracks and stretches for over a mile past Chelsea’s art galleries, shops, and The Vessel observation deck. From up here, you’ll have nice views of the Hudson River, too.
During the tour, your guide will point out the interesting architecture in the Meatpacking District, such as the IAC building, the Empire State Building, and the Standard Hotel. It’s quite a stark contrast from the old factories, warehouses, and slaughterhouses that used to make up this district.
Finally, you’ll visit Chelsea Market, which is housed in an old Nabisco boxing factory. You can have your own New York City food tour here since Chelsea Market is full of stalls selling fresh produce, artisanal products, textiles, sweets, and more. You can also find art galleries and corporate offices for tech companies like YouTube and Google here.
The tour ends at Chelsea Market, so you can spend some time browsing the vendors’ offerings for as long as you like.
- Price: $39+
- Duration: 2 hours
- Highlights: The High Line, Chelsea Market, the Meatpacking District
12. 90-minute Landmarks Cruise, an awesome harbor tour of New York City
For a New York City cruise tour that you can do as a family, check out this boat ride along the Hudson and East Rivers. The 90-minute sightseeing cruise will lead you along the banks of Midtown and Lower Manhattan, granting you wonderful views from the water.
You’ll start by sailing down the Hudson River while your onboard guide points out landmarks like the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center. As you cruise further south, you’ll get a good look at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, then the boat will circle around The Battery, a lovely waterfront park.
As this New York City harbor tour makes its way up the East River, you’ll go under the Brooklyn Bridge and hear some interesting history about the borough. This tour is affordably priced and grants you a skip-the-line ticket for the cruise, so it’s a fun way to see the city from offshore!
- Price: $37+
- Duration: 1.5 hours
- Highlights: Sail down the Hudson River, past the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, cruise up the East River
13. Movies & TV series tour, the best NYC tour for movie buffs
A New York City movie tour is an awesome experience if you’ve ever wanted to live in the same world as your favorite TV or movie characters. Since lots of films and series are shot in the Big Apple, you can find several cool tours based on popular shows and movies.
For example, this Sex and the City tour goes to some of the most well-known spots from the hit show. You can visit Steve and Aidan’s bar, the church where The Friar and Samantha met, and the Buddakan restaurant where Carrie and Big had their wedding rehearsal dinner. Then, your group will have time to shop at some of Carrie’s favorite Greenwich Village boutiques.
Another option is this three-hour Gossip Girl bus tour around the Upper East Side, led by a local NYC actress. See the Empire Hotel, Constance Billard, St. Jude’s, and the Vera Wang boutique where Blair bought her wedding dress. The tour also includes a photo op at the Met Steps and at stop at the Henri Bendel shop that Blair and Serena frequented.
If a New York mob tour is more your style, do this Sopranos tour. This four-hour bus tour through “Sopranoland” stops at some Midtown Manhattan and New Jersey locations from the HBO show, including Fr. Phil’s Parish, Bada Bing, and the diner steps where Chris got shot. You’ll also see the high school pool that AJ trashed and the booth where Tony sat in the final episode. Your guide will be an extra who starred in the show, so they’ll be able to share insider secrets about some of The Sopranos’ most famous scenes.
14. Ghost tour, a haunted tour in New York City you must do
Like many other major cities in the U.S., there are awesome ghost tours in New York City. If you’re up for a creepy experience, I suggest doing this tour through the old St. Patrick’s Cathedral Catacombs.
You’ll be led through the catacombs by candlelight, where your guide will point out the burial sites for various figures in New York’s history. The vaults have served as a final resting place for over 200 years for lawyers, bankers, Civil War-era generals, and New York’s first resident bishop, John Connolly.
As you walk through the labyrinth of dark halls, you’ll get to see parts of St. Patrick’s Cathedral that are usually closed off to the public. You’ll also see the two walled cemeteries behind the church, so it’s quite an interesting, haunted tour in New York City.
- Price: $37+
- Duration: 1.5 hours
- Highlights: St. Patrick’s Cathedral catacombs, cemeteries, off-limits areas
15. Dyker Heights & Bay Ridge Christmas lights bus tour, a beautiful night tour of NYC
Finally, if you’re visiting New York during Christmas, you must do a Christmas tour through NYC. This Dyker Heights tour is one of the best since it takes you by bus to one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in NYC during the holidays.
The Dyker Heights area of Brooklyn has a Christmas tradition in which the residents decorate their homes with string lights, illuminated signs, and wreaths. As you take in the sparkling array of gingerbread houses, toy soldiers, and Santa’s reindeer, your guide will share stories and legends about this tradition.
You’ll also visit the Bay Ridge neighborhood, which also boasts a collection of cheery holiday decorations. As you make your way back to Midtown Manhattan, take in the lovely views of the skyline. Without a doubt, this is one of the best night tours of New York City that you can take as a family.
- Price: $60+
- Duration: 3.5 hours
- Highlights: Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge Christmas decorations
With that, you now have 15 incredible tours in New York that you can book! Be sure to tell me your favorite one below and, if you have any questions, leave me a comment. I’ll be happy to help. Until then, have a wonderful trip!